News, Culture & Society

Kimberly Kitching: Read the bombshell text she sent to a mate about Penny Wong

Kimberly Kitching sent a message to a friend about Labor colleague Penny Wong the night before she lodged a bullying complaint.

The late Senator made allegations of in-party bullying in 2021 to the Deputy Labor leader Richard Marles and then to workplace safety consultants.

The night before lodging the complaint she messaged a close friend expressing concern that Senator Wong would like to never see her again.

The bombshell texts come as Senator Kitching’s allies claim she was ostracised and bullied by Labor ‘mean girls’ Senator Wong, Katy Gallagher and Kristina Keneally before her sudden death aged 52. 

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

The late Senator passed away last Thursday from a suspected heart attack at the age of 52

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

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

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)

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

‘She would love to never see me again.’

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 was reportedly stony and the pair had previously had blow-ups. 

Senator Kitching had met with Deputy Leader Marles in June where she told him she believed she was being ‘frozen out’ by the Senate leadership team and claimed to have been unfairly dumped from the tactics committee meetings. 

The situation was reportedly never resolved.

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.

She told the Daily Telegraph she was bullied by ALP powerbrokers which caused so much stress she had to see a cardiologist. 

She slammed the party for positioning itself as the champion of women while treating female parliamentarians poorly.

‘Labor gets away with this because the left-leaning sections of the media believe in progressive politics and think that just because it’s the ALP and they have more women in parliament they are better,’ she said.

‘But it is only because the poor treatment of women in the Coalition is so much more overt that we don’t see the coercive control that goes on in the ALP.’

Former Labor MP Emma Husar (pictured) has also spoken out on bullying within the party, claiming it caused her so much stress she developed a heart condition

Former Labor MP Emma Husar (pictured) has also spoken out on bullying within the party, claiming it caused her so much stress she developed a heart condition

The ‘mean girls’ scandal has had tensions running high within the party, the Deputy Leader Richard Marles blew up at a reporter after being questioned over claims Senator Kitching was bullied in the lead up to her death. 

Mr Marles was confronted by journalists at a Hobart press conference on Thursday over accusations he was aware Senator Kitching was being ostracised by members within the party but did not intervene. 

After repeatedly sidestepping their questions, the meeting quickly descended into a fiery show-down as Mr Marles slammed reporters for being insensitive to the party’s grief.

‘Right now, to be honest, a person has died in the last week,’ Mr Marles said. 

Deputy Labor Leader Richard Marles (pictured) snapped at a journalist in Hobart on Thursday after being accused of intentionally avoiding questions over his knowledge about Senator Kitching's alleged bullying by members within the party

Deputy Labor Leader Richard Marles (pictured) snapped at a journalist in Hobart on Thursday after being accused of intentionally avoiding questions over his knowledge about Senator Kitching’s alleged bullying by members within the party 

‘I understand the legitimacy of asking questions given what has been put out there. [But] in respect of someone who has passed away less than a week ago, it is really not ok.’

A journalist pointed out that it appeared Mr Marles was boycotting questions, saying: ‘It does seem to an observer that you might be using these eulogies to mask answering’.

At that point, Mr Marles snapped, labelling the accusation ‘offensive’.

‘She has not had her funeral yet and you’re asking questions in that context,’ he bristled.

‘I don’t accept the assertions that have been in the media but I’m not about to get into that debate now.’

Allegations of in-house bullying have rocked the ALP since Senator Kitching’s sudden death from a heart attack last Thursday, with claims the 52-year-old had been under-stress due to workplace culture issues.  

Ms Kitching disclosed to a parliament-employed workplace trainer last November she was being bullied by her Senate colleagues, according to multiple reports.

Senator Kitching (pictured) died last Thursday aged 52 from a sudden heart attack

Senator Kitching (pictured) died last Thursday aged 52 from a sudden heart attack 

Her close friend and former Labor leader Bill Shorten later said the Victorian senator had been under stress due to internal party politics and a pre-selection battle.

Mr Marles refused to answer questions surrounding allegations Senator Kitching was mistreated by her senate colleagues Katy Gallagher, Kristina Keneally and Penny Wong, saying it was too soon to address such issues. 

