EXCLUSIVE: The ambitious Vietnamese-Aussie lawyer, her big-noting husband and the nastiest political brawl… since the last time she ran for Labor: Behind scenes in the battle for Sydney’s south-west – as the party declares: ‘The locals will decide’
- Tu Le wanted to run for Labor seat at federal election
- Party chose ex premier Kristina Keneally
- Now wants to run for Cabramatta in NSW
- Do you know more? contact: [email protected]
Tu Le will seek Labor pre-selection for the Sydney seat of Cabramatta at the March 25 New South Wales election
The young lawyer whose bid for federal parliament was dashed when Labor tried to put Kristina Keneally into a safe seat in Sydney‘s south-west is having a fresh tilt at politics.
Tu Le rose to national prominence when she was denied the chance of pre-selection for the seat of Fowler when Labor head office insisted Ms Keneally, then a senator, be its candidate at last year’s federal election.
Ms Keneally was picked ahead of Tu Le and other local party aspirants despite living on Scotland Island, more than 40km from the electorate, and having no deep connection with the area.
That move ended in disaster for Labor when voters overwhelmingly rejected the former New South Wales premier and elected independent Dai Le with an 18 per cent swing.
Old wounds within the party are now set to be reopened as 32-year-old Tu Le seeks pre-selection for Cabramatta to replace Nick Lalich, the retiring Labor MP.
Ms Le, who worked as an adviser and campaign manager for previous Fowler MP Chris Hayes, is still blamed by some party members for what happened to Ms Keneally.
Mr Hayes had backed Ms Le, who describes herself as Vietnamese-Australian, to run in Fowler before Ms Keneally was parachuted into the electorate but her pre-selection was never guaranteed.
Labor could risk losing Cabramatta if does not field the right candidate this time and support could easily mass behind a popular local and independent candidate, like Dai Le.
The young lawyer whose bid for federal parliament was dashed when Labor tried to put Kristina Keneally into a safe seat in Sydney’s south-west is having a fresh tilt at state politics. Tu Le, pictured with husband Kelvin Do, will seek pre-selection for Cabramatta
Kristina Keneally was picked ahead of Tu Le and other party aspirants for the federal seat of Fowler despite living on Scotland Island, more than 40km away. That move ended in disaster for Labor when voters elected independent Dai Le (above) with an 18 per cent swing
Branch members have feared Mr Lalich’s replacement will also be dictated by Labor officials rather than a local candidate being chosen by them.
Daily Mail Australia can confirm Labor will soon announce a rank and file vote for Cabramatta pre-selection and there will be no intervention from head office.
Multiple candidates are set to seek pre-selection and according to one source Ms Le is not considered the favourite to win.
Already Ms Le has been the subject of a smear campaign from enemies both outside and inside the party, some of whom have been pushing to have her expelled following her criticism of Ms Keneally.
She has been forced to address claims her husband is a property developer and that she is not really a local candidate because she moved to the Cabramatta electorate only recently.
Labor Party rules prevent candidates from being a ‘close associate’ of a property developer.
Ms Le has been forced to address claims her husband Kelvin Do is a property developer. Mr Do has worked for building and construction companies including one owned by his father and boasts about his involvement in property development on Linkedin (above)
Ms Le’s husband Kelvin Do has worked for building and construction companies including one owned by his father, and he boasts about his involvement in property development on Linkedin.
‘I have over 10 years experience in property development and have worked as a Project Manager in construction of residential buildings,’ his profile states.
Ms Le, who gave birth to the couple’s first child in October, told Daily Mail Australia that reference to property development did not accurately reflect her husband’s employment history.
‘He hasn’t actually developed any property,’ she said. ‘He’s been working for other construction businesses but not in development.’
Ms Le’s critics claim she would not be a genuinely local candidate because she is not originally from Cabramatta, although she has lived in Sydney’s south-west for almost 30 years.
Ms Le, who worked for previous Fowler MP Chris Hayes, is still blamed by some party members for what happened to Ms Keneally. She is pictured with Mr Hayes, who had backed her to run in Fowler before Ms Keneally was parachuted into the electorate by Labor head office
Born in Adelaide, she moved to Belmore with her parents before her third birthday, then lived in Bankstown and Birrong and has been in Canley Vale since early 2020.
Her Canley Vale apartment is above a shop in a building owned by her husband’s mother and has been the couple’s residence while renovations on a home they bought at Mount Pritchard are completed.
‘I’ve never lied or been dishonest about that,’ she said of where she has lived. ‘It is all south-west Sydney.
‘For me personally there isn’t for me too much difference between Bankstown, Cabramatta and Birrong. I really do see this whole area as my community.’
