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Kristina Keneally

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Kristina Keneally

The Honourable
Kristina Keneally
42nd Premier of New South Wales
Elections: 2011
In office
4 December 2009 – 28 March 2011
Monarch Elizabeth II
Governor Marie Bashir
Deputy Carmel Tebbutt
Preceded by Nathan Rees
Succeeded by Barry O'Farrell
19th Leader of the Australian Labor Party in New South Wales
In office
3 December 2009 – 31 March 2011
Deputy Carmel Tebbutt
Preceded by Nathan Rees
Succeeded by John Robertson
Member of the New South Wales Parliament
for Heffron
In office
22 March 2003 – 29 June 2012
Preceded by Deirdre Grusovin
Succeeded by Ron Hoenig
Personal details
Born (1968-12-19) 19 December 1968
Las Vegas, Nevada, U.S.
Political party Australian Labor Party (since 2000)
Other political
Democratic Party (before 2000)
Spouse(s) Ben Keneally
Children Two sons
Residence Pagewood
Education Notre Dame Academy
University of Dayton
Marquette University
Religion Roman Catholicism
Website Agency website
Parliament website

Kristina Kerscher Keneally (born 19 December 1968) is a former Australian politician who was the 42nd Premier of New South Wales. She was elected leader of the Australian Labor Party in New South Wales and thus Premier in 2009,[1][2][3] but went on to lose government to the Liberal/National Coalition at the March 2011 state election. She was replaced as Leader by John Robertson, who was elected unopposed, on 31 March 2011.[4]

Keneally was elected to the New South Wales Legislative Assembly seat of Heffron at the 2003 state election, succeeding Deirdre Grusovin after a controversial preselection.[5] After being re-elected to parliament at the 2007 state election, she became the Minister for Ageing and Disability Services and was subsequently appointed Minister for Planning by Premier Nathan Rees in 2008. She held the position of the NSW Government's Spokesperson for World Youth Day 2008.[6]

On 29 June 2012, Keneally resigned from parliament.


  • Early life 1
  • Working life 2
  • Political career 3
  • Premier 4
    • Party renewal 4.1
    • Electricity privatisation 4.2
    • Popularity 4.3
    • Election defeat 4.4
  • Post-parliamentary career 5
  • Personal life 6
  • Publications 7
  • See also 8
  • References 9
  • External links 10

Early life

Keneally was born Kristina Marie Kerscher in Las Vegas to an American father and an Australian-born mother. She lived briefly in Colorado but grew up in Toledo, Ohio,[7] where she attended high school at Notre Dame Academy.[8] While at Notre Dame she was twice awarded most valuable player (1985, 1986) in the Academy's soccer team.[9]

Upon graduating from Notre Dame, she undertook studies at the University of Dayton, also in Ohio. While there she became involved in student politics,[10] and was involved in founding the National Association of Students at Catholic Colleges and Universities, serving as president of the group in 1990 and 1991.[11][12] She graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in political science in 1991,[10][13][14] was a registered Democrat[15] and worked as an intern for the Lieutenant Governor of Ohio, Paul Leonard.[10] In 1995 she graduated with a Master of Arts in religious studies. She later studied at Marquette University in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. After graduating from the University of Dayton she worked for a year as a volunteer teacher in New Mexico.[13][14]

For most of her life, she has identified as a staunch feminist. In 2009, she told The Daily Telegraph that when she heard her diocese's bishop was on a local talk show, she called to ask him why girls couldn't be altar servers. The bishop's "unsatisfactory answer," she said, awakened her to "how women are disadvantaged in the church and society."[16]

Keneally met her future husband, an Australian Labor Party politician, Ben Keneally, at World Youth Day 1991 in Poland. She moved to Australia in 1994 to be with him, but they returned to the US so that Ben could take up a position with the Boston Consulting Group. They married there in 1996.[17][18] They returned to Australia two years after their elder son was born.[17] She became a naturalised Australian in 2000, the same year she joined the Labor Party. She renounced U.S. citizenship prior to standing for election, as required by Australian law.[19]

Working life

After arriving in Australia she worked for the New South Wales branch of the Society of Saint Vincent de Paul as State Youth Coordinator before leaving full-time work to care for her children.[13] She also briefly attended the Australian Catholic University in Strathfield, New South Wales.[6][20][21] Keneally is represented by Wall Media management.[22][23]

