Wednesday, 30 March 2022
Kitching, Senator Kimberley Jane Elizabeth
I rise today to honour the memory of the late Kimberley Kitching, Labor senator for Victoria. She was my friend, and I shall miss her, as will many people in this place. The first time that I met Kimberley was on a plane from Canberra to Melbourne in late 2016. My wife, Ruth, and my baby son, Jonathan, were with me, spread out across a row of seats. We were tired, still new to politics and bracing for the long journey back to Perth. In front of us, a beaming smile came up over the seat. It was paired with a soft giggle. A hello and introduction followed. It was Kimberley Kitching. Kimberley Kitching! I was confused. She was meant to be a tough, ruthless Labor factional warrior if you read the press and believed it, and here she was making friends with me and my family. But that was Kimba, as we called her: curious, warm, engaging and reaching out to people across the aisle or to the passenger in the seat behind.
There are many things I could say about Kimberley today, and much has already been said and written about the way she was treated by people in this place and the pressures she was feeling prior to her sudden passing. I don't intend to spend much time discussing that today. I want to focus on two of her qualities: her patriotism and her strength.
Kimberley was a patriot. She loved Australia and our people. But she was also a well-travelled lady. She had seen and known much of the world through her own eyes: foreign cities, cultures, climates, parliaments and governments. That experience expressed itself in different ways, from her love of French culture to her European greeting down at Aussies—the kiss on the cheek—which is still the most counterintuitive way to greet an opposition member in this place. She was cosmopolitan yet she believed that Australia was exceptional, a great nation that had risen to the many challenges it faced over history. Kimberley argued in her maiden speech that Australia is exceptional not because of a divine mandate or inherent qualities but because generations of Australians before us have made hard choices and hard sacrifices.
Individual agency was a real thing to her. People are faced with decisions every day. Dialectical and historical materialism, advocated by Karl Marx, was not her cup of tea. People have choices in life, and she believed that people built this country—our Westminster system, our institutions, our prosperity—by making the tough decisions in life. And she came to this place to continue that work as a patriot, and that was the basis of our political collaboration, alongside fellow Wolverines such as my good friend Senator James Paterson. We believed that we have a country worth defending, a democracy worth preserving and institutions worth protecting. We had differences of opinion of how that might happen, as you'd expect given our political differences and choices, but together we started with the premise that the Commonwealth of Australia must be sovereign—it must be territorially sovereign, it must be politically sovereign, it must be economically sovereign, it must be digitally sovereign and, most importantly, the parliament itself must be sovereign, free from foreign interference. That was our starting point, and that gave the Wolverines a big enough tent to work together on the toughest challenges over the past few years, whether it was tackling foreign interference, economic coercion, or pushing for the adoption of Magnitsky act. This partnership yielded results, and it's a reminder to me that the best politics will always involve principle, compromise and consensus.
As a Wolverine, Kimberley took more personal political risk than us, and she did so because she loved Australia and knew that working together would benefit our Commonwealth. She took the hard choice and made the hard sacrifice because she believed it was the right thing for Australia. It's hard to reach out across the aisle given the state of modern politics. It's not easy. So today I honour her for that in this chamber. The hard choices Kimberley made in this place, though, remind us that she was a strong woman. She was warm, she was friendly, she was thoughtful, she was kind—yes, all those things and more—but make no mistake; she was tough. She had a toughness fit for senior ministerial office. Politics is a contest, and she enjoyed the delight of political battle in this place. It takes strength to follow your convictions, to fight for them and to not take a backward step.
I often said to her: 'Kimba, one day you might have to kill me politically. Make sure you do it cleanly'! We were realistic about the limits to our political partnership. Yes, she was under pressure with her preselection. She told me that several times this year, especially after she had named Chau Chak Wing in Senate estimates. But, as I told her at the time: 'If anyone can fight their way out of a corner, Kimberley, it's you. You can prevail.' That's the sort of confidence her inner strength, buttressed by her Catholic faith, inspired in those who worked closely with her. Kimberley would find a way to get the job done. That's why her sudden death was such a blow to us. She had so much life, energy and drive, so much more to give this country. The strategic challenges we face as Australians are not going away, and we are poorer without Senator Kimberley Kitching holding the line in Parliament House. We will miss her smile and we will miss her courage, but we will take inspiration from her example, 'strong in will, to strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield'. Rest in peace.
I rise to give thanks for and acknowledge the life of Senator Kimberley Jane Elizabeth Kitching. In doing so, I want to place on record my deep sympathies to her husband, Andrew Landeryou, her parents, Bill and Leigh Kitching, and her brother, Ben, who was in my year at high school, and we graduated together in year 12. I knew Kimberley probably longer than most people in this parliament. I want to reflect on the words of the member for Canning, who spoke about Kimberley's wonderful attributes, her values. I want to reflect today about her personal life and her amazing sense of joy and fun, her joie de vivre.
I met Kimberley at university. We were particularly close around 30 years ago. I can remember exactly where we were standing at the University of Queensland refectory, which was where most political wheeling and dealing was done at the time. Kimberley was running for president of the student union, and I was, I guess, the campaign director for the Labor Right ticket. I wasn't particularly successful at university, but I've made up for it in lost time. Senator Murray Watt and Senator Jenny McAllister were running on the broad Left ticket, I guess. It has been said already that the right-wing candidate, or the Young Liberal candidate, for president was the member for Fairfax, Ted O'Brien. From that one political intervention you're seeing the careers of many, many people come to life. I remember signing Kimberley's ALP nomination form when she joined the Labor Party in Queensland, and that she was happy about joining a political party that would affect her life and affect the lives of many of us going forward. At university there was no-one who was more connected into political life on campus, whether it was through the UQLS, the University Queensland Law Society, the reviews that she starred in or the amazing connections she had through so many different cultural and social groups at university. It's not surprising, when we celebrated her life a couple of weeks ago at St Patrick's, that the whole place was full of connections that she'd made right throughout her life.
I want to begin my remarks by reflecting on what an amazing connector Kimberley was in bringing people together. From those humble beginnings, for her political life and her commitment to public service we know that she then left Queensland, and Queensland's loss was Victoria's gain. We then shared a number of intersections in our lives, and I always say that she was a part of my life for 30 years. We both ended up serving in local government as councillors: Kimberley was on the Melbourne City Council and I was on the Brisbane City Council. Her amazing ability to connect and to bring people together as a Melbourne city councillor and bring together those forces and work together across those multiparty and multifactional situations probably put her in very good stead to enter the national stage.
