Labor leader Anthony Albanese has been grilled by Today host Karl Stefanovic, with a previous “promise” thrown back at him.
Anthony Albanese has been hammered on breakfast television over his refusal to hold an inquiry into the bullying claims of Kimberley Kitching after he observed the late senator who died of a heart attack “played politics hard”.
In a fiery back and forth with Karl Stefanovic on the Today show, the Opposition Leader saw a previous promise to be “more accountable” to the Australian people thrown back into his face.
Mr Stefanovic played an interview between Mr Albanese and ABC host Fran Kelly where the politician vowed “we’ll act” on any complaint of poor treatment.
’Do you accept action hasn’t been taken, when Labor heartland wants action to be taken?’ he asked.
Mr Albanese fired back: “There was no complaint made by Kimberley”.
“Do I have confidence in Penny Wong as Senate Leader, yes, I do, yes, I do. And Katy Gallagher and Kristina Keneally are part of the solution. They’re not part of the problem,’’ he said.
The Labor leader made the same claims on Sunrise, when he faced a similar barrage from hosts David Koch and Natalie Barr – at one point saying it would be “an inquiry into what?”
Before her death, Senator Kitching complained to the deputy Labor leader Richard Marles about being kicked off the tactics committee for spurious reasons and about her treatment in the Senate.
She also complained to a workplace trainer that she was being bullied. She also prepared a seven-page letter outlining some complaints that has emerged since her death.
Speaking on SunriseMr Albanese suggested that it was Senator Kitching herself who may have created some of the tensions.
“I think that in politics, there are a range of people who are involved in party politics who play it pretty hard’’ Mr Albanese said.
“One of those was Kimberley Kitching. She was somebody who engaged in politics and was passionate about her belief and from time to time, that could produce some conflict.”
Sunrise host David Koch then shot back: “So are you saying that Kimberley Kitching was part of the bullying?”
“No, I am not saying that at all, I am saying that Kimberley Kitching like other senators and members of the Labor Party could put forward ideas and in a robust fashion in debate. I have engaged in robust debate,’’ he said.
In the interview, Mr Albanese argued Senator Kitching’s complaints to Mr Marles and the workplace trainer did not classify as formal complaints.
“With respect, those processes that all of us went through as part of the compulsory process that we all had about how to deal with these issues arising from what had occurred in Parliament House and the report of the sex discrimination commission, they were confidential discussions that people had,’’ he said.
“I do not know what happened in that room and I have not seen anything from the PwC consultant and they are private discussions that were held.
“At no stage did Kimberley Kitching, at any stage, make complaints with myself as leader, we have structures in place to deal with complaints. If any improvements can be made, just as we made improvements in 2021 that were unanimously adopted by the Caucus and the party, I am up for it and any positive suggestions”.
Asked about former Labor MP Emma Husar’s claim that the ALP is an unsafe workplace, Mr Albanese disagreed.
“I disagree with Emma’s assessment. I think that it is a real pity Emma’s experience, she was not given the support that she needed as a new member, and that was before I became the leader,’’ he said.
On Todayhost Karl Stefanovic said the need for an inquiry was clear and asked “what are you afraid of?”.
“Will you call an inquiry into Senator Kitching’s claims or not?’’ Stefanovic asked.
“No, I won’t, Karl, what I’ll do is take the words from Bill Shorten at the funeral, which is that Kimberley Kitching would want us to move on and dedicate ourselves to a Labor victory at the election,’’ he said.
Mr Albanese said there would always be an ongoing review of all their internal processes.
“If we can improve in any way those processes I’m certainly happy to hear that,’’ he said.
Mr Albanese said the “one issue” with Penny Wong telling Senator Kitching she didn’t understand climate change schools protests because she didn’t have children “was apologised for and that was an appropriate action.”
“I’ve thought about this a lot, you had, essentially, Labor royalty holding Kimberley’s hand as she lay dying. They want an inquiry,’’ Stefanovic said.
“Kimberley went to complain about bullying. You fought for several other inquiries but you’re not fighting for an inquiry inside your own party. It doesn’t make any sense to me, what are you afraid of?”
In response, Mr Albanese insisted there was no formal complaint.
“There were no complaints put in any formal sense at all about issues. The one issue that was raised was Kimberley’s position on the Tactics Committee,’’ he said.
“That is the issue that was raised with Richard Marles. Kimberley Kitching was making a contribution to the Senate.
Stefanovic then interjected: “So she never raised bullying with Richard Marles, she never raised any of that with Richard Marles?”
“Karl, it is on the record that apparently there was a draft [letter of complaint] that was never given to Richard Marles or anyone else,’’ Mr Albanese said.
“No, Kimberley Kitching spoke to Richard Marles about the Tactics Committee and whether she would be on the Tactics Committee.
“I wasn’t a party to that conversation, Karl. There were only two people in the room. It’s difficult for anyone, frankly, to comment on that. But what I know is that that was about Kimberley’s position on the Tactics Committee. She didn’t want to be suspended from that.”
“My office is open to every member of the caucus. I had a number of one-on-one meetings with Kimberley since I’ve been leader and at no stage was any issues raised with me. We have processes in place now, Karl. If we can improve those processes, I’m certainly up for it.”
Prime Minister Scott Morrison said Mr Albanese was “quick to throw stones” but when faced with own internal claims, he didn’t want to hold an inquiry.
“He wants a distraction from the fact that he won’t stand up to the bullies in his own party. If he can’t stand up to the bullies in his own party, how does he think he’s going to stand up to the bullies in our region?,’’ he told Today.
Mr Morrison said it was “pretty weak.”