Political career

Keneally was elected to the New South Wales Legislative Assembly in 2003, following a bitter pre-election battle with Deirdre Grusovin, the sister of senior Labor politician Laurie Brereton.[24] It was in fact her husband Ben who was more interested in a political career, relying on his friendship with Joe Tripodi. However, the party's affirmative action rules required a female candidate, so Kristina ran instead.[17] Before the election, Labor insiders were concerned that her strong American English accent wouldn't play well with voters. Although she reportedly took elocution lessons to sound more Australian, to this day she speaks with a marked American accent.[16]

In her maiden speech, she talked about her commitment to social justice, equal opportunity for women and her Roman Catholic faith. She also made light of an incident that happened during the 1999 state election. She was working in John Watkins' campaign office when she took a call from Premier Bob Carr's communications director, Walt Secord. Keneally later learned that Secord had demanded that Dawkins' campaign team "get that woman with an American accent off the telephones." She replied, "Well, I got off the phones that day, but today I have the floor." [15]

As NSW Minister for Disability Services, Keneally undertook measures to rebuild outdated institutional residential facilities for people with disability, going back on promises made by her (non-immediate) predecessor Faye Lo Po'.[25]

As NSW Planning Minister from August 2008, Mrs Keneally's department oversaw the local traffic diversions, and strict environmental management during construction, around the desalination pipeline works between Erskineville and Kurnell, approved by the department under the desalination pipeline project approval, granted by Frank Sartor, in November 2007.[26]

In August 2009, Keneally was alleged to be one of the names being put forward in a challenge to wrest the leadership from NSW Premier Nathan Rees.[27] Keneally responded to the accusations by stating: "He (Nathan Rees) has my support (as Premier)" and it was reported that she insisted she would never be Premier of New South Wales, something that was continuously disputed in the media.[28]

In November 2009 Keneally again denied she wanted to be Premier, saying "I have always supported the Premier, Bob Carr, Morris Iemma and now Nathan Rees. Now is the time to put this ridiculous leadership speculation behind us."[29]


Less than a month later, however, the dominant Right faction withdrew support from Rees. On 3 December, Keneally narrowly defeated Sartor by two votes to become the Right's candidate in a leadership spill against Rees. Later that day, she defeated Rees in a party room ballot with a majority of 45–21.[30] Prior to the vote, Rees declared "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",[31] a claim later rejected by Keneally, who stated "I am nobody's puppet, I am nobody's protege, I am nobody's girl."[32]

On 4 December 2009 Keneally was sworn in as the 42nd (and first female) premier of New South Wales by the State Governor, Marie Bashir.[33] For the first time in Australian history, both the Premier and Deputy Premier of a state were women.

Party renewal

Keneally pushed to renew the Labor Party, with 23 members of the 50 caucus members retiring.[34] Her push also included the resignation of the NSW Labor President, Bernie Riordan[35] and retirements of Labor Powerbrokers, Joe Tripodi[36] and Eddie Obeid.[37]

Electricity privatisation

On 14 December 2010 her government sold the first tranche of the partial privatisation of the state's electricity assets (see Electricity Commission of New South Wales) for $5.3 billion.[38] Eight of the directors quit in protest over the sale of trading rights to the output of generators.[39] After criticism of the privatisation, her Government abandoned the second stage of its electricity privatisation plan, as no companies bidded.[40]

On 22 December 2010 NSW Governor Marie Bashir prorogued Parliament on Keneally's request. This act normally takes place later than December prior to elections.[41] There were accusations that Keneally tried to halt the electricity inquiry, which later proceeded.[42]

In October 2011, the inquiry which the O'Farrell government set up reported to the NSW Liberal/National Government that the partial sale was "reasonable and appropriate".[43]


When she became Premier, she was highly popular and was the most popular political leader at one stage, as the Galaxy poll showed in March 2010, her personal satisfaction was 53 per cent.[44] However, her own personal popularity didn't transfer to her party, which had been well behind the Coalition in opinion polling since 2008.

