Canning ‘strengthened my resolve’ to continue in politics, says Keogh

By Felicity Nelson|24 September 2015

Defeated Labor candidate Matthew Keogh has said he will seek future opportunities in politics following the Canning by-election last weekend.

Mr Keogh, a senior associate at Herbert Smith Freehills, resigned as president of the Law Society of Western Australian in August after being pre-selected.

He lost the by-election to Liberal candidate Andrew Hastie, but there was a swing of around six per cent towards the Labor party in the south-eastern Perth seat.

“The campaign has probably even strengthened my resolve to make sure that we have strong representation for the area that I grew up in,” Mr Keogh told Lawyers Weekly.


“I'd like to be part of that going forward, but we've got internal party processes that will decide who gets pre-selected for the general election […] so we will leave that for that process for now.”

The leadership spill last Monday night, which saw Malcolm Turnbull become prime minister, was widely predicted to shift the polls in Canning.

Mr Keogh said he knew the ousting of Tony Abbott a week out from the by-election would have “an impact”.

“We just never knew exactly what impact that would have,” he said.

“Obviously people respond better to Malcolm Turnbull than they did to Tony Abbott, but Malcolm Turnbull also made very clear that he was taking the same policies forward from the Abbott government.”

Mr Keogh said the leadership spill exposed “clear disunity” in the government. He did not express a high opinion of Malcolm Turnbull’s vision as prime minister.

“Look, I think we've got the same government and the same policies, but we've moved from three-word slogans to three-paragraph slogans,” he said.

Analysing the final result, Mr Keogh said there were a number of factors that drove the swing towards Labor, including unpopular cuts to schools, the health system and pensions.


The lack of opportunity for jobs following the downturn in the mining boom also had people looking to the government for answers, he said.

“Concern about the impact of the Chinese Free Trade Agreement not protecting Australian jobs was another factor,” he added.

He said he would like to see his opponent, Mr Hastie, focus on job opportunities, crime and policing, and drug rehabilitation services.

Mr Keogh, who is a commercial disputes lawyer with a focus on white-collar crime, said he was taking a week off to “recharge the batteries” but would be back at work next week.

Legal aid funding ‘cut and cut and cut’

Mr Keogh said the issue of legal aid funding was one of his priorities during the campaign but “didn't get much media coverage”.

“Funding for CLCs and legal access is something that has been cut and cut and cut by governments, particularly this one,” he said.

As a candidate, Mr Keogh was committed to seeking several hundred thousand dollars of additional funding to the local Peel Community Legal Centre to provide additional assistance to victims of domestic violence.

“Now, that is part of an overarching policy position that Labor is putting forward going into the next election,” he said.

“It is a critical issue that we in WA and that all Law Societies and the Law Council have been speaking to state and federal governments about.”

Canning ‘strengthened my resolve’ to continue in politics, says Keogh
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