“This takes more than good intentions. Good intentions are not enough.”
The comments follow days of calls from some Labor members for action by Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese and others to overturn a decision last week to install Senator Keneally as the party’s candidate over local lawyer Tu Le.
Ms Le, a Vietnamese-Australian who was backed by sitting Labor member Chris Hayes, told ABC Radio National on Tuesday morning the events had become a “sour debacle” and meant the community could not choose its Labor candidate.
A Labor councillor on Liverpool Council, Charishma Kaliyanda, said on Tuesday Labor had to “step up” and do the right thing in Fowler because the decision to overlook Ms Le damaged the party.
“It sends a wider message to culturally diverse, educated, aspirational young people that there isn’t a place for them in Australian politics,” she wrote.
While some criticism has focused on the fact that Senator Keneally lives on Scotland Island on Pittwater, she lived in her state electorate of Heffron, around southern Sydney and Kensington, during her time in NSW Parliament and as Premier.
Mr Keating said Senator Keneally “absolutely” had the qualities needed to be a cabinet minister in a federal Labor government.
“She’s in the top handful of people in the party and, as her performance in the Senate shows, she’s a great advocate for Labor’s value system,” he said.
“And she has what a lot of people in the Labor Party do not have, and that is a permanent sense of indignation about those less well-off.”
While Mr Keating said he did not want to comment on Prime Minister Scott Morrison and the Coalition government, he said Senator Keneally was needed in Fowler because of what she could bring to a federal Labor government.
The former prime minister said Ms Keneally had shown her calibre as an executive leader as NSW Premier when the Barangaroo project was being developed, with his input into the redesign of the western edges of the city and the wharves previously known as the Hungry Mile.
“There’s every good and strategic reason why Kristina Keneally should be endorsed as the federal candidate for Fowler,” Mr Keating said.
“Keneally is a huge executive talent and a great proselytiser for her beliefs.
“And in her role in the Senate she’s been a great proselytiser for Labor values.”
Labor leader Anthony Albanese said on Tuesday he had spoken to Ms Le and encouraged her to “hang in there”.
“She’s 30 years old. I think she has a very bright future ahead of her,” he said.
He described Senator Keneally, who was born in the United States, as “another great Australian success story of a migrant who’s come here and became the NSW Premier”.
“The fact is that Labor is the party of multiculturalism. We have been since the days, at least, of the great Whitlam Government and the advances that we’ve made.”
Senior NSW Labor MP, Chris Bowen, a key architect of the deal to move Senator Keneally from the Senate to the lower house, said she could end up Fowler’s first-ever member of cabinet.
“I think that that is what the community deserves, a member who will be at the very top rank of a Labor government, which Kristina would be,” he said. “So that’s why I think it’s a good idea.”
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