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Canberra capers: Labor rejects notion it has its own group of 'mean girls'

Politics

Federal Labor leader Anthony Albanese denies the party has a cultural problem after some senior MPs were accused of treating the late Senator Kimberley Kitching with hostility and ostracising her.

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Mr Albanese said Kitching’s sudden death last week from a suspected heart attack was a tragedy that hurt all of Labor and it was important she was paid due respect ahead of her funeral on Monday.

He said it was disrespectful for senators Kristina Keneally, Penny Wong and Katy Gallagher – named by The Australian in a report on the alleged treatment of Senator Kitching – to be branded as “mean girls”.

“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.

“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 earlier on Wednesday.

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

“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 added.

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

The Australian on Wednesday reported Senator Kitching was accused of leaking to the Liberals, benched from the party’s tactics committee and ostracised by the senior leadership team.

Some details were attributed to an interview with the senator in February this year.

Kitching, and some of her supporters, branded senior Labor senators Penny Wong, Kristina Keneally and Katy Gallagher “mean girls”, the report said.

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.”
Kitching, 52, died of a suspected heart attack on March 10.

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.

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