Former NSW premier Kristina Keneally, a Sky News presenter, will stand as Labor’s candidate in the Bennelong by-election brought on by the resignation of Liberal MP John Alexander.
The government backbencher was forced to resign on the weekend after discovering he was a dual UK-Australian citizen by descent because of his British-born father.
Alexander holds the north-western Sydney seat by a margin of around 10%, having first won it from another high-profile candidate Maxine McKew, who defeated prime minister John Howard in 2007.
A by-election is being held on December 16, and Alexander is renouncing his British citizenship to recontest the seat. His resignation saw the government lose its majority in the lower house, with Nationals leader Barnaby Joyce facing his own by-election for his old seat on December 2.
While Alexander, a former tennis player, has improved his margin in the subsequent elections, even 10% is not longer considered a safe seat.
— Bill Shorten (@billshortenmp) November 13, 2017
Keneally, 48, first entered politics in 2003 and six years later, found herself elected leader of a troubled NSW Labor government. She was premier from December 2009 to March 2011, when she lost the election in a massive 17% statewide swing against the ALP, despite having strong personal approval ratings among voters.
After leaving politics, she chaired Basketball Australia and carved out a career in the media.
US-born Keneally said she was not a dual citizen and had not previously thought of running for federal parliament. She does not live in the electorate, conceding her home is 800 metres outside its boundary.
“This is a unique circumstance, an odd circumstance, and really, let’s be blunt, a crisis circumstance,” she said.
Keneally announced her candidature at a media conference where she began talking about her frustrations in dealing with a Medicare office in the electorate and “felt angry” as a result.
“This is what happens when the Liberals get into government, they cut services, they cut Medicare services,” she said.
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