17 March 2022

SUBJECTS: Accusations of bullying against Senator Kitching

ALLISON LANGDON, HOST: Thanks for joining us this morning. More pressure today on Labor leader Anthony Albanese to investigate claims of a 'Mean Girls' culture in parliament, which targeted the late Senator Kimberley Kitching in the months before her death. For more, we're joined by Northern Territory Senator Malarndirri McCarthy and 2GB's Chris Smith here in the studio. Nice to see you both this morning. Malarndirri, there are more reports in today's Australian on the alleged bullying taking place. I mean, surely Anthony Albanese needs to order a full inquiry, doesn't he?

MALARNDIRRI MCCARTHY, LABOR SENATOR FOR THE NORTHERN TERRITORY: In my culture, sorry business is really very sacred. Every second week we've got a death in our family and there's always concerns around how people have died. One of the things I'm really conscious of here as a Yanyuwa woman, is that we have not had the funeral for Senator Kitching. We have not given time for her family, for Andrew and those who love her, the respect to be able to do this with great dignity. There's always a time and a place to question so many things, but this is not the time, Ali.

LANGDON: Well, I mean, this is the issue with this Malarndirri and I agree with you. This is absolutely uncomfortable to talk about and I wish we weren't. But you have some within your own party who are sharing these details. Clearly, there is a great deal of hurt, and there are also claims in The Australian today that Kimberley's own family want answers in regards to this. I mean, you sat alongside Kimberley in the Senate. Did you see her ostracised by people within your party?

MCCARTHY: Yes, I certainly did sit beside Senator Kitching, as I do beside all the other senators, in particular Senator Wong, Senator Keneally, Senator Gallagher. We have an incredible team in the Senate. It is deeply disturbing these reports. But what's more disturbing is that we have lost someone. We have lost someone. And I keep coming back to that, Ali. You know, I was absolutely shocked last week and deeply saddened. I have worked closely with Kimberley, certainly in Senate estimates and certainly in the Senate itself. And no, I didn't see any of this behaviour. If anything, working beside Kimberley, she was just impressive. I know that last year most of us were working remote, and so I certainly saw her towards the end of last year. And I think it was at the beginning of this year with the February sittings that many of us, including Kimberley, were working remotely for the last 12 months or so.

LANGDON: Do you believe then Malarndirri and I agree the timing of this is horrible when the funeral hasn't been held yet. But do you believe at some stage Anthony Albanese will need to hold some sort of inquiry into this alleged culture of bullying within his own party?

MCCARTHY: What I believe is that I would like to be there with the family on Monday. Ali, I would like to be there on Sunday when the when families are called together. You know, Kimberley was a woman of great faith in the Catholic Church. There will be a rosary held on the Sunday and there'll be a gathering of family on the Monday and those who want to be there and I'll certainly be there. And after that, once I speak with family and friends, after that, I might have more to say.

LANGDON: Look, can I bring you into this, Chris? Because I mean, we've just had an inquiry into the culture of bullying within Parliament. This was something Anthony Albanese was very strong in his language when the focus was the other side of politics. As Malarndirri has made, it made the point to me this is horrific. But can he duck this issue? There are some pretty serious allegations being that.

CHRIS SMITH, 2GB HOST: He cannot duck this issue. This is a bigger issue than what many in the media are making out it is there are senators coming out one at a time to say what they know and the fact that Kimberley confided with so many people about the hurt she was going through. Come on, Anthony Albanese attempt yesterday to distract by using the term Mean Girls, which was a term used by Kimberly herself. Anthony Albanese Fake, sexist outrage. I'm sorry it doesn't cut it, and I know what Kimberly Kitching's family think. They want answers to the way she was treated, ostracised and bullied. And if Parliament House, as a group, want to get rid of bullying from the workplace as everyone else is trying to do in the world, why aren't they calling for an enquiry straight away? At the very least, Kimberley Kitching deserves answers, and I know what she would say right now. Bring it out into the open and have an inquiry. At the very least.

LANGDON: Malarndirri, Chris makes a pretty strong point.

MCCARTHY: Well, I think Chris can say all he likes as does everyone else at the moment who's commenting Ali? It still does not remove the fact that sorry business is a sacred business here. And as I said to you, you know, I worked beside Kimberley and I am deeply saddened by the loss of her. In our Senate, but to our country, and I will pay my respects respectfully and appropriate,

SMITH: Well, that's in the context of indigenous culture and that should be respected. You're absolutely right about that, but not when it comes to Kimberley Kitching. She told too many people what she was being hassled over and what she was being ostracised for, and an upset said her immensely. I am not suggesting for a second that it's led to her death. Of course not. But I am saying that if you're trying to get rid of bullying at a Parliament House, which is apparently the house that we all lead from, this is the place that should be calling an inquiry, whether it's the Senate itself. It seems as if the Senate is very quick to trigger an enquiry on just about everything. Well, here is an enquiry about itself that should be called straight away.

LANGDON: Look, plenty of emotion around this issue.

MCCARTHY: We can agree to disagree, Chris, on this. I totally disagree with what you're saying at this particular time. I think that we're only seeing and reading one side of this story. And one of those people is not with us. And I do disagree comprehensively with that. And I just think that if everyone can just let us go forth and make sure we can have a really respectful farewell.

SMITH: Let's not forget that today we heard information that she was told at one stage by Penny Wong, who was supposed to be her boss, 'well, you wouldn't understand because you don't have children', there were suggestions made by the media back in Julia Gillard's day, and everyone was criticised as saying that as they should have been. How dare that even be leveled at a Kimberley Kitching, no matter what the circumstances were?

MCCARTHY: I dont think there's any more to be said there, and Senator Wong is not here to defend herself. And I think it's really important to keep coming back to this point that our party and our families across Australia who know Kimberley have the right to bury her with the greatest of respect.