There are many people I have a great deal of respect for, but only a select few that I can say I truly admire.
Amongst those few is Kristina Keneally.
On Saturday, I was dismayed to find an email in my inbox from Kristina announcing that she was leaving NSW Parliament. I’m sure every ALP member who received the email was just as shocked as I was.
Kristina Keneally is a woman of immense courage, and strong principles. She is the type of person who see’s what needs to be done, and does it, no matter what the cost to her own standing. As an electorate, Hefron could have had no finer for a member, as a Party, we were honored to have her as a leader, and as a state, we were privileged to have her as Premier.
Kristina took over the leadership of NSW Labor, and became the 42nd Premier of New South Wales when the Labor Party was at its lowest. It was the most poisoned of chalices, but it was one she accepted readily despite the hard work she knew was to come.
Kristina, although born in Las Vegas, grew up in Ohio. A gifted soccer player, she clearly learnt valuable lessons in those days about working as part of a team, because she held NSW Labor together at what was arguably the toughest times the party had ever seen.
In fact, Kristina has always been the sporting type, famous for cycling into work most days. She is on the board of the Rabittoh’s football club, and is now the new boss for Basketball Australia.
Kristina met her husband Ben, an Australian, at a World Youth Day event in Poland. She moved to Australia in 1994, and married Ben in 1996 when they briefly returned to the US for Ben’s work.
Although it was Ben who was the keener of the couple for a career in politics, the ALP required a female candidate, so Kristina ran instead.
After winning office in 2003, Kristina went on to hold many roles within Parliament. Kristina served NSW as Minister for Disabled Services, and also as NSW Planning Minister.
On the 4th December 2009, Kristina Keneally was sworn in as the first female Premier of NSW, after defeating Nathan Rees the day before in a caucus ballot. To say she took on the role at the worst possible time imaginable would be a gross understatement.
Never the less, Kristina was under no illusions of the challenges that would lie ahead. She knew only too well the monumental effort that was going to be required to save the party from utter annihilation at the next election.
Kristina’s family must have thought she was crazy, taking on such a massive role at such a hard time. It is a testament to her family that they showed her so much support throughout what must have been a tough time. I am sure now that Ben, and their children are as proud of Kristina as she is of them.
The ALP had been in power in NSW for what had seemed like an eternity, and there was a palpable feeling in the community of a need for change. Even the prospect of a lackluster Premier like Barry O’Farrell was not going to turn the public around, a miracle was needed.
Labors answer, was Kristina, and for a while, it even looked like there was a chance she’d pull it off.
We all know that Keneally and Labor were defeated in the 2011 election, it was a loss that was expected. At the time it seemed like a disaster for NSW Labor, and it was. However, in hindsight, one wonders at how much worse it could have been.
Some estimates at the time, had Labor being knocked down to as few as 13 seats in the current parliament. In the end, Labor managed to hold 20 seats, while that may have seemed catastrophic to many at the time, after the recent election result in Queensland, we should be glad we held on to that many seats in NSW, much of the credit for that belongs with Kristina.
The final result in my opinion was not the fault of Kristina, in fact, I think she saved our bacon in many ways. It should be remembered that throughout her time as Premier, despite Labor being hugely unpopular in the electorate, Kristina spent most of her time ahead of O’Farrell in the preferred Premier polls. It was only towards the end, and after a series of scandals, a press that had seemed to have grown beyond hostile, and what also came across as an endless stream of resignations, that Keneally’s popularity began to wane.
I often wonder where we would be now if the party hadn’t imploded so close to the finish line. I’m not saying that we could have won, but we may have held on to a few more seats, and some valuable members such as Firth and Borger. We may have even averted the situation we are in now, where the state is being run by the gun nuts. You see, the Shooters & Fishers hold the balance of power, resulting in increased gun lobbying, shooting in National Parks, and even death threats in Parliament House during a debate, directed at a Greens MP, something I feel should result in the expulsion of this member, Robert Brown.
In her time as Premier, Kristina achieved many things, amongst them was massive disability package that was the largest the country had ever seen at the time. After 13 years of a Howard Federal government, it was clear that looking after the needy was going to be down to the states. Kristina Keneally’s, and the Minister Peter Primrose’s $2 Billion policy set the standards for others to follow.
During her time, which was also at the height of the Global Financial Crisis, NSW was the only state in the country to achieve 3 consecutive months of growth. Also under Kristina’s watch, NSW jumped up to be the number 1 performing state in education, in terms of both student results and literacy rates.
Those in NSW were also fortunate enough to see the impacts of a huge investment in law enforcement, the states crime rates went into reverse gear.
Kristina also received much praise for being the Premier that finally had the guts to put ethics classes in public schools. This meant that students were not forced into religious studies.
Kristina is also well known for her tireless support of charities.
Kristina is the ambassador for the charity Opportunity International Australia, and is also the Patron of the Stillbirth Foundation.
Opportunity International Australia, is a non-profit organisation that funds small-scale loans to those who need them in developing countries. The idea of this is to enable people to set themselves up in their own business, so that they can not only help themselves and their family, but
also benefit their community.
The Stillbirth Foundation, is not a support organisation as many would assume. The Foundation actually funds research into stillbirth, and is also setting out to increase public awareness of the issue.In 2012, the foundation funded studies that were worth over $250,000.
In her time in Parliament, Kristina earned the respect of both those on the right and the left of the Labor Party,not only for showing grace under pressure, but also for her courageous display of Labor principles and core values.
I am proud to have stood for a seat, albeit the safest Liberal seat in the state, for Kristina. I think she is irreplaceable as a member, and among one of the ALP’s gutsiest leaders ever. Never giving up despite the odds, and always working to better society by serving all it’s members, not just the rich.
Kristina, I wish you all the best in your future endeavors, you will be missed by the party. I am confident you will succeed at achieving all your goals.
Kristina was not the only political resignation last week.
Another female MP to resign from Parliament over the last few days, was Mary Jo Fisher of the Liberal Party. Mary Jo surprised many when she announced she would be resigning from her seat in the Federal Senate.
There were few people who better represented the Liberal Party’s moral standing and principles than Mary Jo.
Mary resigned after being caught shoplifting yet again. Still, at least this time there were no allegations of assaulting a member of the stores staff.
The Liberal Party must be so proud.Follow @madwixxy