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Anthony Albanese claims he received ‘no complaints from Kimberley Kitching over bullying claims

Labor leader Anthony Albanese said he received ‘no complaints’ from Senator Kimberley Kitching over claims she was bullied by other women in the party.

‘I received no complaints about the treatment of Senator Kitching from Kimberley at any time,’ Mr Albanese said at a press conference on Saturday.  

That is just a fact. That is not to say that, of course, from time to time in politics, it’s a competitive business [and] one where I think we could all be kinder to each other … within the Parliament, within our own parties, and across the aisle, and I would always urge people to do so.’

Mr Albanese also rejected reports Ms Kitching was ‘scared’ of the ALP leader.

‘That is just not true. Kimberley and I travelled together, have a look at the photos from the trip,’ he said. 

Mr Albanese was referring to a delegation he led to Taiwan which included Ms Kitching. 

‘She was vivacious, she was the life of the room she was in. And it is tragic to think that she has departed far too soon. 

‘It is a tragedy. Labor people overwhelmingly are just giving support to each other. It is a difficult time.’

Health Service Union secretary Diana Asmar was with Ms Kitching (pictured) during the last 48 hours of her life and held her hand as she died from a suspected heart attack in Melbourne on March 10

Ms Asmar claimed Ms Kitching was left 'a physical wreck' by the internal party drama, with her hands shaking uncontrollably (pictured, Katy Gallagher, Kristina Keneally and Penny Wong have been dragged into the bullying allegations)

Ms Asmar claimed Ms Kitching was left ‘a physical wreck’ by the internal party drama, with her hands shaking uncontrollably (pictured, Katy Gallagher, Kristina Keneally and Penny Wong have been dragged into the bullying allegations)

'I received no complaints about the treatment of Senator Kitching from Kimberley at any time,' Mr Albanese said at a press conference on Saturday

‘I received no complaints about the treatment of Senator Kitching from Kimberley at any time,’ Mr Albanese said at a press conference on Saturday.

The opposition leader also doubled down in defending the so-called ALP ‘mean girls’ in the senate, Penny Wong, Katy Gallagher and Kristina Keneally.  

‘Politics can be a robust business [but] politics is better for the participation of valued colleagues in leadership positions, including Penny, Katie, and Kristina Kenneally,’ he said. 

Mr Albanese has so far refused to set up an inquiry into the bullying allegations. 

Mr Albanese’s remarks came after Prime Minister Scott Morrison on Friday accused the ALP leader of ‘vanishing’ over the issue. ‘As soon as things get a bit difficult for the Leader of the Opposition, he goes missing,’ he said. ‘He vanishes.’

‘As prime minister… I’m regularly up in front of you and deal with the hard questions.’   

The ALP leader’s comments also follow revelations by a close friend who held Kimberley Kitching’s hand as she died that the Labor senator was ignored by senior party figures after making complaints about bullying. 

Ms Asmar (pictured) claims the Labor senator was ignored by senior party figures after making complaints about bullying

Ms Asmar (pictured) claims the Labor senator was ignored by senior party figures after making complaints about bullying

Health Workers Union secretary Diana Asmar was with Ms Kitching during the last 48 hours of her life and held her hand as she died from a suspected heart attack at a Strathmore home, in Melbourne, on March 10.

Ms Asmar claims Ms Kitching was under immense stress that had been brought on by being bullied, frozen out of important policymaking decisions, ignored by senior ALP figures and dumped from the tactics committee.

The union official claimed Ms Kitching was left ‘a physical wreck’ by the internal party drama, with her hands shaking uncontrollably.

‘Her upper lip would quiver at the mention of Anthony Albanese or Penny Wong.’ 

Ms Asmar said the MP eventually took the matter to Labor deputy leader Richard Marles who allegedly failed to address the issues. 

‘It seems, however, that when a brilliant female senator brings allegations to the deputy leader of the ALP, all she gets is that of Sergeant Schultz: he knows nothing,’ she wrote in an opinion piece for Daily Telegraph. 

Prime Minister Scott Morrison on Friday accused Mr Albanese of 'vanishing' over the bullying allegations that have rocked the Labor party

Prime Minister Scott Morrison on Friday accused Mr Albanese of ‘vanishing’ over the bullying allegations that have rocked the Labor party

The incidents also prompted Ms Kitching to pen a heartfelt seven-page letter urging Labor party members to reflect on toxic behaviour before she called out a ‘campaign of bullying’.

Ms Asmar said Ms Kitching had confided in her several times about being bullied and frozen out by high-ranking members of the Labor party. 

The close friend claimed that in one instance Ms Kitching was overlooked for her hard work in passing the Magnitsky Act.  

The legislation allows the government to impose economic sanctions on foreign individuals who are involved in human rights abuses. It has lately been used to sanction Russian oligarchs during the Ukraine invasion.

