Kimberley Kitching death: Penny Wong, Katy Gallagher and Kristina Keneally deny bullying allegations

Kimberley Kitching and insets, Kristina Keneally, Katy Gallagher and Penny Wong.
Kimberley Kitching and insets, Kristina Keneally, Katy Gallagher and Penny Wong.

Three Labor members accused of bullying deceased senator Kimberley Kitching have denied the allegations.

But senators Penny Wong, Kristina Keneally and Katy Gallagher say they will reflect on the way "robust and difficult" conversations can affect colleagues.

Labor politicians have declined to expansively comment on the allegations, urging against politicising Senator Kitching's death from a suspected heart attack so soon after it occurred.

In a joint statement, the three senators said they had attempted to "maintain some dignity for all concerned" before Senator Kitching's funeral.

Labor senate leader Penny Wong has denied bullying Senator Kitching. Picture: Sitthixay Ditthavong

Labor senate leader Penny Wong has denied bullying Senator Kitching. Picture: Sitthixay Ditthavong

But a steady stream of "hurtful statements" in media reports meant "we feel it is necessary to respond".

"The allegations of bullying are untrue. Other assertions which have been made are similarly inaccurate," the statement said.

"All of us have spent many years in the service of the public. We do so because we want to make a contribution to the nation."

The trio confirmed they will attend Senator Kitching's funeral. Senator Wong had stated she was uncertain whether she would be present given pre-existing commitments, before confirming on Thursday she will attend.

Reports by the ABC and TheAustralian suggested Senator Kitching complained of being bullied by the trio - Labor's leadership group in the Senate - and disclosed the allegations to senior Labor figures before, before also alerting a parliament-based workplace trainer.

The statement accepted politics was a "challenging profession" in which debates could be "robust and difficult".

"All of its participants at times act or speak in ways that can impact on others negatively. We have and do reflect on this, as individuals and as leaders," it said.

Labor senator for the ACT Katy Gallagher was also part of the statement. Picture: Sitthixay Ditthavong

Labor senator for the ACT Katy Gallagher was also part of the statement. Picture: Sitthixay Ditthavong

The allegations reported by The Australian included that Senator Wong was the senior Labor figure who told Senator Kitching "If you had children, you might understand" during a 2019 debate over climate change.

Senator Kitching reportedly wanted children, but was unable to have them.

Senator Wong said she had apologised to Senator Kitching at the time and "understood that apology was accepted".

"The comments that have been reported do not reflect Senator Wong's views, as those who know her would understand, and she deeply regrets pain these reports have caused," the statement said.

Former Labor leader Bill Shorten, a close friend of Senator Kitching, suggested stress over a pre-selection battle played a role in her death. Former Labor MP Michael Danby also called for an apology.

Labor leader Anthony Albanese has ruled out an inquiry into the matter, arguing it was insensitive to politicise her passing.

Labor senator Kimberley Kitching reportedly complained of being bullied prior to her passing. Picture: Sitthixay Ditthavong

Labor senator Kimberley Kitching reportedly complained of being bullied prior to her passing. Picture: Sitthixay Ditthavong

But Prime Minister Scott Morrison insisted there are "uncomfortable questions" for Mr Albanese to address.

"He's the one who needs to answer these questions, and he's gone into hiding," he told reporters on Friday.

"I mean, where is Anthony Albanese? Where is he on this issue?"

Mr Morrison will not be attending Senator Kitching's funeral, saying he had commitments in Brisbane that day.

He said it was "appropriate" for Liberal Senate leader Simon Birmingham, who knew Senator Kitching well, to represent the government at the service.

This story Labor senators deny Kitching bullying accusations first appeared on The Canberra Times.