As a unionist through her work in advocating for some of the low-paid workers in this country, through her fierce advocacy to make sure that no-one was left behind, particularly in feminine industries—those industries that desperately needed representation—she was always a proud servant who made sure the little people were never left behind, and that was true of her entire life. Obviously, then with her entering the Senate, we reconnected, and I was so pleased and full of joy when she achieved her goal of recognition from the people of Victoria in serving in the Senate for the last five years. I've said before to a number of our mutual friends, particularly some of her deep, longstanding Queensland friends, that Kimberley was like a good, beautiful glass of champagne—it would have to be French champagne, of course! She was full of effervescence, full of bubbles, full of life, and you really wanted that glass of champagne to be continually filled up. You didn't want it to end; you always wanted to have one more taste.
The member for Canning said that she would always greet people with a kiss, and I counted four occasions in one day that she greeted me with a kiss! Some might think that's too much or a bit over the top. But now I think all of us who knew and loved Kimberley would do anything for one more kiss, one more greeting, because whenever you saw her, her face would be lit up and you would light up as well. She was infectious in terms of her impact in talking to people and meeting people. She had that sense of fun, and that sense of joy—there may have been things going on behind in the background, there may have been things that she carried that many of us didn't see but her close confidents knew—was contagious. With anyone you met, she would make you feel like you were the most important, precious person in the world, and very few people can do that—very few people can do that.
I want to acknowledge all of her friends that are grieving, particularly her close, close friends in Victoria. She and Andrew have an amazing sense of kinship and friendship. When you become friends with Kimberley and Andrew, you have a friend for life. That loyalty is not questioned. People like Bill and Chloe Shorten—and we've spoken about this in the parliament and obviously at her service—I know continue to grieve and will always grieve. The impact, the kindness, the beautiful stories we heard about the member for Canning's children, the attention to detail—I would always call Kimberley one of the one percenters for all the things she would remember; the anecdotes, all of those things, go to the rich tapestry of her life. And I do single out Bill and Chloe, who were probably some of her closest friends, and the amazing bond that she had with their children as well.
The second issue besides the joie de vivre of Kimberley Kitching I want to focus on was her amazing insight into travel, and this sums up a lot about Kimberley. I was privileged to be travelling with her on a number of delegations—and the Leader of the Opposition spoke about our trip to Taiwan, meeting with the President of Taiwan and the foreign minister, all in a day's stride. I was in that delegation, hiding at the back, worried about an international incident that I would cause, trying to lay low. It's hard for me to blend into a crowd, but I was trying to fit in. Kimberley's leading from the front, like she's known these people, and it was such a joy to see.
The other travels we did were to a war zone, and I'd always say, 'If you need to go into a war zone, always travel with Kimberley Kitching.' Travelling to Iraq on the parliamentary ADF trip with the member for Fisher and now Speaker, Andrew Wallace, was probably one of the best things I've done in my life. In giving acknowledgment and recognition to the men and women of the ADF, and, while obviously not from an ADF background, understanding the challenges of the Middle East, once again Kimberley shone in that forum. I pay tribute to the member for Fisher who has been, I know, deeply upset about the loss of his friend. But we will always have those memories that we shared together on those trips as well.
A lot's been said about her passion, her vision and her patriotism, but I wanted to reflect on my friend and the person that had meant so much to me for the last 30 years of my life. I will deeply miss her as a confidant and as someone who I shared a number of years of friendship and camaraderie with, and I will deeply miss her for the rest of my life.
My remarks reflecting on this tragedy will be brief only because reflections on a friendship of nearly 20 years with the late Senator Kimberley Kitching are always poor cousins to those with family or partisan relationships. The many times we spent abroad could draw comment, but Instagram captures the sharing of pomegranate juice, the visiting of refugee camps to ensure children are getting an education or the finding of a ceramic bowl from Jerusalem's Armenian Quarter better than I could articulate.
As a friend for so long, it remains an oddity that some of the least time that Kimberley and I spent together was when we were in this place, merely separated by corridors and a reflective pool. Like many who serve in the federal parliament, we park our relationships for our work, and it's also a reminder to all of us that sometimes we need to pause and remember that there may not be a tomorrow. I won't remark on the many allegations of the behaviour of others preceding her passing beyond observing that, sadly, many of them rang true from our conversations.
Kimberley was an extraordinary person and somebody I had the enormous privilege to know for a very long period of time. There were many times when her bright eyes and intoxicating conversation could constitute its own champagne, exactly as was remarked by previous members. This was only to be followed, as her eyes narrowed, with a sudden directness in her lips and questions that demanded a sober and substantive response. That was the wonderful yin and yang of Kimberley's personality. She had the depth of her substance coupled with the breakthrough effervescence of her laughter. It was balanced with a beaming glamour that she always brought to the room, with the piercing directness of her blue eyes that could bring you to heel. The truth is I never wanted to be her enemy, and thankfully never was. But to those who always stood by her and were her friend, she gave the most incredible loyalty, and I respect that immensely.
In his eulogy, the member for Maribyrnong ensured Labor laid claim to Kimberley's legacy, lest some on the Left, perhaps, may not choose to do so. And there are some, on both sides, who probably feel sometimes that Kimberley could have found her home in our party room. Just for clarity, I don't agree with that—even though she once handed out a how-to-vote card that argued in favour of voting for myself!
With reluctance, I do disagree with the proposition she was anything other than Labor. She stood out because she was the best of Labor. As her husband, Andrew, said in his eulogy:
She exemplified the courage and creativity that we all say we want from candidates for public office but on all sides we too often shun both, favouring useful idiots, obedient nudniks and bland time-servers.
I would add that Kimberley's courage and conviction didn't exist except for the fact that she had core belief. And this, of course, is the Kimberley that I knew in all her complexity.
It's standard in the Venn diagram of the political landscape that the overlap is the centre between ideological extremes; whereas Kimberley was at the centre of a different plain, where the overlap was those who understood public service meant putting Australia first. It's fitting that the Prime Minister announced the first Magnitsky sanctions. The House, in tribute to her legacy, is a reflection of her contribution to these important laws, but it's also a reminder that her legacy lives and will continue to endure.
