This is the awkward moment Labor’s star by-election candidate Kristina Keneally came face-to-face with her Liberal opponent John Alexander at a chemist.
Ms Keneally, a former New South Wales premier, was out on the hustings at Eastwood, in Sydney’s north, when she offered a polite greeting.
Mr Alexander joked he was being stalked as Foreign Minister Julie Bishop looked on uncomfortably.
The morning encounter began with Ms Keneally asking him if he looked forward to the looming Bennelong by-election contest on December 16.
Foreign Minister Julie Bishop looks on awkwardly as Kristina Keneally meets John Alexander
‘Looking forward to the by-election? I know I am,’ she said, a day after Labor announced her as its star candidate.
Mr Alexander confirmed he was aware of the date, after being unaware of it during a live TV interview two days ago.
This gave Ms Keneally, who was until this week a Sky News host, an opportunity to tease him.
‘You got the date now?,’ she asked of her 66-year-old opponent.
Mr Alexander, a former top-seeded international tennis champion and Seven sports commentator, made light of the situation.
‘I feel you’re stalking me already,’ he said.
John Alexander joked he was being stalked by Kristina Keneally during their Eastwood meet
Mr Alexander retained Bennelong with a healthy 9.7 per cent margin at last year’s federal election, after scoring a swing towards him.
However, he resigned last week as the federal member for the seat he had held since 2010 after discovering he still had dual British citizenship through his father.
Ms Keneally, who renounced her American citizenship before becoming a state MP in 2003, used a nearby media conference to make the by-election a referendum on Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, who was nowhere to be seen on Wednesday.
‘Julie Bishop’s positioning herself for the potential demise of the prime minister,’ she told reporters.
Kristina Keneally used her media conference to ask if Julie Bishop wanted to become the PM
Opposition Leader Bill Shorten announced Kristina Keneally as a Labor candidate on Tuesday
Former premiers who went to Canberra
Bob Carr, NSW Labor Premier 1995-2005. Foreign Minister, 2012-2013
John Fahey, NSW Liberal Premier 1992-1995. Federal Finance Minister, 1996-2001
Carmen Lawrence, WA Labor Premier 1990-1993. Federal Health Minister, 1994-1996
Steele Hall, SA Liberal and Country League Premier 1968-1970. Liberal Senator 1974-1977 and House of Representatives MP 1981-1996
Vince Gair, Queensland Labor Premier 1952-1957. Democratic Labor Party Senator 1965-1974
Jack Lang, NSW Labor Premier 1925-1927 and 1930-1932. Lang Labor House of Representatives MP 1946-1949
Joseph Lyons, Tasmanian Labor Premier 1923-1928. United Australia Party Prime Minister 1932-1939
Ted Theodore, Queensland Labor Premier 1919-1925. Federal Treasurer 1929-1930
The Foreign Minister used her joint media conference with Mr Alexander to remind voters how Ms Keneally became premier in December 2009 by relying on the support of now jailed former minister Eddie Obeid and fellow right-faction powerbroker Joe Tripodi, who the Independent Commission Against Corruption this year found to have acted corruptly in office.
‘Kristina Keneally, as a Labor premier, presided over one of the most … incompetent governments in this state’s history,’ Ms Bishop said.
Ms Keneally pointed out she lived at Boronia Park, next door to ritzy Hunters Hill, just 800 metres outside the electorate while Mr Alexander lived at North Bondi, in Sydney’s eastern suburbs.
She is the highest-profile Labor candidate to contest Bennelong since former ABC Lateline host Maxine McKew won the seat off sitting Liberal prime minister John Howard in November 2007, before losing it three years later.
As premier in March 2011, she led New South Wales Labor to its biggest ever defeat.
In the state seat of Ryde, which overlaps with Bennelong, there was a massive 36 per cent swing against Labor in an electorate that was safe ALP territory only four years earlier.
Ms Keneally is also the first former premier to make a tilt at federal politics since Queensland’s Peter Beattie ran unsuccessfully for the seat of Forde in 2013.