Ms Kitching was awarded the International Award for her contribution but her hard work allegedly went unrecognised by Labor leader Anthony Albanese who did not phone the Labor MP to congratulate her. 

Ms Asmar claimed Labor senator Penny Wong was initially opposed to the Act, but changed her mind at the last minute. Ms Kitching only learned of it through the media.

Ms Kitching was allegedly kicked off Labor’s tactics committee following unsubstantiated claims of disloyalty and untrue accusations she had defended Liberal minister Linda Reynolds over the Brittany Higgins allegations.

Ms Asmar said the MP was denied any due process and took the matter to Mr Marles, who ultimately did nothing to remedy the situation. 

Ms Kitching did not receive talking points for media press conferences – an alleged attempt to limit her media appearances – and was left out of important discussions – despite being the fourth most senior Labor figure in the senate.

Ms Asmar said the MP eventually took the matter to Labor deputy leader Richard Marles who allegedly failed to address the issues

Ms Asmar said the MP eventually took the matter to Labor deputy leader Richard Marles who allegedly failed to address the issues

Ms Kitching was awarded the International Award for her contribution but her hard work allegedly went unrecognised by Labor leader Anthony Albanese who did not phone the Labor senator to congratulate her

Ms Kitching was awarded the International Award for her contribution but her hard work allegedly went unrecognised by Labor leader Anthony Albanese who did not phone the Labor MP to congratulate her

The Labor MP decided to write a seven-page letter addressing the campaign of bullying and planned to hand it to Kristina Keneally, The Australian reported.

The letter demanded the ALP reflect on the difference between ‘entirely normal contest of political rivals or rival ideas and what could reasonably be characterised as a campaign of bullying’. 

‘Standards in workplaces have changed and we should all think about the application of those standards to ensure a safe workplace for everyone here,’ she wrote. 

The letter was written after Ms Kitching was dumped from the tactics committee and addressed several untrue accusations made against her.

She dismissed claims she had warned Ms Reynolds about the Higgins saga two weeks earlier and that Ms Wong was preparing a political attack against the Liberal minister.

‘Simply put, it is not possible to divulge information to anyone about a matter of which I had no knowledge,’ Ms Kitching wrote. 

Kimberley Kitching pictured with fellow Labor senator Kristina Keneally. The party has been hit by allegations Ms Kitching was ostracised by Ms Keneally and other senior Labor senators Penny Wong and Katy Gallagher before her death

Kimberley Kitching pictured with fellow Labor senator Kristina Keneally. The party has been hit by allegations Ms Kitching was ostracised by Ms Keneally and other senior Labor senators Penny Wong and Katy Gallagher before her death

‘I had never heard of Ms Brittany Higgins or Senator Reynolds’ involvement in her story until it was first reported on 15 February 2021 on news.com.au

‘Moreover, it is not possible to divulge a secret plan which did not actually exist. It has not been Senator Wong’s practice to ­divulge her secret plans, if she ever has any, to me.’    

Ms Wong meanwhile has revealed she apologised to Ms Kitching after insulting her childless fellow Labor senator by saying: ‘If you had children you would understand’. 

The Labor Upper House leader addressed the nasty sledge from two years ago in a joint statement with Ms Keneally and Ms Gallagher today.

In the statement, the trio denied bullying Ms Kitching, after they were labelled ‘mean girls’ in reference to the main characters in the 2004 teen comedy. 

In their statement, the trio said ‘allegations of bullying are untrue’ but admitted ‘robust contests and interactions’ are frequent in politics. 

In October 2019, Senator Wong told Senator Kitching ‘if you had children, you might understand’ in a discussion about climate change. 

Ms Kitching – who was unable to conceive with husband Andrew – had argued the party should not support students who ditched school to attend climate protests.

Senator Kitching’s supporters said the comment hurt because she wanted to have children but could not. 

Senator Wong has now revealed she apologised for the horrendous remark when it was reported by the ABC in November 2019 in an article that didn’t name her.

‘After these matters were publicly reported more than two years ago, Senator Wong discussed the matter with Senator Kitching and apologised,’ the statement said.

‘Senator Wong understood that apology was accepted. The comments that have been reported do not reflect Senator Wong’s views, as those who know her would understand, and she deeply regrets pain these reports have caused.’

In October 2019 Senator Wong told Senator Kitching (pictured in May last year) 'if you had children, you might understand' in a discussion about climate change

In October 2019 Senator Wong told Senator Kitching (pictured in May last year) ‘if you had children, you might understand’ in a discussion about climate change

The three senators also confirmed they will be attending Senator Kitching’s funeral in Melbourne on Monday after speaking to her shattered family.

Senator Wong had earlier said she was unsure if she could go as she had a fundraising event in the Northern Territory on the same day.  