So to her parents, Leigh and Bill, her devoted husband, Andrew, and her loyal dog, Nancy-Jane, who will wait by the door for many days yet: our hearts and our love goes to you. When a house loses a parliamentarian, we salve the loss through soothing speeches. When a party loses a warrior, that torch of liberty or light on the hill can perhaps flicker a little less bright. But when a nation loses a rare patriot, the loss is to our collective moral courage. And that is the loss we share with Kimberley's passing. May she rest in peace.
While I've enjoyed listening to the contributions of the member for Goldstein, the member for Canning and the member for Oxley about Kimberley Kitching's life today, I must say that it is a grim duty for members of this parliament to speak on this motion before the House.
The sudden death of Kimberley Kitching at just 52 years of age is a profound human tragedy. Those of us in this building are still feeling the shock keenly, less than a month after the terrible news, and those of us who knew her, from across the political spectrum, are in mourning at this terrible human loss. While Kimberley was a public figure and is being mourned publicly, amidst the media coverage and the controversy, we cannot lose sight of the personal tragedy being experienced by everyone who knew Kimberley.
My thoughts, first, are with her partner, Andrew, who spoke so powerfully at her funeral. I don't know how he managed it. I can't imagine the pain that he's experiencing, and I know that I would not have been able to speak so movingly. My thoughts are, similarly, with her parents, Bill and Leigh, and her brother, Ben, who are so obviously deeply proud of everything that she had achieved, as well as having deeply loved her as a daughter and sister.
My thoughts too are with that unique form of political family, Senator Kitching's staff. I have spoken before in this House about the uniquely intimate relationship between staff and members and senators in this building. It's a close bond. I have experienced the death of a much loved staff member, and I know that my office experienced that as the loss of a family member. And I know that Kimberley's staff will be experiencing this keen loss too at the moment.
For those of us in this building, Kimberley wasn't a caricature that you sometimes read about in media representations. We knew Kimberley as a person, as a human being, with all of the complexity of human relationships that that entails. She loved poetry, and, to paraphrase Walt Whitman, she 'contained multitudes'. It is fair to say that Kimberley and I had a complex relationship at times. We ran against each other for preselection and later became parliamentary colleagues fighting for the same cause. That makes for the kind of relationship that is unique in politics.
Politics is inherently a contest of both people and ideas. What those outside of politics sometimes don't understand, though, is that sometimes this contest occurs between people trying to achieve the same ultimate outcome. Along the years, Kimberley and I sometimes had different views on preliminary tactics. While we were at times political rivals, always underlying this was the fact that I fundamentally agreed with her on the big issues. In politics you can judge people by the fights they get into. I was reflecting on the member for Oxley's contribution about travelling with Kimberley on a delegation and not wanting to cause an international incident. I can report to the House that I travelled on a delegation with Kimberley Kitching and the now member for Goldstein and the former Speaker, Bronwyn Bishop, where we did cause an international incident! I won't detain the House by going over the details of that again, but it was a constant risk when travelling with Kimberley because she got into the fights that mattered.
When the history of this period is written, it will show that Kimberley was in all of the most important political fights of our generation. In this way, the times suited her. I have spoken many times in this chamber about the moment that we live in and the need for the current generation of political leaders to champion democratic values and freedom in the face of a rising authoritarian threat both abroad and at home. The democracy needed a new generation of advocates—like Kennedy and Reagan in the US, Curtin and Chifley in Australia. Kimberley was a fierce champion of freedom and democratic values. She understood that the sacred mission of Labor politics throughout the 20th century endured into the present, and that is that we fight fascists. She understood that democracy isn't just a worthy ideal, it is the foundation of the material wellbeing of the working people that we seek to represent. She understood, too, that those who would deny freedom and democracy at home and abroad must be confronted by the labour movement and by the Australian Labor Party as its political standard bearer in this country. Kimberley didn't just champion freedom and democracy as ideas, she wasn't interested in being part of a debating society; she championed causes to deliver outcomes in the real world. And you could see the living embodiment of these fights in the people who attended her funeral—Tibetans, Uygurs, Hong Kong democracy activists, Chinese dissidents, human rights campaigners, Afghan refugees. They were a living legacy of her advocacy.
I have previously spoken in this chamber about Kimberley's role in delivering an Australian Magnitsky sanctions regime. She was an advocate for the cause long before it was claimed by both sides of politics. Over the years I attended many meetings for this cause that she arranged with the movement's founder, Bill Browder, and other advocates. She first won the Labor caucus and the shadow ministry over to the cause and maintained the pressure on the government to act through a private member's bill. She then gave the government an on-ramp to get onboard cause through a parliamentary inquiry which allowed a bipartisan consensus to emerge among the committee members. And now Australia has legislated its own Magnitsky sanctions regime, and this week we imposed our first sanctions on a collection of figures associated with that thuggish Putin autocracy and its repulsive, illegal invasion of Ukraine.
Kimberley's work to make a Magnitsky sanctions regime a reality in Australia was a worthy legacy that has never been more timely and important. It was an achievement that led her to being awarded that Sergei Magnitsky Human Rights Award in 2001, which has been won by figures like John McCain and Alexei Navalny. But we should understand that this was an award borne of Kimberley's political skills. If nothing else, we should honour Kimberley's legacy by remembering her as a political warrior. It was those political skills that enabled her to achieve her Magnitsky legacy in this parliament. She wasn't a protester, she wasn't an opinion columnist; she was someone who caught to make change through politics It's the noble cause that leads us all to this parliament. She was someone who got into the arena and fought for things and for the people she believed in. None of this was easy. It required courage and endurance.
Kimberley's husband, Andrew, couldn't have summed it up better than when he quoted from William Ernest Henley's Invictus at her funeral service:
In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.
People like Kimberley do not go into politics because it is easy or glorious; they go into politics and endure the contest because of what can be achieved when the contest is won. Kimberley Kitching has an impact during her brief time in this place and will leave a lasting legacy. She will encourage a current generation of political leadership, and the future generations of political leadership that follow, to be full-floated in their defence of freedom and democracy in the face of the rising authoritarian threat that our generation now confronts. She leaves this parliament bloodied but unbowed.
Fine words, Member for Gellibrand, fine words. To those who have previously contributed to this motion, I also commend them for their frankness and their raw emotion. Kimberley Kitching was a very, very special person. I can well recall not that long ago, when I was the Deputy Prime Minister, coming back from doing the morning media and Kimberley went to pass me in the corridor, stopped, propped, lent forward, gave me a peck on the cheek and went in one of the media studios and rubbished the government. Then, later on, we bumped into one another at Aussies and she said, 'Did you see what I said about your government?' I said, 'Yes, Kimberley.' She said, 'No personal offence.' I said, 'None taken.' That was the sort of person she was. I don't think any other Labor member has ever caught me in the corridor and given me a peck on the cheek. That's the sort of vivacious person she was. She was a beautiful person.
