Canning byelection: Labor spins 'win' from election loser | OPINION

According to Labor’s experts in spin, Matt Keogh and his team emerged victorious after losing last weekend’s Canning byelection.

Not only did his campaign slay former Prime Minister Tony Abbott a week out from polling day, he notched up record swings which — if translated across the nation — would mean a Labor landslide at a general election.

Apparently, Mr Keogh’s figures were so good in his “local” booths in Kelmscott and Armadale, Opposition Leader Bill Shorten was already pressuring state faction bosses to preselect him for the new and safer seat of Burt, which would be created around those suburbs at the next election.

According to Labor spin, it’s an unimportant and incidental detail that Mr Keogh failed to win the support of the people.

Who cares that he lost? Although he botched the election, he “won the campaign”.

That’s how Labor would mislead us. And it’s an insult to the overwhelming majority of voters who preferred his Liberal opponent Andrew Hastie.

In fact, Labor’s campaign was a loser from day one.

Mr Keogh’s campaign slogan, “Vote local, vote Keogh”, was a colossal overreach for a corporate lawyer who lived in one of Perth's most exclusive suburbs.

On the Sunday after the byelection, Mr Keogh held his campaign drinks at the swish Brisbane Hotel, close to his home in Mt Lawley; nowhere near the electorate to which he claims to be “local”.

This kind of overspin — bold claims dangling by the thinnest of threads — was the hallmark of Mr Keogh’s campaign.

Journalist: How many drug criminals did you send to jail? Keogh: I don’t have a record that I’ve been keeping around with me. - Matt Keogh defends Labor claims he put drug dealers behind bars.

Mr Keogh didn’t have much to say when Bill Shorten and Shadow Treasurer Chris Bowen claimed their “local” candidate had made the streets safer by locking up drug dealers as a Commonwealth prosecutor.

Mr Shorten: “He’s actually prosecuted people and through his actions, he’s actually made the streets safer."

Mr Bowen: “As Matt has said, he’s a former Federal prosecutor, he’s actually put drug dealers behind bars working closely with law enforcement agencies, with the police.”

Mr Keogh himself: “I am the subject-matter expert. I was a prosecutor. I have sentenced these people.”

This exchange occurred at a press conference in the final days of the campaign:

Journalist: How many drug criminals did you send to jail?

Keogh: I don’t have a record that I’ve been keeping around with me. I was a federal prosecutor, I was involved in sentencing for drug importations as well as commercial matters ...

Journalist: A pretty small number wasn’t it?

Keogh: I have no idea.

But Mr Keogh’s website before he became a candidate referred only to a four-and-a-half year stint in the “the Commercial Prosecutions branch” of the Commonwealth DPP where he said he was "advising on and carrying out prosecutions of many white collar, corporate and other federal offences, such as insider trading, breaches of directors duties, market misconduct, fraud, and customs offences."

No mention of drug crime.

He is now a St George’s Terrace corporate lawyer where his "areas of expertise include corporate regulation, investigations and enforcement, white collar crime, anti-bribery and corruption and taxation and duties disputes".

And the voters were not fooled.

Instead, they trusted Liberal Andrew Hastie, a former Special Air Service officer, who had already served his country in conflicts in Iraq, Afghanistan and Syria, to tackle the problem of ice on Mandurah streets.

It’s difficult to see how Labor can attract public support if it won’t accept the decision of the people.

Labor has to quit the spin, or learn how to do it.

No one would have a problem with Mr Keogh being a Mt Lawley corporate lawyer who has never prosecuted a drug case in his life.

Except when his campaign material in Mandurah claims he is “local” and he tells journalists he is a “subject-matter expert” on drug crime.

If Labor insists on staying bogged in the grey area between bare-faced lies and spin, and continues to sidestep responsibility for their embarrassing campaign failures, then expect the Australian people to deliver many more such “victories” to Labor.

And another defeat to Mr Keogh if he runs again in next year's general election.

Follow Nathan Hondros on Twitter: @nathanhondros.

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