Her popularity began to decline in August 2010, with her approval rating falling to 39 per cent.[45] In October 2010, Newspoll reported that the Keneally government only had 23 per cent of the primary vote--the worst showing on record for a Labor government at the state level in Australia. The only lower result Newspoll had recorded at the time was in 1989, when the Queensland Nationals polled at 22 percent. This was a dramatic turnabout from the 2007 election; Labor would have been decimated had this figure been repeated at an election.[46]

In May 2010, junior minister Karyn Paluzzano was forced out of politics for using public money for her 2007 reelection campaign and lying about it. The ensuring by-election in Paluzzano's once-safe seat of Penrith saw the seat resoundingly lost to the Liberals. Labor suffered a swing of over 26 percent--the largest swing against a sitting government in New South Wales history.[47]

Election defeat

Keneally led Labor into the 2011 state election. She was hoping to lead Labor to a fifth term in government, and also to become the second woman elected as a state premier in her own right, after Anna Bligh in Queensland.

However, Keneally was a heavy underdog for most of the campaign. At one point, Labor trailed the Barry O'Farrell-led Coalition by 26 points on the two-party vote[48] and Keneally trailed O'Farrell by 16 points as preferred premier.[49] Despite Keneally's efforts to rehabilitate Labor's image, it soon became obvious that Labor would not be reelected. One estimate showed Labor being knocked down to as few as 13 seats, and an election-eve poll showed Labor's support at a record low of 23 percent.[50] As a measure of how far Labor's fortunes had fallen, the party was in danger of losing seats where it had not been seriously threatened in decades, as well as several seats it had held for over a century.

In the 26 March election, the Labor government was heavily defeated, suffering a swing of over 16 per cent—the largest in a general election at any level in Australia since World War II. In the process, Labor lost many seats in its former western Sydney heartland, two of which fell to the Liberals on swings of 20 percent.[51] Ultimately, Labor was cut down to 20 seats (down from 48 at dissolution), its worst showing in over a century and one of the worst defeats a sitting state government in Australia has ever suffered. Many of the survivors saw their majorities more than halved. Keneally, for instance, went into the election sitting on a comfortably safe majority of 23.7 percent in her own seat of Heffron. However, she suffered a swing of over 16 percent, reducing her majority to 7.1 percent. She was the first Labor candidate since Heffron's creation to not garner enough primary votes to win without the need for preferences.

With Labor's defeat beyond doubt, Keneally resigned as premier and state Labor leader on election night and announced she would return to the back bench. Accepting responsibility for the worst defeat of a sitting government in NSW's history, Keneally said, "The truth is the people of NSW, who entrusted us with government for 16 years, did not leave us. We left them."[52] On 11 June 2011, Keneally was granted by the Governor retention of the title "The Honourable".[53]

Post-parliamentary career

Keneally resigned from Parliament on 29 June 2012, to commence work as the Chief Executive of Basketball Australia.[54] She was previously the Chair of the Basketball Australia board.[55] Keneally left Basketball Australia in April 2014 to spend more time with her family.[56] Keneally is also a director of Souths Cares, the nominated charity of the South Sydney Rabbitohs.[57]

A by-election for the seat of Heffron resulted in the election of Labor's Ron Hoenig.

As of July 2014, Keneally joined Sky News Australia and began co-hosting panel program The Contrarians every Friday afternoon with Ross Cameron, before the pair were given their own self-titled program Keneally and Cameron.[58] This program was axed in April 2015. Keneally joined Peter van Onselen as co-host of Sky News daytime program To The Point on June 1, 2015 which airs during PVO NewsDay.[59] Keneally is also a regular presenter on The Cabinet on Sky News Australia.[60]

Personal life

Keneally and her husband have two sons, Daniel and Brendan. A daughter, Caroline, died at birth.[61] Her husband is the nephew of Australian writer Thomas Keneally.[18]


  • Kerscher, Kristina Marie (1995). "Folding the Jesus-Sophia metaphor : a basis for a non-androcentric Christology within a Christian feminist interpretive community". Thesis (M.A. in Religious Studies)--University of Dayton. Retrieved 6 December 2009. 
  • Kerscher, Kristina (November 1995). "God's first instrument of liberation". Bible Today (Minnesota: St Benedict) 33 (6): 359–363.  

