TRANSCRIPT – Australia Today with Steve Price

TRANSCRIPT – Australia Today with Steve Price

Friday 18 March 2022

Subjects: Kimberley Kitching, treatment of Ukrainian refugees.

E&OE

STEVE PRICE:

I think Anthony Albanese and Labor have a real problem. They need to clear up what is an internal bullying claim made on the record by the Labor Senator Kimberley Kitching. She tragically passed away on Thursday, a week ago. She'd been on our program a couple of days prior to that, and she was going to help us out on the election campaign. Tragically, she died at the age of 52 with a heart attack. It's reported today that she had gone to an independent assessor from KPMG and made a formal complaint about bullying of her within the party. She'd been sidelined, unable to ask questions in the Senate, and there are people who are suggesting that stress levels associated with her potential dis-endorsement as a Victorian Senate candidate could have contributed to her health issues.

Senator Amanda Stoker is the Assistant Attorney General, she joins me on the line. You would have known Kimberley quite well, Amanda.

AMANDA STOKER:

Hi Steve. Yes, I did. And I loved her, she was a friend. She was a person of great principle, of great intellect. And she had the ability to deal respectfully and constructively with people from all different political traditions. And in many ways, that was the kind of best conduct that we associate particularly with the parliament through history. So, I'm really going to miss her, and I think it's been a real shock to everybody in Parliament, but also, of course, even more importantly, to her family. And yeah, I'm at a loss really. It's going to be a different place without her.

STEVE PRICE:

Yeah, our thoughts go out to her family, and her husband Andrew, in particular. Do you get a sense that some of her Labor colleagues were not happy that she had a constructive relationship with people on the other side of politics?

AMANDA STOKER:

Look, they might- yes, I think they didn't like the way she was able to relate well to people from all walks of life. But to me, that's the sign of a good parliamentarian, and that's how you get stuff done in this country, when you can look beyond the colour of the t-shirts we wear, get to the substance and make sure we're doing what matters for our country. What seems to me to be really distressing about the information that's come out about her treatment over the last few days – and it's all come out from her family, it's not from any kind of political sledging on our side – that she'd made complaints to her senior leadership team. She had raised it with Richard Marles, a very senior member of their team. She had formalised that in training and processes in place to build a safe and respectful environment in the parliamentary workplace, with independent consultants. And look, I don't pretend any side of politics is perfect. But you know, when on the coalition side we learn of a problem, we deal with it, we do it openly and with a view to learning lessons and making it better for those who come next. But Mr Albanese won't even contemplate the investigation of or the reflection upon this that's needed to be able to learn the lessons and make things better. He even goes so far as to suggest that it's sexist to ask the question about whether or not bullying occurred. And that culture of cover-up, rather than showing the courage to lead, to me tells us everything we need to know about what he would be like as a prime minister.

STEVE PRICE:

At the very least, his chief of staff, or someone within the parliamentary party in Canberra, needs to have an independent look at what was and wasn't said. There was a story yesterday suggesting, in a heated exchange in a meeting, that Senator Penny Wong, when the discussion turned to whether children should be able to protest at climate change rallies rather than be at school, said to Kimberley Kitching, ‘well, you'd understand if you had children.’ Now, that's a very- for a woman, that's an extremely insulting term, if it was said that way. We need to know, don't we?

AMANDA STOKER:

Yeah, we do. And let's put it in this context: we know that there have been other people come out in today's press, like Emma Husar, who said she had a similar experience. What she described was a toxic culture of misogynist bullying – that was her words. But if you are working in a shop, or if you work on a construction site, or in a factory, and you're bullied to the point where it adversely affects your health, there'd be a workplace health and safety investigation, and it's very likely there'd be compensation and dramatic action taken to make sure you could be able to work safely. Why on Earth would Labor – the party who pretends they're all about workplace safety – shirk their responsibilities to make sure we get to the bottom of this, and we make sure that we don't lose other great minds, great principled contributors because they're not prepared to tackle the hard issues.

STEVE PRICE:

So, your message to Anthony Albanese would be stop the deflection, work out exactly what went on with your former senator – okay, we can delay it until after a funeral on Monday, but we need to know if there is a problem within Labor. Because for the last three years, Labor has always been very willing to suggest that within the Liberal Party and the National Party, there is a toxic environment which is hostile to women.

AMANDA STOKER:

Well, look, I don't want to sledge you either way, but I think they owe not just Senator Kitching and her family the dignity of getting to the bottom of this, but they owe future generations of men and women who want to serve this country with honour and integrity and distinction, the assurance that if they choose to do so, they're not going to be driven to their death in the process. Our country needs that, because a healthy, robust democracy, with both parties being strong and that are able to attract the best and brightest from all around the country, is at the very core of what it means to have a healthy, functioning democracy.

STEVE PRICE:

Agree 100 per cent. Just on- in your part of the world, why would the Queensland Government send a Ukrainian family that's got out of Ukraine and come to Australia, including a 63-year-old woman, into the Wellcamp quarantine facility?

AMANDA STOKER:

Oh, look, it beggars belief, doesn't it? At a time when these people have left the most dangerous and scary place you can be in the world right now, they've come to Australia seeking safety, they put them up in their white elephant of a quarantine facility at Wellcamp – under the flight path, where only a few hours earlier a flight going over meant the very real risk of a bomb being dropped on. You can only imagine how traumatic that must be. In circumstances where they have available a safe and appropriate home quarantine option that is being made available to them, and the sheer inflexibility and lack of common sense that characterises the Palaszczuk Government is enough to make a sensible person banging their head against a wall. But it should also-

STEVE PRICE:

It includes a seven-year-old child.

AMANDA STOKER:

Oh, it's just madness and it's unnecessary. We have COVID in our community. We are dealing with it, we are living alongside it, and we're doing it pretty well as a community, I would suggest. We don't need to be locking up people in the way that Palaszczuk has so enthusiastically wanted to do over a period of years now, in circumstances where we have well over 90 per cent vaccination in Queensland and a community that is getting on with life alongside COVID. It's time to get real here and show some compassion for a family that deserves our open arms.

STEVE PRICE:

I suspect if the Courier Mail hadn't found out, that family might still be there. Just before you go, I just wanted to commend a move by Women's Safety Minister, your colleague, Anne Ruston. Your government has set up a $20 million fund in the federal budget, we're told, to launch a pilot program based on what's been happening in Tasmania in regard to domestic violence. And under this scheme, police will be alerted immediately if family violence thugs breach intervention orders in a radical trial that makes them wear GPS trackers. I'm very happy about that.

AMANDA STOKER:

It's really good that we've had the cooperation of the Tasmanian Government to be able to make this possible. It really can make, and we expect to make, a substantial difference to the lives of women who have experienced a pattern of domestic violence that they are trying to achieve safety from. And I hope that it will lead the way for other states to work more collaboratively with the federal government, and be willing to try new things. Because what we know is that this problem, while we've never known more about it than we do right now, it is one that is hard to shift and we've got to be creative about it. So there's a lot of optimism and expectation about what this might do for leading the way for the other states.

STEVE PRICE:

Yep, 76 per cent decrease in high risk incidents in Tassie, I think that tells the story. Always a pleasure to catch up, Senator. Have a good weekend.

AMANDA STOKER:

Great to talk with you, Steve. All the best.

STEVE PRICE:

Queensland LNP Senator Amanda Stoker.

[END]