When I saw on social media that night about her death, I remarked to my wife, Catherine, 'Kimberley Kitching has passed away.' My wife said: 'She was always smiling. She was always happy.' We messaged our daughter, Georgina, who is a schoolteacher in Melbourne. Georgina and Kimberley had some good moments together at various events in Melbourne, not least the Melbourne Cup. Georgina was very moved. If you go down the streets of any country town or, indeed, urban area in Australia and ask people the names of three upper house members of parliament, they'd be, quite frankly—and I mean this with all due respect—hard pressed to name three upper house members unless they are ministers or prominent members of parliament. But a lot of people knew Kimberley Kitching. They knew her for her human rights advocacy. They knew her, as the member for Gellibrand has just very accurately summed up and articulately said, for her passion as a political warrior for the right causes.
I went to a function in Wagga Wagga recently to celebrate the Tibetans of our town, and Kimberley's name came up. That was something which really struck me. She had so much of an effect—and a good effect—on so many people. She was taken at the age of 52. Only the good die young. With all due respect, Deputy Speaker Dick, you and I will be around for quite a while yet. I don't mean to reflect on the chair. I don't! But 52 is way too young. Today we have the state memorial for Shane Warne. This is just so heartbreaking. Our nation has lost two of its finest.
Kimberley Kitching came into the parliament, chosen by Victoria to represent her state, in October 2016. At the requiem funeral mass held in St Patrick's Cathedral in Melbourne on 21 March, just over a week ago, Chloe Shorten, a good friend of hers and a good friend of many of ours and the wife of the former Leader of the Opposition and current member for Maribyrnong, read from the Book of Proverbs. She said:
Who can find a virtuous woman? For her price is far above rubies.
The reading went on:
She opens her mouth with wisdom and on her tongue is the law of kindness.
That is a very appropriate passage of the farewell for Kimberley Kitching, because Kimberley's humour, her personality, her demeanour, her work ethic and her attitude all spoke of the value of this woman to so many.
It's rare that somebody has touched so many across the aisle. I get on, I'd like to think, with most Labor members. You don't realise what good people they are until you go on a committee with them, go on a journey with them, as part of the parliamentary process. Kimberley was that next level of special. She truly was. I can well remember going on a delegation on the USS Ronald Reagan. It was a special trip. It was July 2019, and MPs and senators across the political divide went on that vessel. On the delegation we were joined by Christian Porter, the member for Pearce; Senator Scott Ryan; Mark Dreyfus, the member for Isaacs; Senator Kristina Keneally; and Senator James Paterson. Kimberley was there, and when I looked at the photo the other day, she was front and centre—as she always was. She was there. She was joining the dots between the various political machinations and factions, and she was there with that big beaming smile that she always had.
I was quite touched by the fact that her husband, Andrew, reached out to me after her passing to say that he and Kimberly's staff were contacting those people who were in her diaries—those who she had a special affinity with. I was on that list. That really touched me. I don't often get too emotional, but that brought a tear to me eye. To think that I was in that celebrated company who she thought were quite special really meant a lot to me.
One only needs to read through or listen to the many tributes offered to Kimberley following her death, from so many people and so many walks of life, to know what a special person we've lost. She entered parliament and commenced her campaign for the Magnitsky act so that Australia could join its allies in imposing sanctions on human rights violators. What an amazing legacy she leaves.
All too often in parliament, when you have the passing of someone you stand for a moment's silence, perhaps speeches are given by the Prime Minister and opposition leader and it's referred to the Federation Chamber. I appreciate that they do the same in the Senate. That MP is remembered by their family and friends going forward, but the parliament moves on. Our busy work for and on behalf of the Australian public moves on. Maybe the politician served a long time, maybe not. Maybe they had a huge impact. Maybe they just served for a short time. The parliament moves on. But Kimberley Kitching's legacy will filter through this place for as long as this place is here. She will be remembered as somebody very, very special. She will not be forgotten. Others have come through this place, spent their time and moved on. They'll be remembered, yes, by their communities and by their loved ones. Yes, Kimberley Kitching will be remembered by her community, her state and her loved ones, but also by this parliament for the work she achieved and for the downtrodden she fought for. I think that that is very, very special.
My thoughts, prayers and sympathies go to her family, her extended family and to the Labor family. I know you've lost a lot with Senator Alex Gallagher and Kimberley, and my heart goes out to you. It's a dreadful thing when colleagues pass away—certainly when they pass away before their time and before their work is done. May she rest in peace.
The last time I saw Kimberley Kitching, she was in full flight. We were at the John Curtin Research Centre Gala Dinner. Curtin was a figure who made sense to Kimberley: principled, visionary, strong on defence, and Labor to the core—all qualities that Kimberley Kitching embodied. But that's not what I remember about that night. I remember Kimberley working the room in a sparkling number. She was absolutely in her element. In a crowded room, filled with comrades, sipping on a glass of wine and talking about matters of state, Kimberley was smiling and animated in every conversation, cheekily grinning, as she always did, charming those surrounding her with in-depth analysis on Ukraine, China, the economy, the federal election—on any topic, really. Only a week later, I received a call that shook me to my core. Kimberley was my friend, and I'll miss her. But, to be honest, Kimberley was more than that. She was someone I deeply admired, and that's something I didn't tell her enough.
Kimberley Kitching was probably the toughest person in this parliament. She was a force. Unafraid of being outnumbered, Kimberley did what she thought was right—always. She was a democrat: deeply passionate about the cause of democracy in Australia and around the world. She was never afraid to stray beyond our borders to take up causes of forgotten or voiceless people. She would take on dictators in authoritarian regimes and not blink an eye. Kimberley was not afraid. She was an activist in the truest of Labor traditions.
