Labor senator Kristina Keneally’s bid to move to the lower house, usurping a promising local candidate by running in a safe, multicultural seat, has been branded “hypocrisy” by a colleague.
Keneally, a former New South Wales premier, is aiming to replace retiring MP Chris Hayes in Fowler at the next federal election, moving from her current home on Sydney’s northern beaches to Fowler in the city’s west.
However, Hayes had publicly backed local lawyer Tu Le to replace him in representing the multicultural electorate, which Labor holds with a 14% margin.
Labor MP Dr Anne Aly – the first Muslim woman elected to the Australian parliament – says the move to parachute Keneally into the seat is a “huge failure for Labor on diversity”.
“Diversity, equality and multiculturalism can’t just be a trope that Labor pulls out and parades while wearing a sari and eating some Kung Pao chicken to make ourselves look good,” she told the ABC on Saturday.
“For the Labor party to be in a position where they are pushing aside a community representative from one of the most multicultural electorates is hypocrisy as far as I’m concerned.
“I’m one of the few people of culturally, linguistically diverse backgrounds in the parliament, this matters to me.
“It matters to the young people who come to me and say ‘I want to follow in your footsteps’. What am I going to say to them?”
Le has also expressed disappointment she would miss out on the chance to run in the seat, given 15% of people in the electorate are of Vietnamese origin.
“Our diverse communities should be reflected in the Australian parliament,” she told the Australian newspaper. “We need more diverse voices in parliament so no one is left behind and everyone is included.”
But party leader Anthony Albanese on Saturday defended the party’s record on multiculturalism.
“I’m very proud to lead a diverse team, an effective team, and a team that will be able to lead our nation,” he told reporters on Saturday. “I’m very confident that we’ll have good candidates in every seat.
“Kristina Keneally is an important part of our shadow cabinet and after the next election, I’m sure she’ll be an important part of our cabinet.”
Keneally, who is Labor’s deputy leader in the upper house, faced an uncertain future.
Fellow right faction member Deborah O’Neill received strong support to take top spot on Labor’s NSW Senate ticket at the next election.
With the left’s Jenny McAllister taking second position, Keneally would likely have been relegated to the hard-to-win third spot.
Labor has not won three seats in NSW at a regular half-Senate election since Kevin Rudd swept to power in 2007.