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Penny Wong has cancelled a fundraising event to attend Labor colleague Kimberley Kitching’s funeral after facing criticism for not committing to the memorial.
The Shadow Foreign Minister was due to host ‘an evening with Senator Penny Wong’ between 5.30pm and 7pm on Monday in Alice Springs in the Labor-held marginal seat of Lingiari.
Senator Kitching’s funeral is on the same day in Melbourne and Senator Wong initially said she was unsure if she would attend.
Penny Wong (pictured) was due to attend a fundraiser in the Northern Territory on the day of her Labor colleague Kimberley Kitching’s funeral
The event description (pictured) says ‘nibbles will be provided with a cash bar’
Asked by Ten Eyewitness News if she will go to the funeral, Senator Wong said: ‘I will look at whether I can. I currently have an engagement in the Northern Territory with some First Nations communities.’
Pauline Hanson, who was friends with Senator Kitching, blasted Senator Wong for not committing to the funeral and called her a ‘nasty piece of work’.
‘She’s more interested in going to the Northern Territory to do something for the Aboriginals, and that’s more important,’ she told Sky News.
‘She said ”we’ve lost one of our own from the Labor Party family”, well that doesn’t sound like it to me.’
On Thursday afternoon Senator Wong said she had cancelled the event to go to the funeral.
‘Senator Wong will be attending Senator Kitching’s funeral to pay her respects along with the Labor family,’ her spokeswoman told Daily Mail Australia.
Senator Kitching’s allies claimed she was ostracised and bullied by Labor ‘mean girls’ Penny Wong, Katy Gallagher and Ms Keneally before her sudden death aged 52.
Senator Wong refused to comment on the allegations ‘even if I and others disagree with them’.
Senator Kitching was in the Right faction of Labor while Senator Wong is on the Left.
Ms Kitching, 52, (pictured) died from a suspected heart attack on March 10
Ms Wong reportedly made the stinging comment in 2019 after Ms Kitching argued the party shouldn’t support students who ditched school that year to attend mass climate protests.
‘If you had children, you might understand why there is a climate emergency,’ the South Australian senator is said to have told Ms Kitching.
Senator Kitching’s supporters said the comment hurt even more because she wanted children but couldn’t have any.
The report also claimed Ms Kitching, who died on Thursday, was accused of leaking to the Liberals, benched from the party’s tactics committee and ostracised by the senior leadership team.
A close supporter of the Victorian senator said the comment about her lack of children was ‘brutal’.
‘The children thing was particularly grotesque, it was just foul,’ the friend said.
Ex-Labor MP Michael Danby, a close friend of Ms Kitching, on Wednesday claimed her treatment by senior female members crossed a line.
‘It’s a fine line, people are entitled to fierce disagreements, but it was too much in my opinion, what was done crossed that fine line and people should say they’re sorry and they regret it,’ Mr Danby said.
Mr Danby hit out at the Labor right for ‘dangling’ her pre-selection over her head which he said had caused the politician undue stress.
He also slammed the party’s left wing for being ‘too strong’ and claimed his friend had been punished for not agreeing with other people’s ‘ideological views’.
Pictured left to right: Labor senators Katy Gallagher, Kristina Keneally and Penny Wong. Late Labor senator Kimberley Kitching felt ostracised by the three women, a report has claimed
‘What a disgrace that these people were able to cause her such stress,’ he said.
Wednesday’s report pointed to several instances of the senator being excluded from decision-making by senior party members.
Ms Kitching was also reportedly summoned to a meeting with Ms Keneally over her support for then-Liberal Defence Minister Linda Reynolds in the wake of the Brittany Higgins allegations.
The report went on to suggest the treatment she received from some colleagues had taken a toll in the lead-up to her pre-selection, and ultimately her shock death.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison on Wednesday described the revelations as ‘distressing’ while paying tribute to Ms Kitching.
‘These are very distressing [allegations] and I don’t think they can just be dismissed, they obviously need to be addressed,’ Mr Morrison said.
‘These reports of her treatment are not ones that I can confirm, obviously, as the leader of the Liberal party, but they’re certainly things that I would expect to be taken very seriously and addressed.
Senator Kitching is pictured with Labor Senator Kristina Keneally. Ms Kitching was reportedly summoned to a meeting with the senior senator over her support for then Defence Minister Linda Reynolds in the wake of the Brittany Higgins allegations
‘The reason she had so many friends on our side is because she stood up very strongly for issues of our national security and sovereignty.’
Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese denied Labor had a cultural problem, and said the senator’s sudden death was tragic.
He said it was disrespectful to brand senators Kristina Keneally, Penny Wong and Katy Gallagher 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.
Mr Albanese says he respected Senator Kitching and appointed her as an assistant shadow minister when he became opposition leader.
‘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.
‘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 said.
‘I’m proud of all of the people in the leadership team of the Labor party.’
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.’
Former ALP member Michael Danby said what his late friend Kimberley Kitching endured had been ‘nothing short of bullying’ during an interview with Sky News on Wednesday