People have spoken of her skilled pursuit of the Magnitsky laws in Australia. I remember getting a call from Kimberley inviting me to a Zoom she'd organised with the great Bill Browder to talk about the proposed laws. In true Kitching style, it was a bipartisan group when I arrived on the Zoom, because Kimberley knew that this wasn't going to pass with Labor alone. After the meeting, Kimberley organised signed copies of Bill's book for the members and senators. She knew that creating a real connection with the cause was essential. It was skilful; it was graceful; it was smart politics; and it worked. Magnitsky is now being used, just as Kimberley imagined. Russia's invasion of Ukraine is an affront to everything Kimberley stood for: freedom, sovereignty and democracy, and I'm sure she would be quietly satisfied with Australia's strength and powers, knowing that she was the one who helped create them.
Kimberley played politics hard, but she always navigated through the day-to-day with the good fun, humour and charm that made her fantastic company. When she first came into this place she had a lot of doubters and detractors, especially on the government's side of the House. But so many of those detractors were at her funeral last week, mourning her loss genuinely and sincerely.
Closer to home, Kimberley cared about Macnamara, or, as it was previously known, Melbourne Ports—an electorate in which she'd lived and been a local Labor Party delegate and a Caulfield Branch executive member. She loved the Caulfield Branch. She would come back and be a guest speaker at least once a year, and she'd tell anyone who listened what a special and diverse branch it was. In fact, I remember when she told me she'd suggested to News Corp columnist Chris Kenny that he should join her at one of the Caulfield Branch meetings one day. Apparently, it was because Chris Kenny had said that he imagined all Labor Party meetings would be filled with communists and socialists, so she'd said she'd prove him wrong by introducing him to one in suburban inner-south Melbourne, filled with Holocaust survivors and their descendants and those who fled Soviet-era Russia, rather than those radical socialists that Chris Kenny had imagined. I have to admit, I was a little relieved when Mr Kenny decided not to come to the branch. But it did show that Kimberley was keen to show off our little corner of the world to anyone who would listen. Kimberley saw the beauty in Macnamara, or Melbourne Ports, and especially in some of the hidden nooks where some of Melbourne's most disadvantaged people live.
When I became the Labor candidate, Kimberley did everything she could to help me win. She stood on pre-poll booths, came for door-knocks and steered the 'Bill bus' into town. After my election, she continued to serve on Macnamara's campaign machine with ongoing advice and assistance to help keep Macnamara out of the hands of the Liberals and the Greens. She loved every corner of our special part of Melbourne, from Port Melbourne and Albert Park to St Kilda and Elwood, and across to my home in Caulfield, where she too once lived.
She was unflinchingly passionate about the Jewish community. Kimberley deplored anti-Semitism and loved the State of Israel, in the mould of Labor luminaries like Doc Evatt, Bob Hawke and Julia Gillard. One day she called me and suggested that we run a join advertisement in the Jewish News and that she was happy to pay for it, and I said, 'Sure.' Only after agreeing did I learn that she hadn't booked one ad; she'd booked a full-page ad for a whole month to run in every edition. And that was Kimberley.
She stood her ground and made her points emphatically. She loved politics. She loved the cause of Labor. She loved the Senate, and she believed in the great Australian Labor Party.
She can't be with us on election day or the government benches, but we can win this election in the fighting spirit that she embodied. Kimberley would want us to stand our ground, to remain strong and principled and to remain true to the Labor traditions of democracy, solidarity and representation for Australia's working people.
Finally, I want to conclude by wishing my deepest condolences to her family: her parents, Bill and Leigh; her brother, Ben; and most of all, her soulmate, Andrew. If she was formidable enough solo, the two of them were truly meant to be in politics together. Andrew was unflinchingly dedicated to his wife, and Kimberley to him, a true partnership of love and loyalty. Kimberley was loved, and she loved in return.
On behalf of the people of Macnamara, with special mention of her dear friends in her community, including my dear friend Dr Adam Carr, the Pinskier clan, Henry, Marcia, Abby, Rebecca and Jake, Dr Nick Dyrenfurth, Michael Borowick, Dean Sherr, Sylvia Freeman and, of course, my predecessor Michael Danby and Amanda and many, many more, we send our love to Andrew, her family, her loyal staff, and with a heavy heart we say rest in peace to our dear friend, Kimba.
I want to acknowledge the member for Macnamara on his fine contribution and also all of the many other fine testaments to our friend and our colleague Kimberley. It is a sad moment to be back here in parliament without Kimberley. I want to reflect on her achievements and legacy. Many have spoken about her various and significant achievements, but I'll just focus on some of the areas where our work intersected, primarily in defence matters, foreign policy and humanitarian action, and, in particular, that shambolic withdrawal out of Afghanistan and work to retrieve people and to save the lives of the people of Kabul.
Kimberley was always a very strong supporter of the Australian Defence Force and the defence forces of our allies. She wanted to understand deeply the work of the ADF and the struggles and sacrifices of our serving personnel and our veterans. She was a frequent and active participant in our Defence Force parliamentary program, travelling to the Middle East on several occasions: 2017, 2018, 2019. I'm sure, if it weren't for COVID, she would have kept going over to the Middle East because she wanted to learn more. She wanted to hear the experiences of our defence personnel on the ground so that we could make sure that our support was as good as it possibly could be and that we were making sensible decisions in the national interest.
Kimberley had wanted very much to come to Darwin to participate in Operation Resolute through that parliamentary program, and we often talked about it. Unfortunately, she never had that opportunity, but she always made me know, as she had with many others, how important the work in their electorate for national security and the defence of our nation was and that she wanted to know as much as she possibly could. She would be very interested to know that Admiral John Aquilano, the Commander of the USINDOPACOM, or the US Indo-Pacific Command, had been in Australia and in Darwin recently. It's a visit that Kimberley would have very much appreciated. She did so much for our relationship with our allies the United States, and I know that our American friends very much appreciated her and her solidarity and intellect.
Kimberley was the co-chair of the Parliamentary Friends of the United States, and she did a wonderful job in that role, being a great advocate for strengthening and deepening that important relationship. Of course, soon we'll have a new ambassador from the United States, the formidable Caroline Kennedy. Kimberley would have been such an important and effective representative to the new ambassador of not only our party but also this parliament.
Kimberley believed, as I do, that our nation is extraordinary, that it's exceptional, and she spent every day in this place fighting to make Australia live up to our great potential. She said in her first speech to the Senate back in November 2016:
In this parliament, we must proudly make the case for Australian exceptionalism. Australia is not exceptional because we have been divinely mandated, or because of some inherent quality unasked and unearned; Australia is exceptional precisely because generations of Australians have made hard choices and hard sacrifices.
