Kimberley Kitching’s husband has delivered a stinging broadside against Labor’s ‘mean girls’ accused of bullying the ‘committed and determined’ senator before she died aged 52.
In a powerful speech at Senator Kitching’s funeral on Monday, shattered husband Andrew Landeryou revealed: ‘Her friends and ferociously loyal staff are angry about how she was treated’.
He did not name Kristina Keneally, Penny Wong and Katy Gallagher – who have denied ostracising Senator Kitching – but referred to a ‘cantankerous cabal’ of her enemies.
‘There is a lot I could say about the unpleasantness of a cantankerous cabal – not all of them in parliament – that was aimed at Kimba,’ he said.
‘She deserved so much better.’
A who’s who of Australian politics – including Anthony Albanese, Peter Dutton, Barnaby Joyce and Daniel Andrews – packed the St Patrick’s Cathedral in east Melbourne for the moving service at 2.30pm.
Senator Kitching, who had friends all sides of politics, died on March 10 when she pulled over her car in suburban Melbourne during a suspected heart attack.
Penny Wong (pictured) went to Senator Kitching’s funeral after denying she had bullied her Labor colleague
Former leader of the Opposition Bill Shorten, wife Chloe Shorten and daughter Clementine arrive ahead of the funeral service for Senator Kimberley Kitching
Deputy Leader of the Opposition in the Senate Kristian Keneally (centre left) arrives ahead of the funeral service for Senator Kimberley Kitching
Left: Labor MP Anne Aly. Right: Former Labor senator Sam Dastyari
Mourners have arrived for Kimberley Kitching’s funeral after the respected Labor senator died of a suspected heart attack aged 52
Following a brief phone call in which she went silent, Mr Landeryou rushed to her aid but his wife had passed away by the time he arrived.
In a speech at the start of the service, he described her as ‘very clever, very, very pretty and well spoken’.
‘Kimberley’s beauty and grace and elegance mesmerised me,’ he said, recalling their first meeting.
Mr Landeryou said when he discovered his wife he found two ‘poignant’ reminders of her kindness on the passenger seat: a bottle of champagne for a dinner party that night and a pie she had bought for his lunch.
‘Despite a frantically busy and stressful day she had taken time of all things to buy me a pie from a bakery I like.
‘Other than call me I think it was the last thing she did,’ he said.
Choking back tears he said his wife’s death was ‘absurd and unjust,’ adding: ‘I would gladly swap places with her.’
Mr Landeryou said ‘I’m angry with myself’ over his wife’s death. ‘I’m angry I failed to persuade her to slow down,’ he said.
Labor MP Tony Burke (left) and Nationals MP Bridget McKenzie (right)
Victorian Liberal MP Tim Smith arrives ahead of the funeral service for Senator Kimberley Kitching at St Patrick’s Cathedral in Melbourne
Secretary of the Victorian branch of the CFMEU John Setka arrives for the funeral
The Leader of the Opposition in the Senate Penny Wong (centre) arrives ahead of the funeral service alongside Labor MP Josh Burns (right)
Penny Wong arrives at Kimberley Kitching’s funeral wearing a black mask on Monday
Before her death Senator Kitching was being treated for a thyroid condition which caused her to lose weight in recent years but was improving.
She was under stress because he preselection for a senate spot was up in the air, meaning her career could come crashing down after just six years.
Mourners had begun flooding into the church more than an hour-and-a-half before the service was due to commence.
They were greeted by bright sunshine on what was nothing short of a perfect Melbourne afternoon.
Scores of photographers and cameramen lined the church entrance as mourners arrived.
Only a day earlier, Melburnians had watched the funeral of another great local in Shane Warne.
Scattered within at the church gates were undercover police officers, who kept a close watch on all who entered the grounds.
Swags of journalists both past and present also attended, including News Corp firebrand Andrew Bolt, who was close friends with Ms Kitching’s husband.
Flowers continued to arrive even as the service commenced.
Nationals Senator for Queensland Matt Canavan arrives ahead of the funeral service for Senator Kimberley Kitching
The Leader of the Government in the Senate Simon Birmingham arrives for the funeral
So full was the church that some people were forced to stand at the back of the to watch.
The large attendance was testament to the politician’s high regard.
One former reporter and now political spin doctor said Ms Kitching was a breath of fresh air in a business known to often stink.
‘She was one of the good ones,’ he said.
Anthony Albanese said on Sunday he received ‘no complaints’ from Senator Kitching over claims she was bullied by other women in the party.
‘I received no complaints (from Kimberley) at any time,’ he said.
‘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 Senator 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.
Last week Senator Wong revealed she apologised to Senator Kitching after insulting her childless fellow Labor senator by saying: ‘If you had children you would understand’.
Three Labor senators (pictured) accused of bullying colleague Kimberley Kitching before her fatal heart attack have denied the allegations
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.
In a statement, Senators Keneally, Wong and Gallagher said ‘allegations of bullying are untrue’ but admitted that ‘robust contests and interactions’ are frequent in politics.
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.’
The three senators also confirmed they will be attending Senator Kitching’s funeral in Melbourne on Monday after speaking to her shattered family.
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
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.
Meanwhile, Labor leader Anthony 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.’
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.’
Shadow Minister for Home Affairs Kristina Keneally (right) and Katy Gallagher in 2019
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 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)