Labor to lock in federal candidates in NSW

Labor will aim to finalise pre-selections for key NSW federal seats after controversy over parachuting Kristina Keneally into a safe southwest Sydney electorate.

Senator Keneally has the backing of the party to switch to the lower house seat of Fowler despite local lawyer Tu Le putting her hand up.

Daniel Repacholi, who represented Australia at his fifth Games in Tokyo, is likely to replace retiring MP Joel Fitzgibbon as Labor’s candidate for Hunter.

Preselections in crucial coalition-held seats of Reid, Banks, Robertson and Page will also be fast-tracked.

Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese wants Labor’s national executive to meet on Friday, with nominations for the seats closing seven days after.

“Labor is preparing for the potential of an election later this year. We want to make sure that we’re ready,” he told reporters in Sydney on Wednesday.

“We will then have a timetable and discussions about a timetable for the remaining seats. But I want all the candidates in the field by the end of October throughout the country.”

Albanese will recommend Senator Keneally, who he expects to be unopposed, and Repacholi as candidates for Fowler and Hunter.

The party’s rules will be suspended to allow online voting in preselection contests for the four government-held seats.

“These are target seats,” Albanese said.

“In a couple of those seats, it’s likely there will be ballots because we have more than one outstanding candidate putting themselves forward.”

Labor has faced criticism over drafting Senator Keneally, who is based on Sydney’s northern beaches, into the multicultural electorate of Fowler.

Albanese hailed American-born Senator Keneally as a great migrant story but insists Le, 30, has a bright future with the party.

The ALP’s NSW Senate ticket is expected to be announced on Friday, with Deborah O’Neill and Jenny McAllister set to fill the top two spots.

Senator Keneally’s lower house switch avoided a fight with fellow right faction member Senator O’Neill for the No. 1 position.

Albanese will on Wednesday evening attend an online campaign launch for the government-held Victorian seats of Latrobe, Deakin, Casey and Chisholm.