Kieran Gilbert is the face of the new Sky News Extra channel launching on Sunday.
Kieran Gilbert is the face of the new Sky News Extra channel launching on Sunday. Robert Edwards

Political leaders face a rare challenge

THERE'S nothing like a by-election to shake up the status quo. The dual-citizenship saga that plagued politicians and dominated headlines last year has reared its head again in recent weeks.

Labor MPs Susan Lamb, Justine Keay and Josh Wilson plus crossbench MP Rebekha Sharkie all announced their resignations after the High Court ruled Labor Senator Katy Gallagher was ineligible to sit in Parliament.

Those resignations will trigger a "super Saturday" of by-elections in four federal seats. There will also be a by-election in the seat of Perth after Labor MP Tim Hammond resigned to spend more time with his family.

It's a fascinating time for Sky News' chief political reporter Kieran Gilbert.

"In an electoral sense we're in the business end of the cycle," he says.

"We're 12 months, or thereabouts, out from the next election and we've got five by-elections - a super Saturday - shortly after the Budget. There's so much at stake. The budgetary arguments from both sides will be tested not just in opinion polls but by people going to ballot boxes.

"There are a couple of very marginal seats at play here, and if there was a decisive result one way or the other in a few of those seats then it could be quite a dramatic result for either leader."

Kieran Gilbert is the chief political reporter for Sky News. Supplied by Sky News.
Kieran Gilbert is the chief political reporter for Sky News. Supplied by Sky News. Robert Edwards

For Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, Gilbert believes the key word will be stability.

"The challenge for the Turnbull government is to give a sense of certainty to people over the next 12 months," he says. "In a world of volatility, not just here but overseas, they want to be able to say they're a sure pair of hands."

He argues the stakes are much higher for Opposition Leader Bill Shorten.

"Not since the 1920s has a government won a seat in a by-election from an opposition," he says.

"If Shorten was to lose one of these seats then he'll be in quite a bit of trouble.

"He has always been the subject of criticism, whether it be from the Coalition or his own internal critics, but he's proven a lot of people wrong over many years.

"Shorten's made a career of proving people wrong. There are doubts he has the cut-through to win a general election, but I wouldn't write him off just yet."

It's a busy week for Gilbert, with Foxtel's public affairs channel A-PAC relaunching as Sky News Extra on Sunday.

The award-winning journalist, who joined Sky News in 2002, is the face of the new channel that will be the new home of live Australian public affairs coverage.

The crew from the Sky News Election Coverage 2016, (L-R) Paul Murray, Peta Credlin, David Speers and Kieran Gilbert with their Silver Logie for the Most Outstanding News Coverage during the 2017 Logie Awards.
The crew from the Sky News Election Coverage 2016, (L-R) Paul Murray, Peta Credlin, David Speers and Kieran Gilbert with their Silver Logie for the Most Outstanding News Coverage during the 2017 Logie Awards. TRACEY NEARMY/AAP

Sky News Extra will continue to feature every session of Federal Parliament live and in full, along with coverage from state and territory parliaments across Australia, New Zealand, Canada and the UK.

Sky News Extra will also broadcast leading public affairs speeches, media conferences and breaking political news.

"The beauty of it is it provides viewers with greater access to our democracy," Gilbert says.

"With Extra the aim is to go beyond the packaged news or the 30-second sound bite.

"It's about being unfiltered, and people can make up their own minds about the political debate."

A new standalone Sky News UK channel will also launch on Sunday on Channel 605.

Both Sky News Extra and Sky News UK will be available on the Foxtel app and Foxtel Now streaming service.

Visit Foxtel's website for more information.



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