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Labor star Kristina Keneally falls behind local independent candidate in early results – after she was parachuted in instead of a talented Vietnamese-Australian lawyer

  • Kristina Keneally could lose a traditional Labor safe seat to an independent
  • The insertion of Ms Keneally in the seat was resoundingly unpopular with voter 
  • Ms Keneally was a shock preselection over a local Vietnamese candidate Tu Le  

Early results show Kristina Keneally is in trouble in the seat of Fowler – which the ex-Premier and Labor luminary was parachuted into instead of a local candidate. 

The south-west Sydney seat of Fowler has been a traditional Labor safe seat since it was created in 1984, but the selection of ‘drop in’ Keneally could see the party lose the seat for the first time ever. 

The ABC is projecting independent and Deputy Mayor of Fairfield Dai Le is ahead in the seat – but is yet to make a firm prediction.  

Ms Le trails not far behind the former New South Wales Premier on first preference votes – with a massive 26 per cent early swing. 

In a two-party-preferred metric based on preferences, independent Dai Le leads 51 to 48 per cent. 

Ms Keneally until recently lived on Scotland Island on the city’s northern beaches – far from the seat which centres on Cabramatta in Sydney’s south-west. 

Ms Keneally was chosen by the Labor executive over talented local Vietnamese-Australia lawyer Tu Le. 

At the time the 30-year-old migration lawyer blasted the Labor Party for crushing her dreams of becoming a federal MP representing her local community.

Migration lawyer, Tu Le (pictured), was Labor's original candidate for the seat but was dropped in favour of Kristina Keneally

Migration lawyer, Tu Le (pictured), was Labor’s original candidate for the seat but was dropped in favour of Kristina Keneally 

Independent challenger Ms Lei (pictured) was counting on picking up votes from voters disillusioned with the major parties

Independent challenger Ms Lei (pictured) was counting on picking up votes from voters disillusioned with the major parties

Ms Le hit out at Labor for overlooking her, calling for more ethnic diversity in parliament while attacking local community groups who then supported Senator Keneally when it became clear the shadow home affairs minister would win pre-selection.

‘I’m calling this out because it is downright WRONG for our leaders to use their positions of power for their own personal gains,’ Ms Le wrote in a Facebook post.

‘Whether it’s in the highest offices of this country or at the community level, we should NEVER accept this behaviour from those who represent us.’

Ms Le said she doesn’t ‘hold it against’ those who did not support her and quoted the Buddha, saying: ”Holding onto anger is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die”.’

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But Ms Keneally is still heavily favoured to win the seat, barring a huge backlash to accusations of being a ‘carpetbagger’. 

Independent candidate Dai Le has based her campaign on appealing to local values, Ms Le (pictured) is the current Deputy Mayor of Fairfield

Independent candidate Dai Le has based her campaign on appealing to local values, Ms Le (pictured) is the current Deputy Mayor of Fairfield

Ms Le attacked Labor for relying on ‘superficial connections to our diverse communities’ and said the party needs more diversity among its politicians.

The south-west electorate is one of Sydney’s most diverse seats, known for being the hub of Sydney’s Vietnamese community.

Ms Keneally faced criticism for being chosen to represent the suburb, as she until recently lived on Scotland Island in a small enclave in the northern beaches of Sydney. 

Independent challenger Ms Lei was riding on the coattails of voter’s disillusionment with the major parties, hoping that factor would be enough to boost her into parliament.

She also campaigned heavily against Ms Keneally, calling the former Senator a holidaymaker and saying she didn’t belong in the seat. 

Liberal candidate Courtney Nguyen trails both Ms Keneally and Ms Le by a fair margin with a 13 per cent negative swing against her in first preferences.

Ms Nguyen faced an uphill battle campaigning against any Labor candidate as the seat has been deep red since its conception.

The seat was previously held by retiring Labor MP Chris Hayes since 2010 and a safe Labor seat since its creation in 1984.

The electorate’s unemployment rate has been consistently higher than the national average, more than double at some points during the last year.

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Housing is also a dominant issue in the electorate as overcrowding rises in the area.

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