The full statement by Wong, Keneally and Gallagher

This has been a difficult time for the Labor family. Senator Kitching’s tragic death has been a shock to us all. People are grieving and hurting. Our priority at this time has been Senator Kitching’s husband, Andrew, her family and her loved ones. Their grief is profound, their loss immeasurable. 

Out of respect for them, and for Senator Kitching, we have not responded to allegations that have been made, despite them not being true. This has been hard, but we believed it to be the right thing to do to maintain some dignity for all concerned. Given the hurtful statements that continue to be made we feel it necessary to respond. 

The allegations of bullying are untrue. Other assertions which have been made are similarly inaccurate. All of us have spent many years in the service of the public. We do so because we want to make a contribution to the nation. Politics is a challenging profession. Contests can be robust and interactions difficult. 

All of its participants at times act or speak in ways that can impact on others negatively. We have and do reflect on this, as individuals and as leaders. It is for this reason Senator Wong wishes to place on record a response to specific claims regarding an exchange in a meeting with Senator Kitching. 

After these matters were publicly reported more than two years ago, Senator Wong discussed the matter with Senator Kitching and apologised.

Senator Wong understood that apology was accepted. The comments that have been reported do not reflect Senator Wong’s views, as those who know her would understand, and she deeply regrets pain these reports have caused. All three of us will be attending Senator Kitching’s funeral.

This follows engagement with Senator Kitching’s family about our attendance. We will do so to recognise and respect her contribution to public life. 

Senator Kitching – who was from the Labor Right faction – made allegations of in-party bullying to Deputy Leader Richard Marles in June and then to workplace safety consultants in November. 

She told Mr Marles she believed she was being ‘frozen out’ by the left-dominated Senate leadership team and claimed to have been unfairly dumped from the tactics committee meetings. 

Mr Marles reportedly said he would ‘sort it out’ but nothing happened. 

In an awkward interview with Ally Langdon on the Today show on Friday, Mr Marles refused to say if he had let Senator Kitching down. 

‘I’m not going to walk down that path,’ he spluttered.

‘Right now we want to honour Kimberley Kitching, who she was, what she achieved, the warm and wonderful person that she was and that’s what I’m focused on.’ 

Shadow Minister for Home Affairs Kristina Keneally (right) and Katy Gallagher in 2019

Shadow Minister for Home Affairs Kristina Keneally (right) and Katy Gallagher in 2019

Defence Minister Peter Dutton said Ms Kitching’s friends and family deserved answers about how she suffered in her final years in parliament.

‘There are many people, close friends of Kimberley’s within the Labor Party, making these allegations and if I was leader or deputy leader of the Labor Party I would want to know the answers,’ he said. 

Meanwhile, bombshell texts have emerged showing Ms Kitching messaged a friend about Ms Wong the night before she lodged a bullying complaint.

‘Wong has been bad,’ the message obtained by The Australian reads.

‘She would love to never see me again.’

Today show host Ally Langdon fired up after the top MP again avoided questions about the party's plans to investigate allegations

Today show host Ally Langdon fired up after the top MP again avoided questions about the party’s plans to investigate allegations

Kitching sent the text late at night on the November 4 last year. The next day she lodged her bullying complaint.

The relationship between Senator Kitching and Wong – a key figure of the Labor Left – was reportedly stony and the pair had previously fallen out.  

Former Labor MP Emma Husar has verified reports of bullying within the party, claiming it caused her so much stress she also developed a heart condition.

Ms Husar, who once represented the Western Sydney seat of Lindsay, claims she was also a victim of Labor’s ‘incredibly toxic’ culture. 

Ms Husar left Parliament after Labor mounted an investigation into ultimately unproven charges of sexual harassment against her.

Senator Kitching, who was friendly with Coalition MPs and frequently spoke out against China, died on Thursday when she pulled over her car in suburban Melbourne during a suspected heart attack.

She was under stress because he preselection for a senate spot was up in the air. She also had a thyroid condition which caused her to lose weight in recent years. 

On Saturday Mr Albanese said he was an ‘inclusive’ leader who valued the woman in his party. 

‘I am available to talk to people at any time and the idea that … we politicise the tragedy of someone’s death [is] not constructive,’ he said.

‘What we should do is pay tribute to Kimberley Kitching’s contribution.’

Senator Kimberley Kitching sent a text message to a close friend saying that Senator Penny Wong never wanted to see her again the night before she lodged bullying claims (Pictured, mock-up text)

Senator Kimberley Kitching sent a text message to a close friend saying that Senator Penny Wong never wanted to see her again the night before she lodged bullying claims (Pictured, mock-up text)

Senator Penny Wong and Senator Kitching's relationship was reportedly often tumultuous

Senator Penny Wong and Senator Kitching’s relationship was reportedly often tumultuous

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