I've been bullied, and I've been accused of being a bully.
In the first instance, the bully was disciplined for shouting in my face, for constantly demeaning me in a public setting, and for a whole host of other small events which made me cry every day. But I was way down the pecking order on his list of victims, and after many complaints, he eventually lost his job and died a year or two later. In the second instance, there was zero evidence for the complaint. It made me furious, but also confirmed to me some people think they can get away with making all kinds of allegations.
Right now, all Australians are being gaslit, undermined and ignored. Our devastated residents of Lismore and surrounds can't even get the Prime Minister to meet with them. The current travails of the Australian Labor Party are a sideshow, which we need to put aside to focus on what really ails us: the cost of living; a government which could not give a stuff about the environment (moar gasfields!); a government whose track record on respect for women should really prevent them from ever using the word bullying in their political lives; and a Prime Minister who trod water while everyone else was freestyling for vaccines and for boosters.
This is why Morrison's focus on the inner workings of the ALP is embarrassing for him. I have no idea whether the Labor Party will do a better job if it can manage to pull itself together and campaign with fight and flair, but one can only hope.
So let me dispose of the sideshow. In the matter of the loudly mourned and lately maligned Kimberley Kitching (read this by Guy Rundle), we do not know exactly what is alleged to have happened to her. Bullying in itself is not a specific allegation. If there had ever been a real complaint, it would have had to include innumerable boring details of times, places, devastating events. I know because I had to do it myself. If Kitching had made a formal complaint about bullying while alive there would have been an internal investigation, because Labor has processes in place to make that happen. I know because I've written about those very processes, and about the lack of those processes available to women in the Coalition. Let me remind you we are still waiting for the results of an investigation into what happened to Julia Banks during her end days as a Liberal politician. That was some time last decade.
I do know what bullying is not. It is not being dumped from the tactics committee of the Labor Party for the crime of leaking to the government. That's the most detailed thing I know about what happened to Kimberley Kitching. It's widely believed she leaked to both the government and to Murdoch papers with a regularity reserved for taps. Of course she would be booted off the tactics committee.
We know that the Senate leadership team of Penny Wong, Kristina Keneally and Katy Gallagher ditched her for that disloyalty. That, my friends, is experiencing the consequences of your actions. Kimberley Kitching might not have liked that (it cut off her access to information which she wielded as power) but it is not bullying.
Let me draw your attention to what the Fair Work Commission describes as bullying. Among other things, bullying is when a person or a group of people behaves unreasonably towards a worker. Behaves unreasonably. It would never be unreasonable to dump a worker who sabotaged your company, for example, an analogy not too far from the doorstep of someone who leaked against the ALP and was meant to be a loyal member. Managers need to be able to give feedback, says the FWC.
Now, the people boosting this false narrative are the usual suspects in the Murdoch media and in the Coalition. They are people who benefited from Kitching backgrounding against her own party. They are the opportunists who turned up at her funeral. And this appears to be exactly what some members of the Right faction of Victorian Labor want. This is so weird to me. I assumed they were all in this together, that the party would want to work together to beat the Coalition at the next election. But no. They are foregrounding about the way in which Kimberley Kitching was treated. No longer are they concentrating their efforts on defeating the party which would not race against COVID, race for vaccines, race for boosters, race for PPE. Instead, they are now racing to ensure their candidate replaces Kitching. I would not be at all surprised if these bullying allegations were not already in the backpack, waiting to be aired when preselection came up, well before Kitching was taken from us unexpectedly.
So, a bit about the poor woman who died unexpectedly last week in tragic circumstances. There is no question she had determination, that she would take on her projects and see them through. There is also no question she had loyalty to Bill Shorten, the failed former leader of the opposition who helped Kitching secure preselection for her Senate spot in 2016. It is true she was instrumental in successfully campaigning for a Magnitsky Act so Australia could join allies Britain, the US and Canada in imposing sanctions on human rights violators. But it is not true that the Magnitsky Act is why we can impose sanctions on Russia. That's because of another act introduced in 2011.
As Rawan Arraf, lawyer and executive director of the Australian Centre for International Justice, says, Australia's sanctions against Russia were imposed under individual country sanctions. The exact title is the Autonomous Sanctions (Import Sanctioned Goods-Russia) Designation 2022. Nothing to do with Magnitsky. Or Kitching.
We haven't used the Magnitsky Act yet, says Arraf. Mind you, even the government was "confused" about this.
Look, to be honest, I'd also be anxious about Labor's Senate leaders. Bright, imposing, ferocious. I think I would be too frightened to cheat on them. They all have don't-mess-with-me reputations, and I have journalistic colleagues who have been unhappily on the receiving end of firm feedback late into the night.
At the very latest, the election is eight weeks away (unless you count the September issue). As of Wednesday, only the Victorian Left has called for candidates for preselection for the Victorian seat of Holt, and for the now vacant Senate seat once held by Kitching. There are no Labor candidates yet for the NSW seats of Parramatta and Bennelong. The Liberals are even less organised, if that's possible, stuffed after months of chaotic infighting - although they've just preselected another bloke for Bennelong instead of Gisele Kapterian, a former Liberal staffer.
To be perfectly honest, I personally could live with another three years of a Coalition government. I have a partner, a home, satisfying work. Touch wood I don't have to rely on Centrelink (thank PJ Keating for superannuation and robust industry funds). The environment will last as long as I'm alive. I have Boomer-fuelled good fortune.
But the 20-odd million Australians younger than me don't have any of those luxuries. Let's talk about that instead.
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