Federal election: Can ex-premier Kristina Keneally help Labor win?

With the next Federal Election likely to be called for early 2022, Yahoo News Australia has answered the most popular questions people are Googling about Shadow Minister for Home Affairs, Immigration and Citizenship, Kristina Keneally.

How old is Kristina Keneally?

Kristina Keneally was born on born December 19, 1968, making her 53 years old.

What is Kristina Keneally’s family background?

Ms Keneally was born in the United States to an American father and an Australian mother.

Senator Kristina Keneally speaks at a press conference.
Shadow Minister for Home Affairs, Immigration and Citizenship Kristina Keneally is on the way up in federal Labor. Source: Getty Images.

Where did Kristina Keneally grow up?

She grew up in Toledo, Ohio and is a graduate of the University of Dayton.

Who is Kristina Keneally’s husband?

Keneally met her future husband, an Australian Labor Party politician and former Mayor of Botany Bay, Ben Keneally, in 1991.

Together they have two sons, Brendan and Daniel.

A daughter died at birth, a tragedy Ms Keneally has been very open about in the media.

She moved to Australia in 1994 to be with Mr Keneally, but they returned to the US where they were wed in 1996.

They returned to Australia and Ms Keneally became an Australian citizen in 2000, joining the Labor party the same year.

She renounced her US citizenship in 2002 to enable her to stand for election to the NSW parliament.

Kristina Keneally talks with miners.
Kristina Keneally was premier of NSW during one of Labor's heaviest defeats in state history. Source: Getty Images.

Where did Kristina Keneally work before entering politics?

After arriving in Australia she worked for the NSW branch of the Society of Saint Vincent de Paul as state youth coordinator before leaving full-time work to care for her children.

In her downtime between state and federal politics her most prominent role was as a presenter for Sky News Australia.

What is Kristina Keneally's religion?

Ms Keneally is Roman Catholic.

In an interview for Radio National's Sunday Profile program in 2009, Ms Keneally spoke of her strong beliefs, saying she was “in complete and utter agreement with the church" on a number of issues.

She expressed controversial views on allowing female priests, relaxing the vow of celibacy and that abortion "should be safe, it should be available... and it should be rare".

Kristina Keneally becomes NSW's first female premier

Ms Keneally was elected to the NSW lower house seat of Heffron in 2003.

After being re-elected to the NSW parliament at the 2007 state election, she became the minister for ageing and disability services, and was subsequently appointed planning minister by then-premier Nathan Rees in 2008.

After stating she would not contest the leadership when Mr Rees was under internal party pressure, Ms Keneally was put forward as preferred leader in December 2009 by the Labor right faction and defeated Mr Rees, who had been in office for just 15 months, to become the first female premier of NSW.

With Ms Keneally as premier, the Labor government went on to suffer a 16.5-point swing against it statewide at the 2011 election.

It was the biggest swing in Australian political history allowing the Liberals and Nationals to form government for the first time since 1995 under leader Barry O'Farrell.

Keneally resigned as leader shortly after the crushing election defeat then exited state parliament in 2012.

Kristina Keneally meets former Labor Prime Minister Bob Hawke.
Kristina Keneally (pictured with former PM Bob Hawke) is part of the Labor leadership team with Penny Wong, Richard Marles and leader Anthony Albanese. Source: Getty Images.

Keneally enters federal politics

In 2017, Ms Keneally declared her intention to re-enter politics after she was preselected by federal Labor for the Bennelong by-election.

Although this bid was short-lived when she was soundly defeated by the Liberal candidate John Alexander, she got another lifeline after being selected to fill the gap left by disgraced NSW Labor senator Sam Dastyari in 2018.

With Labor again failing to secure government in 2019, Ms Keneally was brought onto the front bench by new leader Anthony Albanese, naming her deputy leader in the senate, shadow minister for home affairs, immigration and citizenship and as a part of the four-person Labor leadership group.

It was reported in late 2021 Ms Keneally may seek a move to the lower house through preselection in the seat of Fowler, which will be vacated by retiring MP Chris Hayes.

The scandals Kristina Keneally has faced?

Before the NSW Labor leadership spill in 2009, then-premier Nathan Rees famously said: "Should I not be Premier at the end of this day, let there be no doubt in the community's mind that any challenger would be a puppet of Eddie Obeid and Joe Tripodi."

Mr Rees had earlier sacked Tripodi and other key opponents from the ministry and other portfolios in an attempt to banish a growing odour of corruption around the NSW government.

After winning the leadership, Ms Keneally responded: "I am nobody's puppet, I am nobody's protege, I am nobody's girl."

However some controversial decisions that appeared to support the interests of her said political puppet masters, plus her husband’s alleged friendship with Tripodi, threw serious doubt on her words.

Her defence of Labor politicians later found to be corrupt, such as former minister Ian Macdonald and Penrith MP Karyn Paluzzano, plus the awarding of the multi-million dollar Barangaroo development contract under the controversial Part 3A planning laws on the eve of her doomed government entering caretaker mode, made her look like the puppet she denied she was.

A subsequent ICAC investigation into Keneally government ministers Eddie Obeid, Tripodi and McDonald found that they had all acted in a corrupt manner over various dodgy dealings during their time in parliament, with Obeid and Macdonald both imprisoned for their crimes.

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