See also


  1. ^ Clennell, Andrew (3 December 2009). "Keneally first female NSW Premier". Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 3 December 2009. 
  2. ^ "'"Keneally 'secures key faction for vote. Herald Sun. 3 December 2009. Retrieved 3 December 2009. 
  3. ^ Keneally 'will collaborate' on new cabinet, Australian Broadcasting Corporation, 4 December 2009.
  4. ^ "Robertson elected Labor leader". 31 March 2011. Retrieved 31 March 2011. 
  5. ^ Norington, Brad (10 October 2002). "Mum's the word as Grusovin bows out of party battle". Retrieved 5 December 2009. 
  6. ^ a b "American-born Members of Parliament". Hansard. Parliament of New South Wales. 3 April 2008. p. 6444. Retrieved 3 December 2009. 
  7. ^ Hall, Louise (3 December 2009). "Kristina Keneally's life and times". Sydney Morning Herald. 
  8. ^ Hildebrand, Joe (28 August 2009). "Kristina Kerscher Keneally is no basket case". Courier Mail. Retrieved 3 December 2009. 
  9. ^ "NDA Eagles Soccer: Team Records". Retrieved 6 December 2009. 
  10. ^ a b c Smith, Alexandra (28 August 2009). "Quick on the drawl, she's the bearpit's rising star".  
  11. ^ Kepple, David E. (9 February 1991). "Students Look At AIDS Education". Dayton Daily News. 
  12. ^ Kepple, David E. (7 August 1993). "14 UD Students to make pilgrimage to Denver". Dayton Daily News. 
  13. ^ a b c "UD Story – Kristina Kerscher Keneally, '91 '95". University of Dayton. Retrieved 3 December 2009. 
  14. ^ a b Huffman, Dale (28 April 1991). "UD grad to follow her sixth sense to teaching post on Indian reservation". Dayton Daily News. 
  15. ^ a b "Inaugural Speeches". New South Wales Government. Parliament of New South Wales. 20 May 2003. Retrieved 26 July 2009. 
  16. ^ a b Josh Jerga (3 December 2009). "Katrina Keneally is Catholic feminist with American twang".  
  17. ^ a b c ,Labor's least likelyDeobrah Show & Anne Davies, The Age, 5 December 2009
  18. ^ a b Walker, Frank (29 March 2008). "Fine romance for young believers".  
  19. ^ "Whitehouse native building career as Australian politician". Toledo Blade. 15 September 2007. 
  20. ^ Salusinszky, Imre (19 September 2009). "Labor Right's future linked to an American accent".  
  21. ^ "Sunset Seminar Series: Planning in New South Wales – Responding to the Global Economic Crisis". University of Sydney. 8 April 2009. Retrieved 3 December 2009. 
  22. ^ Markson, Sharri (April 13, 2015). "Pollie combo axed". The Australian. Retrieved April 14, 2015. 
  23. ^
  24. ^ Maye, Vickie (28 September 2002). "Young mum will fight dynasty all the way". Fairfax Digital ( 
  25. ^ "A New Beginning" (PDF). New South Wales Government. Department of Ageing, Disability and Home Care. Retrieved 4 December 2009. 
  26. ^ "Traffic Management" (PDF).  
  27. ^ I'm not quitting: Rees rejects rumours of his imminent demise –, 27 August 2009
  28. ^ Keneally Rules Out Leadership Tilt Against Nathan Rees- Live News 27 August 2009
  29. ^ Jones, Gemma; Kamper, Angela (18 November 2009). "Minister Kristina Kenneally embracing solidarity with Nathan Rees". Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 3 December 2009. 
  30. ^ Green, Antony. 2011 NSW election preview. ABC News.
  31. ^ Tatnell, Paul (3 December 2009). "Premier Nathan Rees launches attack on own party". Retrieved 7 December 2009. 
  32. ^ Hall, Louise; Robins, Brian (4 December 2009). "'"Meet 'nobody's puppet, nobody's girl. Retrieved 7 December 2009. 
  33. ^ "Keneally sworn in as state's first female premier". Herald Sun. 4 December 2009. 
  34. ^ "Keneally apologises for power privatisation failure". 11 February 2011. Retrieved 16 February 2011. 
  35. ^ "Keneally issues ultimatum to party president". 29 November 2010. Retrieved 16 February 2011. 
