Flat White

The bullying of Kimberley Kitching

17 March 2022

5:20 AM

17 March 2022

5:20 AM

In-depth reports from ideologically-opposite sources – Shaun Carney of The Age and Sharri Markson of The Australian – appear to corroborate each other.

The late senator, Kimberley Kitching, was victimised, ostracised, and bullied by fellow Labor MPs.

Kitching died a week ago of a suspected heart attack, and had underlying health conditions that heightened her risk factors.

Risk factors that could be, and probably were, exacerbated by prolonged stress and distress.

Two months out from the federal election, Kitching was being denied a confirmation of her preselection, as factional brawls raged across the Victorian branch of the Labor party, and the Labor national executive.

The Left wanted her out, and her own Right faction failed to commit its support for her.

In the Senate, her leadership team allegedly froze Kitching out. They booted her from their tactics committee. They reportedly denied her the chance to ask questions and speak in the Senate.

Apparently, they joined many of her parliamentary Labor colleagues in ostracising her and treating her like a pariah because she followed her principles rather than slavishly adhering to the Labor line.

Senators Penny Wong and Katy Gallagher have strongly denied the claims.

Being Bill Shorten’s ‘captain’s pick’ to replace Stephen Conroy in 2016 was tough enough for Kitching, once Shorten lost the 2019 election and the Left gained the factional upper hand under its own Anthony Albanese.

But, according to reports, what really triggered Kitching’s deliberate humiliation and ostracising was that she refused to cooperate with Labor’s determination to weaponise the Brittany Higgins rape allegations against Scott Morrison.

Her conscience was troubled by the partisan politics being played around an alleged sexual assault. And rightly so.

Markson reports that Kitching was accused of disloyalty because she was suspected of communicating with Liberal minister Linda Reynolds about the Higgins matter.

Kitching’s hawkishness on national security issues, and especially on the increasing external threat of China, is claimed to have made Kitching persona non grata.

It appears that some within Labor wanted to make Kitching’s parliamentary life a misery. And it now seems reasonable to presume they wanted her out of the Senate altogether.

Kitching called some of those allegedly involved ‘the mean girls’. But if the reports are correct, they were more than mean. They were workplace bullies.

Bullies who cannot hide behind their sex.

Bullies who don’t appear to have thought about the damage they were doing to the emotional health of the bullied.

Bullies who, had they been male, would likely be hounded out of Parliament in disgrace.

As for Labor leader Albanese – the aspiring prime minister who for the last three years has been ceaselessly attacking Scott Morrison over his character, and especially Morrison’s response to the Higgins allegations and the toxic workplace culture in Parliament House – he has his own questions to answer. Especially now he is dodging any further scrutiny of the behaviour towards Kitching that Markson and Carney exposed.

Why did Albanese demote Kitching in his shadow ministry after she questioned former Australia Post CEO Christine Holgate over the Cartier watch bonus fiasco?

Why did he do nothing when Kitching was dumped from the Labor Senate tactics group?

What role did he play in the dressing-down of Kitching over the Higgins affair? And if he played no role, why did he turn a blind eye?

And, as a member of the ALP’s national executive and leader of the Left faction, what role did he play in the cruel and heartless stringing out of Kitching’s preselection?

At least four Labor ‘leaders’ have failed tests of character and decency in relation to Kimberley Kitching. Yet, abetted by compliant media more determined to oust Morrison than hold them to account, they will get away with it.

It’s unusual to agree with Bill Shorten, but he was spot on when he told ABC radio, ‘I am not a coroner. I can’t tell you why this woman of 52 was taken from us. But I have no doubt that the stress of politics in the machinations in the back rooms had its toll.’

In tort law, there’s what is known as the ‘eggshell skull rule’. That rule essentially provides that a defendant is liable for the full damage caused to an unusually susceptible or fragile plaintiff, even if the extent of damage would be less in a ‘normal’ person.

Kimberley Kitching had underlying health issues that made her condition unusually susceptible or fragile. The sustained pressure of the personal bullying she encountered in her workplace, and at the hands of her party and factional power-brokers, may or may not have been contributing factors to her being taken far too young.

Those false ‘colleagues’ in the parliament and the Labor party, whose alleged conduct created and increased the stress on Kitching, and the distress she so obviously was experiencing, have a lot to answer for.

Is winning an election at that high price really worth it?

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