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Former Premier revealed as Labor's surprise candidate for Bennelong

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Former New South Wales Labor Premier Kristina Keneally has been named Labor's candidate in the Bennelong by-election in a surprise move that could destabilise the Turnbull Government.

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Liberal MP John Alexander resigned from the seat of Bennelong on Saturday after conceding he was likely to be a British dual national, making him ineligible to serve in Parliament.

He is racing to renounce his foreign citizenship in time to recontest the seat, which is located in Sydney’s northern suburbs.

High-profile Tasmanian Senator Jacqui Lambie announced this morning that she, too, would also have to resign after UK authorities had confirmed her status as a British citizen by descent.

Las Vegas-born Keneally has released documents showing she renounced her US citizenship in 2002.

“Who could have imagined that this citizenship crisis would end up with people like John Alexander sitting there quietly for months, not revealing that he may well be a dual citizen?” she said.

“This is … crisis circumstance and for me, this is an opportunity I would have never imagined, to stand up, to represent an area that I live, where I work, that I love.”

Labor Leader Bill Shorten described the December 16 by-election as a chance for voters to send the Turnbull Government a wake up call.

“This is a chance which I think a lot of people in Australia would like to have that has fallen to the people of Bennelong to send a message against the dysfunction and the chaos of the current government, the policy paralysis, the failure of leadership,” he told reporters in the electorate.

Cabinet minister Greg Hunt fired the first shot from the Coalition, describing Keneally as “Eddie Obeid’s protege” – referring to the disgraced former state Labor minister.

“Kristina Keneally fought for Eddie Obeid. John Alexander (a former Davis Cup player) fought for Australia on the international courts,” he said.

Attorney-General George Brandis said Labor had been playing a “very dodgy game” by not dealing with at least two of its MPs with citizenship doubts.

It’s expected the Coalition – which holds office with a one-seat majority – will get crossbench support when the lower house resumes on November 27 to refer ALP members Susan Lamb and Justine Keay to the High Court.

Labor wants lower house members to put their citizenship and family history details on the public register at the same time as senators, December 1, but the government is pushing for a December 7 deadline – the day parliament is due to rise for the year.

“Labor wants to resolve this we want to do it once and we want to do it right, one rule for all,” Mr Shorten said.

Bennelong is a traditionally Liberal-leaning electorate – held by John Howard from 1974 until 2007, when the then-Prime Minister was defeated by Labor’s Maxine McKew, in the Kevin07 electoral landslide that also toppled the Howard Government.

Alexander reclaimed the seat for the Liberal Party in 2010, which he held with a 9.7% margin in last year’s federal election.

His resignation over the weekend reduces the Turnbull Government to a minority of 73 seats in the House of Representatives – 74 including the Speaker.

The Labor Party does not have the numbers required to pass a no-confidence motion to remove the Government and force an early election, but will attempt to get some of its key policies past the Lower House with the support of crossbench MPs when parliament returns in a fortnight.

– with AAP 

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