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Kimberley Kitching: Albanese flees media as Morrison accuses him of ‘vanishing’ over the saga

Awkward footage has shown Anthony Albanese dodging the media in his taxpayer-funded car as they asked him about claims Kimberley Kitching was bullied by her Labor colleagues.

The Labor leader said only ‘thanks mate’ as a Channel Nine reporter asked him if the party planned to investigate reports the late senator was ostracised by senior ALP senators Kristina Keneally, Penny Wong and Katy Gallagher.

His silence came after Labor Deputy Leader Richard Marles also repeatedly refused to reveal whether the allegations would be probed by party officials.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison on Friday accused Mr Albanese of ‘vanishing’ on the issue.

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

‘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.’ 

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, which denied the trio bullied their late colleague. 

Reports they ostracised Ms Kitching – who died of a suspected heart attack last week – earned them the nickname ‘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. 

Labor leader Anthony Albanese mustered only a 'thanks mate' as a Channel Nin

Labor leader Anthony Albanese mustered only a ‘thanks mate’ as a reporter asked him if the party planned to investigate the claims

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

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.  

Mr Albanese has refused to set up an inquiry into the bullying allegations and repeatedly refused to answer questions about the matter, claiming they are disrespectful to Senator Kitching. 

After blasting the Coalition over the poor treatment of women, the scandal threatens to derail his bid to become prime minister in May. 

Scott Morrison said Mr Albanese had gone into hiding. ‘Where is Anthony Albanese? I mean, where is he on this issue,’ he said. 

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.  

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

Former Labor MP slams Anthony Albanese as a ‘gaslighting narcissist’- as she claims she was bullied so badly by colleagues she developed a heart condition 

By Charlie Coe 

An ex-Labor MP has called Anthony Albanese a ‘gaslighting narcissist’ for blowing up at a reporter after he was questioned about the ‘mean girls’ culture within his party – before claiming she was bullied by peers so badly she developed a heart condition.

Emma Husar, who represented the Western Sydney seat of Lindsay, slammed the Labor leader following his outburst at a press conference on Wednesday.

Mr Albanese was pressed to comment on allegations of a ‘mean girls’ culture within his party before he lashed out and said the term was ‘disrespectful’.

The term was also used by Kimberley Kitching, who accused senior female ALP members of in-partying bullying before she died of a heart attack last Thursday.

Ms Husar claimed Mr Albanese’s fired-up response over the term ‘mean girls’ was a form of ‘gaslighting’.

Emma Husar, who represented the Western Sydney seat of Lindsay, slammed the Labor leader following his outburst at a press conference on Wednesday

Emma Husar, who represented the Western Sydney seat of Lindsay, slammed the Labor leader following his outburst at a press conference on Wednesday

‘A woman lost her life and there were circumstances that point to the Labor Party, but what Albo is doing here (by turning the phrase around) is absolute gaslighting,’ Ms Husar told Daily Telegraph.

‘This is the phrase Kimberley Kitching used to describe her (alleged) bullies. If this was on a different sort of work site where would the ALP, which says it is the party of workers, be then?’

Ms Husar claimed she was targeted by ALP powerbrokers during her time in Parliament. 

She said the bullying was so severe she developed a leaky mitral valve condition that prompted her to visit a cardiologist. 

Mr Albanese was pressed to comment on allegations of a 'mean girls' culture within his party before he lashed out and said the term was 'disrespectful'

Mr Albanese was pressed to comment on allegations of a ‘mean girls’ culture within his party before he lashed out and said the term was ‘disrespectful’

Ms Husar claimed she was mistreated by Mr Albanese who was ‘happy to pump up my tyres to get at (then leader) Bill Shorten… but he never called to check on me.’

Ms Husar then took aim at the Labor party for refusing to launch an investigation into the alleged in-partying bullying after Labor’s deputy leader Richard Marles said it was not an appropriate time.

‘If not now, then when?’ she told Channel Nine’s Today Show on Friday.

‘The Labor Party weren’t interested in taking action on what happened to me five…almost five years ago now. 

‘They’ve had a lot of time since then. There’s been a lot of water under the bridge and they are still happy to turn a blind eye.’ 

Ms Husar admitted she was not aware Ms Kitching had made any complaints, but said she could empathise with her after drawing on her own experiences.

 

 

More to come 

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