‘Senator Kitching died a week ago today; somebody I knew for 30 years,’ he said. 

‘The whole Labor movement is a state of grief and shock. Right now, I am focused on providing support to Andrew, her husband, and her family, whose grief is unspeakable. And I’ve spoken to Andrew a couple of times since Kimberley’s passing.

‘Kimberley was a person of really clear vision. She had an understanding of right and wrong. She was a fierce advocate … someone who was warm, fun to be with. The place was better with Kimberley around.’ 

However, Mr Marles said the party would examine its culture later on down the track. 

‘Questions of culture are something which is assessed in an ongoing way within Labor,’ he said.

‘But to be honest within any organisation which seeks to have the best culture it can possibly have … and of course we will do that.’

Mr Marles refused to answer questions surrounding allegations Senator Kitching was mistreated by senate colleagues Katy Gallagher (left) Kristina Keneally (centre) and Senator Penny Wong (right)

Mr Marles refused to answer questions surrounding allegations Senator Kitching was mistreated by senate colleagues Katy Gallagher (left) Kristina Keneally (centre) and Senator Penny Wong (right)

Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese denied Labor had a cultural problem, and said the senator’s sudden death was tragic. 

He said it was disrespectful to brand senators Keneally, Wong and Gallagher as ‘mean girls’ – after they were named by The Australian in a report on the alleged treatment of Senator Kitching.

‘I find that extraordinarily disrespectful to describe strong, articulate, principled women,’ he told reporters in Brisbane.

He said senior male politicians would not be described in the same way.

Mr Albanese says he respected Senator Kitching and appointed her as an assistant shadow minister when he became opposition leader.

‘Out of respect for Kimberley, I think the idea that people go into who might have had a disagreement here or there is totally unbecoming,’ he told the Nine Network.

‘I’m going to pay respect to Kimberley Kitching by treating her with the respect that she deserves.

Senator Kitching is pictured with Labor Senator Kristina Keneally

Senator Kitching is pictured with Labor Senator Kristina Keneally

‘She made a contribution for too short a time to the Labor party and to the Labor cause. Her family and friends are really hurting today.’

Asked if there was a cultural problem with senior women within the opposition, Mr Albanese said ‘no’.

‘I’m very proud of the fact that I lead a team that has 50 per cent female and male contribution in my shadow cabinet,’ he said.

‘I’m proud of all of the people in the leadership team of the Labor party.’

Senator Gallagher told the ABC ‘many’ of the assertions in the article were incorrect from her point of view but refused to discuss the specifics.

‘I just don’t think it’s respectful for us to enter into commentary or disagreement of (the article) at this point in time,’ she said.

‘I don’t think it’s right.’

Senator Kitching’s funeral will be held on Monday. 

A report in The Australian accused Senator Penny Wong of telling Senator Kitching ‘if you had children, you might understand why there is a climate emergency’ during a heated exchange in parliament about mass climate protests.

Ms Wong reportedly made the stinging comment in 2019 after Ms Kitching argued the party shouldn’t support students who ditched school that year to attend climate protests.

Senator Kitching’s supporters said the comment hurt even more because she wanted children but couldn’t have any.

The report also claimed Ms Kitching was accused of leaking to the Liberals, benched from the party’s tactics committee and ostracised by the senior leadership team.

A close supporter of the Victorian senator said the comment about her lack of children was ‘brutal’.

‘The children thing was particularly grotesque, it was just foul,’ the friend said.

Ex-Labor MP Michael Danby, a close friend of Ms Kitching, on Wednesday claimed her treatment by senior female members crossed a line.

‘It’s a fine line, people are entitled to fierce disagreements, but it was too much in my opinion, what was done crossed that fine line and people should say they’re sorry and they regret it,’ Mr Danby said.

Mr Danby hit out at the Labor right for ‘dangling’ her pre-selection over her head which he said had caused the politician undue stress.

He also slammed the party’s left wing for being ‘too strong’ and claimed his friend had been punished for not agreeing with other people’s ‘ideological views’.

Senator Wong refused to comment on the allegations ‘even if I and others disagree with them’. 

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