It’s a dilemma former NSW Premier Kristina Keneally admits she is used to.
Just when she’s winning kudos for her career move into television as a presenter on SkyNEWS, she is still asked if she’s considering returning to the political arena.
The way Keneally sees it, she is still involved in the national political conversation, but these days on the sidelines as host of political commentary show, On The Line. And that’s just the way she likes it.
“I understand people look at politicians and think it’s a case of once a politician, always a politician,” Keneally, who was NSW’s first female Premier from 2009–11, admits.
“I love that I’m still involved with the political conversation. I’m still helping to shape how political events are understood and interpreted, and I’m able to put my own contribution into the political debate.”
While Keneally had a successful career in politics, she does not plan on returning to the public office
But as for a return to life in a public office, it is with a sense of genuine relief that Keneally explains those days are now behind her.
“I do miss being in politics and there are times I am wistful about the opportunities I no longer have to be engaged, but I’m not going back to into politics to get that feeling back.
“It’s really okay to look back at something you had and miss it, but not feel the need to repeat it.”
Then-Premier Keneally at the Chinese Community Awards in 2010
US-born Keneally, who became an Australian citizen in 2000, earned admiration as she attempted to steady the troubled ship of NSW Labor as she steered the party through its final tumultuous chapter until it lost office in 2011.
Keneally, 48, retired from politics in 2012, but the questions about whether she might make a move to Canberra have continued since.
“I don’t have a problem about people moving from state to federal politics, but there are plenty of people who can do it and do it better than I would. I’m very happy for them to take that space,” she says.
“There are a lot of very clever, smart and hard-working politicians coming up through the ranks and they’re the ones we should be paying attention to now – to see what they do and where they go.”
Which is what she has been doing at SkyNEWS since joining the network as a political commentator, after completing a two-year stint as Chief Executive of Basketball Australia.
Keneally has made a smooth transition from politics to TV presenter, but even three years down the track and having won plaudits for her on-screen work, admits she is still a work in progress.
Keneally is still involved in political dialogue as a commentator on SkyNEWS
“Most days I don’t think I’m doing anything right,” she laughs. “I go home and watch the show back and think, ‘good Lord, I’m a rank amateur!
“The best lesson I have learned in recent years is I find myself quite comfortable in my own skin. Sometimes I get it right, other days I make colossal mistakes. Sometimes I look great, other times quite shocking. And the thing is, I’m just fine with all of that. You learn to deal with it and keep going.”
So strongly has Keneally emerged as a TV presence that she was the perfect balance to the conservative politics of former Liberal political powerbroker Peta Credlin when they were paired for last year’s surprise hit Credlin Keneally.
The pair proved to have such strong chemistry, there are now plans for a new season to return in 2017.
“As two women from completely different sides of politics, we have actually had a lot of similar experiences of just sheer hard work and stubbornness,” Keneally says.
“For the two of us to have been in senior positions, we are able to have the strong conversations. Not in a red corner-blue corner, punch-and-knock-down-fight, but in strong discussions. It’s seems to have been a real benefit to our viewers from the response we got.”
When not talking politics, Keneally is a wife to Ben, former mayor of the Sydney suburb of Botany Bay and the couple have two teenage sons, Brendan and Daniel. She is full of praise for her sons and their emerging political future.
“They’re really engaged in knowing about politics and are aware of going on in the world,” she says.
“But just as I miss my teenage children being babies, I’m not having another baby to get that feeling back in the very same way I’m not going back into politics to get that feeling again!”
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Image credits: © Robert Edwards / SkyNEWS; © Benjamin Townsend / btphotography.com.au.