For all her vast policy interests and advocacy, Kimberley never lost sight of why she came to Canberra in the first place. And that is what makes her Labor. In her first speech, she said:
I come here to represent everyday Australian people: the working Australians, the families, the students, the hospital cleaners, the retail workers, the mortgage holders, the renters, the mums and dads, the 4 am shift workers, the nurses, the police, the firefighters and the factory workers.
I think that's a good reminder for all of us of why we are here and who we are ultimately working for. Ultimately, what I remember most about Kimberley is conversations when we were both talking to people on the ground in Kabul, or at the Pakistani border, within the ADF and within the US chain of command, trying to get people to safety who were in desperate need and, in some cases, being hunted. She was 'in the thick of it', as well described by the member for Maribyrnong, Bill Shorten, and others—she was getting after it, saving lives. I remember her beaming smile and her energy. I was glad to have the opportunity to tell that to Andrew when we gathered to dedicate a rosary to our departed sister Kimberley. May eternal light shine upon her.
In her first speech to parliament on 9 November 2016, Kimberley Kitching described herself as 'a swimmer thrown in the deep end'. She was somebody who brought a powerful voice to the Labor caucus. It has to be said that she was from quite a different part of the Labor Party than me. She came from the crucible of factional Victorian politics; I'm an independent from the ACT. She named her dogs after Ronald Reagan and his wife, she was a member of the Wolverines, and she was an unabashed defender of Israel. Yet I greatly admired her and enjoyed her company. I shared her passion for the Labor Party, for workers' rights, and for ridding the world of prejudice. I loved the way she expressed what it is to be a trade union leader in her very first speech. She said:
I will never forget the call I got from a mother of four, a union member whose supervisor had unilaterally imposed a roster change without notice. She was sobbing in despair; she could barely get the words out. English was not her first language, but the agony and the desperation in her voice did not need words. The change in roster meant she would no longer be able to pick up her kids. And if she could not hold down her job she would not be able to feed them. On the other end of the line, I did what union reps do all over the country every day: I listened, I reassured and I promised to use every bit of strength the union had to solve her problem. And we did.
And in that first speech to parliament Kimberley spoke too about the importance of ensuring that what she called 'the peddlers of prejudice' could not 'deceive Australians against their own interests'. So yes, I shared much in common, in a values sense, with her.
But I also loved being in a political party that has the breadth of somebody with Kimberley's views and somebody with my views. That's what it is to be a party of government. And the longer I serve in the Labor caucus the more I enjoy and admire that diversity. A party of government must be a broad church.
Kimberley was a wonderful person to be around. There are so many others who have said that. She had a love of champagne and she had a sparkling wit. And she was, I think, the best French speaker in the parliament. That's gone and, with it, the opportunity for me to pull out my very worst high-school French and add it to whatever interchange we were having by text message or Christmas card or in person. She's left an extraordinary legacy: the work that she did on the Magnitsky laws; her passionate, personal efforts to get people out of Afghanistan as the regime suddenly fell; and her work in Senate estimates, which broke several significant stories.
As Bill Shorten has so beautifully put it, Senate estimates was, for Kimberley, like running onto the MCG. I can only imagine the pain that her parents, Leigh and Bill, and her brother, Ben, will be feeling, the pain too of those who were especially close to her—yourself, Deputy Speaker Dick, and Bill Shorten, who spoke so movingly at her funeral and in the parliament—and, of course, her husband, Andrew Landeryou. As Bill put it in his eulogy, 'We're all in the blast zone of Kimberley's loss, but Andrew Landeryou is at ground zero.' It's that pain that we understand, acknowledge and know, no matter how the effluxion of time, will never be truly healed.
Andrew, just know that Kimba made a big impact on so many of us in a personal sense and in a policy sense. She was a true and treasured part of the Labor caucus, and she will be dearly missed.
It's been a few weeks now that have passed and I'm still in a kind of state of shock about the death of my colleague and, more importantly, my friend Kimberley Kitching. It hasn't really sunk in, in many respects, because Kimba was so full of life—so full of it that I still expect her to walk around the corner or to see her in the corridors here in parliament. She was so full of life. She was so full of ideas, of insights, of laughter, of fun—in some respects, a rarity not just in politics but in life. She was mischievous, vivacious and charming, and she was such great company.
When my wife and I returned to Melbourne in 2010, after spending many years away—partly overseas and interstate—we met up with Kimberley and Andrew. Our first dinner together was all very interesting. There was discussion about Latin and discussions about the Roman Senate. I said, 'This won't do.' I said to Kimberley and Andrew, 'Have you seen The Big Lebowski, the movie?' and they hadn't. So she was lacking a little bit of that popular culture. I said, 'That's it. We're going to take you—
An ho nourable senator interjecting—
Exactly! I said, 'Enough of talking about the Roman Senate and Cicero. We're going to watch The Big Lebowski. So we took Andrew and Kimba to the very famous Astor Theatre. I don't know if you've been there. It's a beautiful Art Deco theatre. I knew Kimberley would love it because of the architectural design and aesthetic beauty of that theatre, and its age and history.
It just so happened that on the night we went to The Big Lebowski at the Astor Theatre it was one of those specials where everybody got dressed up as the characters. There were a lot of people there, either dressed up as German nihilists in black or like Jeff Bridges' character, Lebowski, in the poncho. And she had the most wonderful time. I think Andrew was a bit bemused by the whole thing but Kimba just loved it. I think she was secretly hoping that if she'd known she would have worn the poncho herself. She would have looked great in that, given her fashion sense. She would have made it work.
Over the years, in a friendship over a decade since that time, I knew someone who was intellectually formidable, courageous and strident in articulating her views, and so generous with her friends. Kimba would have been more than aware of the Keatingesque axiom that if you don't make enemies in politics you're not doing it right. She would have known that.
On the day that she passed I was actually scheduled to give her a call, to chat to her about my recent trip to the US with the PJCIS security and intelligence and security committee delegation that I was on with her friend Senator James Paterson. I never had the opportunity to have that conversation with her. She would have been so interested in all of the foreign policy and national security issues that we discussed over there on the trip, what was happening in Washington, all the inside information on what's going on in the Biden administration. She would have been revelling in it. I was really looking forward to that conversation with Kimberley, about that trip, over a coffee or maybe a glass of champagne if it was later in the day. These are issues that we've discussed together over many, many years, over the decade and a bit that I've known her. And I still can't believe I won't have those conversations with her again. I can't believe I won't hear her laughter; I can't believe that I won't see her friendly smile again, or even have the opportunity just to get stuck into those policy issues that we both cared so much about.