  36. ^ Salusinszky, Imre (11 November 2010). "Powerbroker Joe Tripodi quits". The Australian. Retrieved 16 February 2011. 
  37. ^ "'"Powerbroker Obeid 'set to quit politics. 20 December 2010. Retrieved 16 February 2011. 
  38. ^ 15 December 2010 4:33 am (15 December 2010). "NSW reaps $5.3bn from electricity sale". The Australian. Retrieved 26 March 2011. 
  39. ^ 24 January 2011 12:00 am (24 January 2011). "Keneally done for as rout looms". The Australian. Retrieved 26 March 2011. 
  40. ^ "Keneally drops electricity privatisation plans". 1 February 2011. Retrieved 26 March 2011. 
  41. ^ Jones, Gemma (23 December 2010). "Premier Kristina Keneally set for power showdown". Retrieved 26 March 2011. 
  42. ^ Smith, Alexandra; Robins, Brian (24 January 2011). "Power sale inquiry to give directors more time". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 16 February 2011. 
  43. ^ Salusinszky, Imre (1 November 2011). "'"Kristina Keneally power sell-off 'no dud. The Australian. 
  44. ^ "Keneally tops latest poll". 
  45. ^ "New poll shows Keneally losing popularity". 25 August 2010. Retrieved 26 March 2011. 
  46. ^ Salusinszky, Imre (29 October 2010). "Kristina Keneally leading the most unpopular Labor government in history". Retrieved 26 March 2011. 
  47. ^ "Libs claim victory in Penrith".  
  48. ^ "Opinion Polls". Retrieved 10 August 2012. 
  49. ^ "Opinion Polls". Retrieved 10 August 2012. 
  50. ^ "Labor steels itself for disaster with day to go". The Sydney Morning Herald. 25 March 2011. Retrieved 25 March 2011. 
  51. ^ Nicholls, Sean (28 March 2011). "History delivers ultimate power to O'Farrell". Sydney Morning Herald (Fairfax Media). 
  52. ^ Wood, Alicia; O'Brien, Natalie; Barlass, Tim (27 March 2011). "Keneally quits as leader". Retrieved 29 March 2011. 
  53. ^ "Retention of Title" (PDF). NSW Government Gazette (55): 3507. 11 June 2011. 
  54. ^ ABC News (2012). Former NSW premier Keneally to quit politics. Retrieved 23 June 2012.
  55. ^ "Kristina Keneally named Chair of BA Board". Retrieved 14 December 2011. 
  56. ^ Dale, David (29 April 2014). "Kristina Keneally resigns as Basketball Australia CEO". Retrieved 29 April 2014. 
  57. ^ "Keneally flexes her clout for charity". 12 November 2011. Retrieved 13 March 2014. 
  58. ^ "Former NSW Premier Kristina Keneally reveals her long-held TV dream, as she gets her own show".  
  59. ^ "Sky News expands roles of PVO and Stan Grant". MediaWeek. 20 May 2015. Retrieved 16 June 2015. 
  60. ^ Perry, Kevin (18 August 2014). "Sky News goes inside The Cabinet tonight on @Foxtel @SkyNewsAust". Nelbie. Archived from the original on 18 June 2015. Retrieved 18 June 2015. 
  61. ^ Smith, Alexandra (11 July 2008). "Faith, but it's a test of spirit for the junior minister".  

External links

  • Official Parliamentary Profile
  • – Sydney Morning Herald profileMaking a Premier
  • Kristina Keneally – Ready made for television
  • Keneally, Kristina Kerscher in The Encyclopedia of Women and Leadership in Twentieth-Century Australia
Parliament of New South Wales
Preceded by
Deirdre Grusovin
Member for Heffron
Succeeded by
Ron Hoenig
Political offices
Preceded by
John Della Bosca
Minister for Ageing
Succeeded by
Paul Lynch
Minister for Disability Services
Preceded by
Frank Sartor
Minister for Redfern-Waterloo
Ministry abolished
Minister for Planning
Succeeded by
Tony Kelly
Preceded by
Joe Tripodi
Minister for Infrastructure
Preceded by
Nathan Rees
Premier of New South Wales
Succeeded by
Barry O'Farrell
Party political offices
Preceded by
Nathan Rees
Leader of the Australian Labor Party in New South Wales
Succeeded by
John Robertson
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