Lure of the limelight: has Kristina Keneally got 'relevance deprivation syndrome'?
Having her say ... Kristina Keneally. Photo: Edwina Pickles
In the words of one senior Labor figure, it is an occurrence so regular "you can almost set your calendar for it".
He is talking about the latest public comments from the former NSW Premier, now Labor backbencher, Kristina Keneally, who this morning is making news - and trouble - by suggesting the Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, needs to either wind back or scrap the carbon tax.
You can almost set your calendar for it. It's every third week or so. It is the dictionary definition of relevance deprivation syndrome
The advice, given during her appearance on television last night, has been quickly dismissed by members of the federal government.
But it has reignited "seething anger" against the former premier over what is commonly termed her "insatiable need for publicity", according to a senior Labor figure, that is damaging the leadership of the NSW opposition leader, John Robertson.
"You can almost set your calendar for it. It's every third week or so. It is the dictionary definition of relevance deprivation syndrome," the Labor figure said.
Indeed, since Keneally decided not to contest the Labor leadership and went to the backbench after presiding over a historic loss at last year's NSW election, the former premier has developed quite the reputation for drawing attention to herself.
Her decision to get hair extensions shortly after the election caused a media meltdown. In hindsight, it was the first hint of things to come but rightly, at the time, it was seen as her business.
Since then, though, the evidence has steadily built.
In August, on the first day of parliament after the winter break - a time when the environment minister, Robyn Parker, was under extreme pressure over her handling of the government's response to the toxic leak at Orica - Keneally struck.
Having lobbed a series of interjections at O'Farrell from the backbench she leapt from her seat to deliver a point of order, managing to get herself thrown out of the chamber in the process.
During question time in February this year - on Valentine's Day - Keneally almost sprinted to the dispatch box to hurl an insult at O'Farrell, about the brevity of his first marriage.
The insult, in response to O'Farrell's continued characterisation of Keneally as the "Kim Kardashian" of NSW politics, outraged many.
Far more damaging was how it undermined Robertson's attempt to get media coverage of his criticism of government cuts to the foster carer's allowance.
In April, she caused ripples when she abstained from voting with the rest of her Labor colleagues against O'Farrell's electricity privatisation bill.
"The Labor caucus has taken a decision, and I respect that," she said later. "Equally, I respect the integrity of my often-stated public position supporting electricity privatisation. Therefore the most sensible approach seemed to be to abstain."
This final quote crystalises what many in the NSW caucus are feeling about Keneally's behaviour: it's not about party; it's all about her.
Which would be fine, but for the fact that Keneally chose to not contest the leadership or a position on the shadow front bench.
Her apparently negligible contribution to NSW Labor's parliamentary wing in opposition only serves to amplify the damage she does by either stealing oxygen from Robertson or embarrassing Gillard.
One thing is certain: O'Farrell won't let the carbon tax comments slide during question time this afternoon.
It is an enormous free kick for the NSW Coalition, which has campaigned against the tax in support of Tony Abbott's federal opposition.
But Robertson's hands are tied, wary of the impact that slapping down his former leader in public may have.
"There's a judgment call [in Robertson's office] that to return serve would only make it worse," the Labor figure said.
When it was announced last December that Keneally had accepted a $50,000 a year job as the chairman of Basketball Australia, she dismissed suggestions it meant she would spend less time on community issues in her inner-Sydney seat of Heffron.
And perhaps she is right - just this morning she was attending an event about Redfern train station.
But good local member or not, for a growing number of her colleagues, the impact of her need for publicity has strengthened the view that it is time for Keneally to either shut up or ship out of parliament altogether.
Correction: The original version of this story said that Keneally was attending an event at Redfern train station.
Poll: How do you rate Kristina Keneally's call for the government to pull back from the carbon tax?
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