A lot of us as politicians in this place talk about legacy, or even the lack of legacy, in governing, in our decision-making and in our careers. I tell you what: while Kimba never got to serve—will never have the chance to serve—in a federal Labor government that she so wanted to be a part of, she nonetheless leaves a remarkable legacy. It is all the more outstanding and remarkable for the fact that she delivered a legacy from opposition, from her role as an opposition senator. Her commitment and persistence in pushing the Magnitsky-style laws that we've talked about in these condolences through our parliament, as we've heard, won her international recognition and human rights awards. But I think, for her, more important than any award in London—although she would have loved the party—would have been the fact that she has made a real difference to our democracy, in the sense of the contest that democracies around the world are having with authoritarian states. That is a legacy. That is of substance. I think she would be so proud of that—and it is of the time, given the inflection point we're in, in global affairs, that she had, as an individual, this kind of impact. It includes the sanctions that we've just now imposed on individuals, through Magnitsky legislation, across the world, in so many different instances. The swifter and better-targeted response from the Australian government to international crimes and human rights abuses is in no small measure because of Senator Kimberley Kitching's work and effort to get those laws passed.
She will be missed, as we've said, both as a friend and, for us, as a colleague, across the aisle and in all parts of this parliament. It didn't matter which party you were from; she had friends. It didn't matter whether you were an independent or a Green or a Liberal or a National. She's going to be missed by all of us, but she's also going to be missed by this parliament because of her work and her substance, and she's going to be missed by this country. I think of all of the opportunities missed that she would have contributed to, in what are very uncertain times that we face. We mourn her loss as a friend, but we mourn her loss to the country as well, in the contribution that she would have made. But we'll keep and hold on tight to her legacy, and I think it's incumbent upon all of us to continue that work in her memory so that it's not in vain.
My heart and my deepest condolences go out to her husband, Andrew Landeryou, and to all of her family. Andrew's life was completely wrapped around Kimberley. It was a real love story. They were inseparable; they were part of each other; they circled each other like two suns in a dual solar system, and he's lost his sunshine, in many respects. So my heart goes out to Andrew, and I think he needs a lot of love and care around him as well after losing a lifelong partner.
Vale, Kimberley. You were a warrior and a champion for just causes, for freedom, for democracy and for human rights, and we will not forget you, and we will carry on your legacy.
I join with many others in this place, and in the other place, to speak on the motion of condolence on the death of Senator Kimberley Kitching. I first met Kimberley when she arrived in this building as a senator of the parliament in 2016. I, along with a few others here today, had been elected to the House of Representatives only a few months earlier. It's always difficult to understand the death of someone so young. Kimberley died at the age of 52. I turn 49 tomorrow, so this puts things in a particular and special perspective.
I really want to offer my sincere condolences to Andrew, her husband; to her parents, Bill and Leigh; and to her brother, Ben. I had the opportunity to speak with them and listen to some stories from them following the decade of the rosary that was said at St Patrick's Cathedral in Melbourne recently on the eve of her funeral in that same place. One can hardly imagine the pain Andrew is going through, or one simply can't imagine it. I have been married for over 20 years, and to lose your life partner so suddenly is unimaginable. I cannot imagine what he's going through. To her brother: I have brothers, too. It's a difficult and, again, unimaginable circumstance—and, of course, for her parents, Bill and Leigh. Bill told a number of stories at the front of the cathedral, these stories we all share to help relieve our pain and be able to relive our memories of a wonderful woman that was Kimberley, and for her parents that must have been especially painful. So I thank them for the gift they gave us in Kimberley, for having raised her—and what an amazing life she led before I met her, with the opportunities her parents gave her to travel the world, to learn languages, to have such a vast experience. It was of immense value to everyone that knew her but especially to those of us in this place.
I want to acknowledge, also, the Queenslanders and Victorians in this place and elsewhere, of course, who knew Kimberley much better than I knew her. They had been a part of her life forever and she part of theirs, and it's very important to acknowledge their sadness at this time—and, of course, that of her old friends Bill Shorten and Chloe Shorten, who of course had been with her and beside her in many circumstances for many years. I'd like to acknowledge the commitment of Kimberley's staff. They really are a remarkable team. Maree, Jordan, Hanisha and David were absolutely committed to Kimberley and her causes as well, and we're all very well aware of the causes that Kimberley followed and pursued. She would—and I wouldn't dare speak for Kimberley even when she was alive—have acknowledged that she could not have done her work without them, and I thank you for all you did for Kimberley and the support you offered her in challenging times.
Much has been said about Kimberley's life and about her contribution to this parliament. For my part, I have learnt more about her following her sudden death than I learnt in our short five years of friendship. That is at once the sadness and joy of this place and of being an elected member of parliament. The joy is that you get to meet people you might never expect to meet but for being brought together to represent the Australian people. You make new friendships with people from right across the country, from different walks of life, with many different experiences, different perspectives and, of course, different life stories. The sadness is, of course, that you meet people here but you don't get to know them as well as you might like to because each of us have to return to our constituencies all the time. We have other obligations, and busy lives undertaken all around the country keep us from knowing one another better.
Shortly after hearing about Kimberley's death I wrote on social media that I considered Kimberley a steadfast and supportive colleague, smart, hardworking, dedicated, funny and fun to be around. I wish I had told her that, but we always wish for what we cannot have when it is all too late. I enjoyed her company immensely. Everyone has remarked on her mischievous giggle and her remarkable smile, and it is true to say that she did brighten the room, any room, every time she walked into it. She was one of the smartest people I've met, and many people have remarked on her remarkable ability with languages. The work she did in international relations was immense. Her work and persistence pursuing the Magnitsky-style legislation that's now been enacted in this parliament and been used will be a lasting legacy of hers. Her active five years in parliament put many of us to shame. I feel exhausted just listening to the speeches about her and all that she achieved. It's truly a magnificent and lasting legacy of Senator Kimberley Kitching.
For my part, I'd like to acknowledge the help she provided me with Senate estimates. Not many people tune in to the Trade part of the Senate estimates—shocking, I know! It's usually held at six or eight o'clock on a Thursday night, and I rely greatly on senators like Kimberley and Senator Tim Ayres to pursue and hold the government to account in that portfolio of international trade, which is so important to our nation. Kimberley would grab my questions and was really enthusiastic about them at a time of day, and during a process of the Senate estimates, which was unenviable, not very attractive and not very high profile. I'm very grateful for the assistance that she and her office always gave me. I will miss our briefings on the day before Senate estimates. It was always good to have 'a partner in crime' on that type of portfolio with Kimberley.
