Kristina Ke­neally dares Lib­er­als to run 'dirty' cam­paign in Ben­ne­long by­elec­tion

The Guardian Australia - - Front Page - Katharine Mur­phy Po­lit­i­cal ed­i­tor

La­bor’s star re­cruit in Ben­ne­long, Kristina Ke­neally, has dared the Lib­eral party to run a “dirty” cam­paign against her in the loom­ing by­elec­tion, declar­ing taunts about her pe­riod in state pol­i­tics won’t trou­ble her.

“You know what, I say to Mal­colm Turn­bull if that’s the best you’ve got mate ... then knock your­self out,” Ke­neally told her for­mer em­ployer, Sky News, af­ter a suc­ces­sion of gov­ern­ment fig­ures, in­clud­ing the prime min­is­ter, trained their guns on her pe­riod in New South Wales pol­i­tics af­ter it was con­firmed on Tues­day that she would con­test the crit­i­cal seat. “It doesn’t faze me what­so­ever.” Af­ter the prime min­is­ter urged vot­ers in Ben­ne­long to stop Ke­neally do­ing in Can­berra “what she did to New South Wales”, late on Tues­day, the trea­surer Scott Mor­ri­son, joined a pro­ces­sion of Lib­eral fig­ures, declar­ing the per­son “Bill Shorten has cho­sen to rep­re­sent him in this by­elec­tion is the per­son Ed­die Obeid chose to be his premier in NSW, and now, Ed­die Obeid is in jail”.

Ke­neally said La­bor had no in­ten­tion of run­ning a dirty cam­paign in the seat which the Lib­eral party cur­rently holds on a mar­gin just under 10%, but if Turn­bull and his lieu­tenants wanted to play po­lit­i­cal hard­ball, “that’s his choice”.

John Howard, who held the seat for more than 30 years be­fore be­ing felled by an­other ALP star re­cruit in 2007, told re­porters in Can­berra on Wed­nes­day even­ing that he be­lieved John Alexan­der would hold the seat, but with Ke­neally in the field, the for­mer prime min­is­ter pre­dicted a “tough” con­test.

The Lib­eral party is hope­ful Bri­tish au­thor­i­ties will clear Alexan­der of his cit­i­zen­ship prob­lem within 24

to 48 hours, so he can be pre­s­e­lected and be­gin the cam­paign in earnest. The con­test is sched­uled for 16 De­cem­ber.

The open­ing skir­mishes in what looks set to be a fe­ro­cious bat­tle in the Ben­ne­long by­elec­tion came as the Tas­ma­nian in­de­pen­dent Jaqcui Lam­bie be­came the eighth MP to be knocked out by the cit­i­zen­ship fi­asco, bow­ing out on Tues­day with a pro­tracted and emo­tional farewell to the Se­nate.

Af­ter Lam­bie fi­nally clar­i­fied her po­si­tion af­ter days of spec­u­la­tion about her el­i­gi­bil­ity, La­bor used Se­nate ques­tion time to pres­sure the com­mu­ni­ca­tions min­is­ter, Mitch Fi­field, about his con­ver­sa­tions with Stephen Parry about the dual cit­i­zen­ship that has ended the for­mer Se­nate pres­i­dent’s po­lit­i­cal ca­reer.

Fi­field told the Se­nate on Tues­day he did not di­rect Parry to sit on in­for­ma­tion about his dual cit­i­zen­ship sta­tus un­til af­ter the high court’s so-called cit­i­zen­ship seven rul­ing, “and I was not aware that Senator Parry was a dual cit­i­zen un­til he ad­vised all col­leagues of this by way of a memo”.

But the pres­sure as­so­ci­ated with the de­ba­cle looks set to con­tinue. Par­lia­ment’s pow­er­ful priv­i­leges com­mit­tee has now been asked to in­ves­ti­gate whether Fi­field breached the min­is­te­rial code of con­duct in re­la­tion to his knowl­edge of Parry’s dual cit­i­zen­ship af­ter a re­fer­ral from La­bor, the Greens and cross­benchers.

The prime min­is­ter is due to fly overnight from the Philip­pines to be back in Can­berra in time for a block­buster Wed­nes­day, with the Aus­tralian Bureau of Sta­tis­tics due to re­port the re­sult in the same-sex mar­riage sur­vey.

The high court is also due to de­lib­er­ate on the el­i­gi­bil­ity of the Lib­eral Hol­lie Hughes, who was next in line to re­place Fiona Nash, the deputy Na­tion­als leader knocked out by the high court be­cause of her dual cit­i­zen­ship.

Hughes faces el­i­gi­bil­ity ques­tions be­cause she took a tax­payer-funded job af­ter the 2016 elec­tion.

With the postal sur­vey re­sult now im­mi­nent, the Lib­eral senator Dean Smith will bring for­ward his pri­vate sen­a­tors bill le­gal­is­ing same-sex mar­riage if Aus­tralia votes yes, with con­ser­va­tives po­si­tion­ing on a ri­val bill.

Af­ter a long pe­riod of stu­dious diplo­macy as the Coali­tion has in­dulged bouts of in­ter­nal war­fare on mar­riage equal­ity, Turn­bull abruptly turned the ta­bles, declar­ing ahead of his de­par­ture from Manila that his gov­ern­ment “would not coun­te­nance” le­gal­is­ing dis­crim­i­na­tion against same-sex wed­dings.

The prime min­is­ter said a bill giv­ing ef­fect to that be­hav­iour would have “vir­tu­ally no prospect” of pass­ing par­lia­ment.

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