Ke­neally’s not good enough

The Daily Telegraph (Sydney) - - Letters -

On her very first day as pre­mier of NSW, in De­cem­ber 2009, Kristina Ke­neally was damned in mem­o­rable fash­ion by ousted La­bor leader Nathan Rees. Ke­neally was, Rees de­clared, a “pup­pet” of ALP fac­tional barons Ed­die Obeid and Joe Tripodi.

Ke­neally found that de­scrip­tion dif­fi­cult to shake in the next two years. It didn’t help her legacy that she also re­turned Obeid ally Ian Macdon­ald to cab­i­net.

Obeid and Macdon­ald are now in jail. ICAC de­clared Tripodi cor­rupt. And Ke­neally, who led La­bor to a crush­ing de­feat in 2011, is run­ning for fed­eral par­lia­ment in the seat of Ben­ne­long.

“I have asked Kristina to once again serve, to serve the cause of the vot­ers of Ben­ne­long by pro­vid­ing a real choice at the up­com­ing by-elec­tion,” La­bor leader Bill Shorten said dur­ing yes­ter­day’s sur­prise an­nounce­ment. “This by-elec­tion is a chance for the vot­ers of Ben­ne­long to send a wake-up call to Mr Turn­bull and his gov­ern­ment.

“This is a chance which I think a lot of peo­ple in Aus­tralia would like to have that has fallen to the peo­ple of Ben­ne­long to send a mes­sage against the dys­func­tion and the chaos of the cur­rent gov­ern­ment, the pol­icy paral­y­sis, the fail­ure of lead­er­ship.”

A dys­func­tional and paral­ysed gov­ern­ment in chaos, ru­ined by a fail­ure of lead­er­ship. That’s not a bad short­hand de­scrip­tion of the NSW gov­ern­ment from 2009 un­til 2011 — when Ke­neally was pre­mier. For Prime Min­is­ter Mal­colm Turn­bull, yes­ter­day’s news of­fered a rare op­por­tu­nity to score some solid po­lit­i­cal points.

“She’s Bill Shorten’s hand­picked can­di­date,” Turn­bull said, “so ob­vi­ously Ed­die Obeid and Bill Shorten have formed the same view about Kristina Ke­neally.” And then he de­liv­ered a taste of the cam­paign to come: “Don’t let Kristina Ke­neally do to Ben­ne­long what she did to NSW.”

It’s a fair warn­ing. As per­son­ally like­able as she is, and even con­sid­er­ing the deeply em­bed­ded La­bor de­struc­tive­ness that doomed her pre­mier­ship from the out­set, Ke­neally must ac­cept re­spon­si­bil­ity for two years of dis­as­trous state gov­ern­ment.

As well, vot­ers are en­ti­tled to view with some cyn­i­cism Bill Shorten’s se­lec­tion of Ke­neally, who in re­cent years has re­branded her­self as a warm and con­ver­sa­tional Sky News pre­sen­ter. Many may see Ke­neally not as a for­mer state politi­cian but as a tele­vi­sion per­son­al­ity. In that sense, Ke­neally is Ben­ne­long’s sec­ond Max­ine McKew — whose sin­gle term as La­bor MP was par­tic­u­larly or­di­nary.

La­bor could have, and should have, done far bet­ter.

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