Labor’s deputy Senate leader Kristina Keneally plans to run for a safe Western Sydney seat in the House of Representatives at the next federal election, making the switch from the Senate. It has been reported Keneally is expected to seek preselection in the seat of Fowler, replacing veteran Labor MP Chris Hayes, who is retiring from politics.
If the move to the lower house is successful, Keneally, one of Labor’s most high-profile frontbenchers, would likely be one of several in consideration for the leadership of the party, should Labor fail to win the next election under Anthony Albanese.
Keneally’s switch to the lower house will resolve a preselection battle for the top spot in Labor’s NSW Senate ticket, with fellow right-faction member Senator Deb O’Neill, who is currently aiming for the spot.
It is not guaranteed Keneally would win the number one spot on the ticket, as Deb O’Neill has strong institutional and union backing. The second spot on Labor’s NSW ticket is reserved for the left-faction of the party, and will likely go to the incumbent, Senator Jenny McAllister.
Keneally is close to Labor leader Anthony Albanese, and it has been said her confrontational political style would be more suited to the House of Representatives, than the Senate. She is currently Labor’s Home Affairs spokesperson, and also holds the shadow portfolio on government accountability.
Keneally was the 42nd premier of NSW, the first woman to ever hold the position, from 2009 to 2011, and currently resides on the Northern Beaches of Sydney.
Chris Hayes, the current Labor member for Fowler, has previously back a local lawyer, Tu Le to succeed him in the safe western Sydney seat. He has said he would like to see a candidate that reflects the multicultural seat, which is currently held by Labor with a 14 per cent margin.
“It would be sensational to be able to not only say that we in Labor are the party of multiculturalism, but to actually show it in our faces,” Hayes told the ABC earlier this year.
Keneally has so far declined to comment about her move to the lower house, but it has been reported she is likely to formally announce the decision in coming days.
In 2017, Keneally unsuccessfully contested the Liberal-held lower house seat of Bennelong at a by-election, which was prompted following a dual citizenship issue for Liberal MP, John Alexander.
Kristina Keneally recently spoke to Tarla Lambert on The Women’s Agenda Podcast, sharing details of her push to legislate paid parental leave in the private sector for parents who have lost a child to stillbirth. You can listen here.