Is Anthony Albanese’s embrace of Kristina Keneally the kiss of death? Just ask Bill Shorten, Ed Husic, Don Farrell, the voters of Bennelong or the state of NSW.
The Conservative Party sees Keneally’s appointment as another example of Labor’s chronic lack of good judgement.
The Australian reports, the Labor leader’s “captain’s calls” to promote Keneally to the opposition frontbench and the deputy leadership of the Senate on the grounds of gender equality has stunned MPs, especially many in the party’s Right faction who do not believe she merits rapid promotion.
Her ascension at the expense of the well-regarded Ed Husic further enraged Labor’s NSW Right faction because she did not have majority support within the group to be elevated.
Similarly, Albanese’s insistence that Keneally be appointed as Labor’s deputy Senate leader – to ensure there was 50-50 gender representation in the party’s leadership – saw Don Farrell step aside to avoid a further caucus split, even though there was little support within the national Right faction for him to surrender his position to her.
The Australian understands that Husic, who, like Farrell, stepped down from his position to avoid a factional brawl, will be accommodated with a senior role on the frontbench should one open up this parliamentary term.
But Labor insiders believe Keneally brings new meaning to the notion of a Teflon politician – nothing sticks. “Why do we see the resurrection of Saint Kristina again and again?” a Labor MP said to The Australian.
Keneally led NSW Labor to its worst-ever election defeat in 2011. She was made premier in 2009 with the backing of disgraced sub-faction bosses Eddie Obeid and Joe Tripodi. Even though Keneally claimed she was “nobody’s girl” , she would not have been made premier without their support.
Labor MPs have been critical of her role in the recent election campaign as Shorten’s “bus captain” and regularly being by his side at media conferences.
Shorten planned to put her in cabinet if Labor won. But other MPs point to her failure to win the Bennelong by-election in 2017, despite a huge investment by the party and unions.