Tanya Plibersek says Tu Le has experience needed in parliament, avoiding comment on Kristina Keneally move
Senior Labor frontbencher Tanya Plibersek has declined to say whether she supports her party's decision to parachute Kristina Keneally into a safe Labor seat, at the expense of a Vietnamese-Australian lawyer who lives in the electorate.
Senator Keneally, a former New South Wales premier who lives on the northern beaches, has been endorsed as the candidate for the multicultural seat of Fowler, which includes the suburbs of Cabramatta and Fairfield.
It means the retiring MP Chris Hayes' preferred candidate Tu Le has been pushed aside to make way for Senator Keneally, who was facing a factional battle to secure the top spot on the NSW Senate ticket.
Labor MP Anne Aly has criticised the move as hypocritical given the party's push for cultural diversity in federal parliament.
Tanya Plibersek, who represents the federal seat of Sydney, was asked three times on Insiders whether she supported the move.
"I am proud of the diversity we already exhibit, and I tell you this: we can always do more," Ms Plibersek said.
"I really hope that [Tu Le] sticks with it because her work standing up for exploited migrant workers, her connection to the Vietnamese community and the Buddhist community, that is exactly the sort of experience Labor wants to see in our federal parliament."
Senator Keneally is Labor's Deputy Leader in the Senate but despite her seniority, she has been in a tussle with her right-faction colleague Deb O'Neill, who has strong union support.
If she was unable to secure top spot, Senator Keneally may have struggled to be re-elected.
Ms Plibersek – who is from the party's left-faction — said she was a "glass half-full person" who wanted to focus on the fact three women candidates were vying for parliamentary positions.
Another senior Labor frontbencher, Tony Burke, said earlier this week that "if in these conversations a local community feels taken for granted, you make those decisions at your peril".
'I know how to fight for communities': Keneally
Senator Keneally has brushed aside criticism from some within her own party and said the electorate of Fowler had been overlooked by state and federal coalition governments.
"This is a community I will live in, I will love and I will represent," she said.
Senator Keneally acknowledged that she hadn't lived in the electorate, but said Fowler was similar to the community she represented when working in state politics.
"This community here in Fowler — while it is geographically different to the place I represented in the state parliament – in the state seat of Heffron in South Sydney, it's actually very similar in many ways," she said.
"Like Fowler, nearly half of the electorate was born overseas and another 75 per cent of the electorate had one parent born overseas."
Senator Keneally also said she was comfortable with Labor's record on supporting diverse candidates, when compared to the Liberal Party.
"I'm proud to be part of a party that supports gender diversity and supports multicultural diversity," Senator Keneally said.
"I'll stand our commitment to multiculturalism up against our Liberal opponents any day of the week. And with a leader, with a name like Albanese, you can be sure that a commitment to multicultural Australia sits at the heart of his government."
'This is a huge failure': Anne Aly
Senator's Keneally's switch to the lower house has angered some within the parliamentary Labor party, but few MPs have been willing to publicly criticise it.
Ms Aly, who grew up in the electorate of Fowler and was the first Muslim woman elected to federal Parliament, said she wasn't willing to say silent.
"Diversity and equality and multiculturalism can't just be a trope that Labor pulls out and parades while wearing a sari and eating some kung pao chicken to make ourselves look good," she told the ABC.
"This is a huge failure for Labor when it comes to diversity and inclusion.
"Frankly, for the Labor Party to be in a position where they are pushing aside a community representative from one of the most multicultural electorates is hypocrisy as far as I'm concerned."