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NSW Labor secretary general Kaila Murnain. Photo: Peter BraigLabor’s Louise Pratt set for returnComment: There’s hope in our split resultElection 2016: news, analysis and video
苏州美甲美睫培训学校

The 29-year-old credited with being the architect of Labor’s resurgence in western Sydney has a simple message for Premier Mike Baird – you’re next.

Five days after the cliffhanger election, Kaila Murnain​, NSW Labor’s general secretary since early this year, is still in election mode and wired on adrenalin.

She arrives at the Botanic Gardens Cafe bang on time, mobile glued to her ear, disembarking mid-sentence and ready for business.

Sipping her third coffee of the morning, she’s talking a million miles an hour about how Labor’s “shoe leather and social” strategy outfoxed the Liberals in Sydney’s west.

She had 70 missed calls the day before. Bill Shorten was on the phone five times on Sunday, wanting to arrange a tour through western Sydney. She expects another election soon, possibly within six months.

With the result still unclear, she’s furiously on message: Malcolm Turnbull led a failed strategy that Labor successfully undermined. She’s going to do the same to Mr Baird.

Barely five months into her new job, the first female boss of the NSW Labor Party has delivered the western Sydney heartland back to the party.

But rewind to January and it’s a very different story. Her predecessor Jamie Clements was forced from office over claims of sexual harassment. Mr Turnbull was riding high in the polls having dispatched Tony Abbott. An election was looming.

How then did we get here?

“I haven’t had time to think about it, I haven’t stopped,” she says. “I came from a meeting before this about the Canterbury byelection [where Labor’s Linda Burney​ won a federal seat] and what are we going to do about the Orange byelection [where Nationals Andrew Gee has gone federal] – so it never stops.

“We’ve got local government elections coming up, there’s a possibility that we have another federal election in the next six months if Malcolm Turnbull manages this next government the way he managed this campaign which I think is a distinct possibility.

“So I haven’t had a chance to stop and think. Now having been asked the question – it’s extraordinary,” she says, trailing off.

Kaila Murnain grew up on a farm in Narrabri in north-western NSW. Her mum, a florist, saw John Howard’s plans to introduce a GST as an unfair impost on small business in a small town, sparking an early activism.

She attended Narrabri High School and moved to Sydney to go to UNSW where she studied social sciences and still fits in executive MBA classes. She was involved in Young Labor but part-time work to fund her studies took up most of her time. Local member Michael Daley offered her a job before she landed in the office of Kristina Keneally. She moved to Labor HQ where she’s been based for the past nine years.

Her predecessor’s departure not only delivered Ms Murnain a rapid elevation but a platform for change.

“I’m trying to work to change the culture of the party,” she says. “The reality is that there’s also people who don’t want a more open party and we’re fighting with that every day.”

Does she mean it’s blokey?  “We want more women,” she says.

“Some 67 per cent of party membership is made up of men. At this election we preselected women in winnable seats and as a result 50 per cent of people going for Federal Parliament at this election are women – that’s much higher than the nation’s average … about 32 per cent of the Federal Parliament is going to be made up of women – that’s something I’m extraordinarily proud of and I’m proud of the women we’ve preselected. It is tough, it is a culture that’s changing.”

Bill Shorten, who yesterday described the result as “fortress NSW”, has said he wants more women in leadership positions – and in Parliament. So when will she run for Parliament?

“I love being general secretary of the Labor Party. I want to run the Labor Party. Give me time to take care of the Labor Party first. I’ve only been in the job for 4½ months. I couldn’t be prouder of the things I’m achieving. I think I can do more with this. I think I can grow the party, I want to make it more representative.”

Liberal disunity has been a feature of the campaign. But mutterings emerged this week that Labor could have – and indeed should have – done better in western Sydney. The claims rile Ms Murnain.

“We did an extraordinarily good job on the ground and any criticism of the campaign is a criticism of our rank and file and frankly I won’t cop it.”

At the 2013 election the Coalition performance in NSW was particularly strong, according to ABC election analyst Antony Green, noting Labor’s two-party preferred vote slumped to levels not seen since Harold Holt’s landslide in 1966.

Former premier Ms Keneally says Ms Murnain has “proven all her doubters wrong”.

“People did doubt her, they judge a book by her cover, she’s young, she’s short, she’s female, she’s friendly and people mistake that for gullible or easy to manipulate or not smart. People underestimate Kaila at their own peril.”

​Ms Murnain dismisses Mr Turnbull’s outrage that Labor went too far with its Medicare claims. “We told the truth at this election,” she counters.

The result buoys hopes for the next state election, she says.

“The shine is starting to come off Mike Baird – he consistently promises a lot and then under delivers. We will be drawing attention to the failures of the state government more and more over the course of the next 2.5 years and we put him on notice, you cannot continue to get away with promising the world and not delivering for the people.”

Renowned in Labor circles for her work ethic, Ms Murnain has been engaged for a year to Tom Hollywood, a Labor staffer.

“I’ve got to finally get around to organising a wedding at some point in the next few months,” she confesses. “Hopefully at some point in the next couple of weeks I’ll be able to finally set a date and organise it. We’ll get to it at some point. It’s hard to find a weekend off when you’re setting byelection dates. I keep saying to my mum I’ve just got to wait until they set the date for the byelection for Canterbury and then we’ll get to it.”

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