The Cabramatta electorate is predominantly working class and has the state’s highest concentration of Asian-born Australians, particularly from Vietnam.
Ms Le, who works for Marrickville Legal Centre, is active in community groups across south-west Sydney and is a leader with the Vietnamese Buddhist Youth Association.
She was named winner in the 40 Under 40 Most Influential Asian Australian Awards in October last year.
Ms Le’s Canley Vale apartment is above a shop in a building owned by her husband’s mother and has been the couple’s residence while renovations on a home they bought at Mount Pritchard are completed. The property is pictured
After Ms Keneally was announced as the candidate for Fowler, Ms Le slammed Labor for overlooking her and called for greater ethnic diversity in parliament.
She also attacked local community groups who had come out in support of Ms Keneally after it became clear she was being set for the seat.
‘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 on Facebook.
‘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 joined the Labor Party’s Sefton branch while at university and has been a member of the Cabramatta branch since 2020.
In the wake of Labor’s disastrous federal election campaign she incurred the wrath of many within the party’s local branches for what they saw as the undermining Ms Keneally.
Most of the party faithful in the area who were unhappy about Ms Keneally being put up as the candidate stayed quiet at the time, preferring to air their grievances internally.
They believed her actions in going public only helped Dai Le win the seat.
In June last year Cabramatta branch members moved a motion to expel Ms Le.
‘We, the Cabramatta Labor Branch condemn Tu Le for undermining the endorsed Candidate Kristina Keneally in the Media,’ the motion stated.
‘We, the Cabramatta Branch requests the NSW Labor Party head office to consider removing Tu Le from the Labor Party.’
The motion was considered carried and while Ms Le was not expelled, minutes of the meeting were leaked to the media.
Ms Le’s critics claim she would not be a genuinely local candidate because she is not originally from Cabramatta, although she has lived in Sydney’s south-west for almost 30 years. She is pictured with Prime Minister Anthony Albanese
‘I think there are various reasons for that,’ Ms Le said of the document being leaked. ‘Possibly people who are self-interested and wanted to blame someone.
‘I think after the result that we had in Fowler people were rightfully very upset. To be completely frank, I think I was probably quite naïve.’
Daily Mail Australia has seen a letter from five members of the Cabramatta branch to state Labor leader Chris Minns which called for his support for a rank and file preselection vote in Cabramatta and neighbouring Fairfield.
‘For years our community has been looked down upon and disrespected and have not been given the opportunity to serve our communities,’ they wrote earlier this month.
‘We have a right to be heard without falling prey to factional backdoor deals that are currently going on to install individuals who appear to be local and supported but do not have local support.
‘A particular individual rumoured to be installed is also someone who has belittled the party during the Fowler election and has no branch support, as per the recent motions moved against them.’
In the wake of Labor’s disastrous federal election campaign she incurred the wrath of some within the party who accused her of undermining Ms Keneally (above). In June last year Cabramatta branch members moved a motion to expel Ms Le
Ms Le said when it was revealed Ms Keneally would be the Labor candidate for Fowler she was ‘bombarded’ with requests for comment and she did not know how to deal with the media.
‘I just answered very honestly – I didn’t think it was a good decision,’ she said.
‘I’d made it very clear of my intention to run for pre-selection, like I have now on this occasion for the state election. It wasn’t like I was guaranteed.
‘But I didn’t know it was going to happen so when it did and the media contacted me I just responded and didn’t really think twice about it.
‘Afterwards I was told very clearly that was a very stupid thing to do and I should just stay quiet and that’s not something that you would do.’
Ms Le said the loss of Fowler, which the retiring Mr Hayes had held with a margin of 14 per cent, came as a shock to the party.
‘I think as a reaction to that it was very easy to just blame me,’ she said.
‘I was quite vocal in the media about what had happened and the decisions that were made that really took the community for granted and that was how the community had felt.’
Ms Le works for Marrickville Legal Centre and is active in community groups in south-west Sydney. She was named winner in the 40 Under 40 Most Influential Asian Australian Awards in October last year. Ms Le is pictured with her husband Kelvin Do and a litter of beagles
Ms Le, who said she would welcome a rank and file vote to decide Cabramatta’s candidate, ignored the post-election attacks on her public criticism of Ms Keneally.
‘I think what the wider community and the broader community wanted to see was that we learn from bad decisions and mistakes we made and that we listen to the community,’ she said.
‘I can understand where it had come from in terms of people were upset and angry and I was probably easy to blame and whether it was self interest or whatever it is.
‘I don’t think it serves us as a party any favours by doing that.
‘Unfortunately internally there’s probably a few people who are rightfully upset but I don’t take it personally.’