|42nd Premier of New South Wales
4 December 2009 – 28 March 2011
|Preceded by||Nathan Rees|
|Succeeded by||Barry O'Farrell|
|19th Leader of the Australian Labor Party in New South Wales|
3 December 2009 – 31 March 2011
|Preceded by||Nathan Rees|
|Succeeded by||John Robertson|
|Member of the New South Wales Parliament
22 March 2003 – 29 June 2012
|Preceded by||Deirdre Grusovin|
|Succeeded by||Ron Hoenig|
19 December 1968 |
Las Vegas, Nevada, U.S.
|Political party||Australian Labor Party (since 2000)|
|United States Democratic Party (before 2000)|
|Alma mater||University of Dayton
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, 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.
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. 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.
On 29 June 2012, Keneally resigned from parliament.
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, where she attended high school at Notre Dame Academy. While at Notre Dame she was twice awarded most valuable player (1985, 1986) in the Academy's soccer team.
Upon graduating from Notre Dame, she undertook studies at the University of Dayton, also in Ohio. While there she became involved in student politics, 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. She graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in political science in 1991, was a registered Democrat and worked as an intern for the Lieutenant Governor of Ohio, Paul Leonard. 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.
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. They returned to Australia two years after their elder son was born. 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.
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. She also briefly attended the Australian Catholic University in Strathfield, New South Wales.
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. 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 Keneally ran instead. In her inaugural speech she talked about her commitment to social justice, equal opportunity for women and her Roman Catholic faith.
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'.
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.
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. 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.
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." Less than a month later Keneally challenged and defeated Rees to become the 42nd Premier of New South Wales and the first woman, and first former American to hold the office.
On 3 December 2009 Keneally won a party room ballot against Premier Nathan Rees with a majority of 45–21, gaining the support of the dominant right faction of the Labor Party caucus. Prior to the vote, Nathan 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", a claim later rejected by Keneally, who stated "I am nobody's puppet, I am nobody's protege, I am nobody's girl."
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. For the first time in Australian history, both the Premier and Deputy Premier of a state were women.
Keneally's time in leadership of NSW labor was marred by controversy, initially denying she would issue a challenge to the then leader, Nathan Rees. Keneally backflipped and did issue and subsequently win a leadership challenge after Rees' famous last words as NSW Labor leader dubbing his successor, Keneally, a puppet of Eddie Obeid and Joe Tripodi.
Among the controversies Keneally was implicated in are;
- Her association with corrupt power-broker Eddie Obeid, and his political ally Joe Tripodi 
- Her role in the privatisation of NSW power infrastructure, and efforts to block an enquiry into the affair by an unprecedented early proroguing of parliament
- Keneally transferred various local government planning powers to the state government, created a new portfolio relating to the major development Barangaroo for which she took responsibility, was criticised for a perceived conflict of interest in the development of Barangaroo worth over one million dollars and linked to installation of electric car infrastructure associated with the development and additionally exempted Barangaroo from environmental planning laws.
- Keneally was also criticised for her spending on travel, accruing more than four million dollars worth of flights and other entertainment costs in less than two years as premier
- Keneally was also criticised for failing to declare gifts to the value of $500 or more after accepting flight upgrades
- During investigations into corrupt dealings by former minister Ian Macdonald, Keneally refused to release a report made about him relating to misuse of taxpayer funds, though she was compelled to release the report to the Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC).
Keneally pushed to renew the Labor Party, with 23 members of the 50 caucus members retiring. Her push also included the resignation of the NSW Labor President, Bernie Riordan and retirements of Labor Powerbrokers, Joe Tripodi and Eddie Obeid.
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. Eight of the directors quit in protest over the sale of trading rights to the output of generators. After criticism of the privatisation, her Government abandoned the second stage of its electricity privatisation plan, as no companies bidded.
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. There were accusations that Keneally tried to halt the electricity inquiry, which later proceeded.
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".
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. 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. In October 2010, Newspoll reported that the Keneally government had become the most unpopular Labor government in Australia, showing Labor only had 23 per cent of the primary vote. The only lower result Newspoll had recorded at the time was in 1989, when the Queensland Nationals polled at 22 percent. A 2010 by-election in the once-safe seat of Penrith saw Labor heavily defeated, with the Liberals taking the seat on the largest swing against a sitting government in New South Wales history.
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 and Keneally trailed O'Farrell by 16 points as preferred premier. 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. 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. 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, saw her majority reduced to 7.1 percent.
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."
Keneally resigned from Parliament on 29 June 2012, to commence work as the Chief Executive of Basketball Australia. She was previously the Chair of the Basketball Australia board. Keneally left Basketball Australia in April 2014 to spend more time with her family. Keneally is also a director of Souths Cares, the nominated charity of the South Sydney Rabbitohs.
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- Official Parliamentary Profile
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|Parliament of New South Wales|
|Member for Heffron
John Della Bosca
|Minister for Ageing
|Minister for Disability Services
|Minister for Redfern-Waterloo
|Minister for Planning
|Minister for Infrastructure
|Premier of New South Wales
|Party political offices|
|Leader of the Australian Labor Party in New South Wales