Many things have been said about Kimberley's experience in this place and in her political life. And many things have been said about this place over the last couple of years—the behaviours that we see in and around it. When these discussions come up, I take it as an opportunity to reflect on my own behaviour and I hope everyone else does as well. There are many things that one needs to achieve in this place—your own personal aims but also those of the party—for the good of the people you represent. How we go about achieving these things is as important as achieving them. It is a contest. Everyone has remarked that we sit at the pinnacle of power in this country. It's a hard and passionate contest at times, and sometimes we may behave in ways we shouldn't.
I've taken this time to reflect and wonder if, in my ambitions and the things I'm trying to achieve, I have ever overstepped a mark, said something I shouldn't have or perhaps been a bit pushy when I shouldn't have. I think it's important that we all enter those moments of self-reflection at these times. I hope that we get the feedback we need when we carry out our work and try to treat each other with great respect. I believe everyone does do that, but sometimes you don't know when you're not. Some people need to get that reminder; they might not personally be doing it, but self-reflection is enormously important. I say that in relation to discussions that've been had about Kimberley's experience.
Kimberley is now with God; in His arms she rests. It doesn't seem to me, having known Kimberley for a short time, that she would ever rest in life or in death. I can only imagine her running around heaven trying to track down the late, great US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright for another remarkable discussion about the dangers of fascism around the world and what we must all do to contest it. That is how I like to think about death. I think it's naive, but, as someone of the Catholic faith, I believe in another life after this life and I know Kimberley did as well. She lived her best life while she had it. It ended too early. I'm deeply sad about that. I offer my condolences to her family, all her friends and all who knew her much better than me. She was very well-loved. Vale, Kimberley Kitching.
Our hearts go out to Kimberley's husband, Andrew; her parents, Leigh and Bill; her brother, Ben; Bill Shorten, the member for Maribyrnong, his wife, Chloe, and their kids; and Kimberley's staff and family. We thank Andrew, Leigh, Bill and Ben for giving Kimberley to all of us.
We Labor moderates are in deep shock. I can remember my staff telling me the news of Kimberley's passing when I came back to my electorate office in Ipswich. Deputy Speaker, you and I were both at a meeting of the Greater Springfield branch of the Labor Party that night presenting reports on our local electorates and how we were flooded. I was late to that meeting. As I arrived, I turned to you and said, 'Have you told the branch about Kimberley?' You were stony-faced and looking straight ahead. I couldn't do anything other than look down because I felt like I wanted to cry when I looked at you. She had been a friend of yours for decades, a friend of mine, a factional ally and someone we knew very well. That's the impact she had on people's lives.
Kimberley was urbane and charming, erudite and eloquent, abounding in intelligence and had a heart not just for God but for people. Her breadth of knowledge would shame a diplomat. She had the ferocity of an advocate, a QC in full flight. She was smart and savvy and stylish. Bill Shorten talked about going onto the MCG. Well, she was a Queenslander. She might have represented Victoria in the Senate, but she was a Queenslander at heart. I could see her at Lang Park. She'd put on that gear—those clothes—and you'd go to a meeting with her. She represented me at Senate estimates. You'd go to a meeting with Senator Kimberley Kitching, and that's what she looked like: she was Senator Kimberley Kitching. It wasn't just Kimba; it was Senator Kimberley Kitching. You'd go to that meeting and she was thoroughly prepared for Senate estimates, I'm telling you. There's a great tradition we have in the Labor Party— sadly we've been in opposition for too long—and we have contemporary people like Senator Penny Wong and Senator Kim Carr who are great advocates and investigators. She was in the great tradition of Senator John Faulkner and Senator Robert Ray. She was in that tradition, and she was there. She was thoroughly prepared. There was a lawyer I trained many years ago who said to me that one of the things that I taught him was preparation, preparation, preparation. No-one had to teach Kimberley Kitching preparation. She was completely prepared. She had the discipline of an athlete in Senate estimates.
I loved talking with her. If my background was quite provincial, hers was international. She might have been a Queenslander and went to the University of Queensland a decade after me, but you could have conversations with Kimberley about arcane factional matters in the Australian Labor Party in Victoria, discussions about the long history of the United States and the progress of democratic politics and discussions about art and culture in Europe with her all at the same time. She could talk about esoteric language issues, because she had such a breadth of so many different languages. Goodness knows where she picked them all up and how she learnt them.
One of the things that really struck me is how ahead of her time she was. The former member for Melbourne Ports Michael Danby got onto me about this Magnitsky act and about the fact that we needed to do this in Australia. Kimberley was on it as well. And I remember saying, 'Michael, what are you really on about? What's this about helping victims of justice and making pariahs of pariah states and individuals?' Kimberley was recognised for that, and we have that legacy in our Australian democracy because of Kimberley's initiative and advocacy. I pay tribute to Michael as well. He talked about this for such a long period of time. And Michael was a great friend of Kimberley. I've had many dinners with Michael Danby and Kimberley Kitching. I'm going to miss those dinners. I'm going to miss those late-night chats that so many of us have had—you thought you'd ring her up and ask her about something, and the conversation would go on for half an hour or an hour. She was almost like a confessor you'd talked to, but also someone who knew so much. I think she had a great heart for people—and a heart for people internationally, as has been recorded. I say amen to all those comments that people have made about her work, whether it involved the Hong Kong activists for democracy or the Uyghurs or the Tibetans. Talking to her about the work she did in Afghanistan—she was quite modest about it, to be honest with you—I think she had a great understanding that Labor is the protector of the national interest but also the advocate for social change in this country. She was an evolutionist; she wasn't a revolutionary. She was a moderate, and she was proud of it. But she had a great heart and she understood the Labor Party and the Labor movement, and she was proud that she was union and proud that she was she was Labor. She had an understanding of where we'd come from as a country and where we needed to go. On the Labor side of politics, we believe in the collective—the union movement and the Labor Party. But it requires an individual sometimes to be its conscience—to say yes or to say no and to hold minority views that aren't always popular. Kimberley was like that, a person of courage and conviction. At times it requires someone to build coalitions across the aisle, as the Americans would say. I could not believe the day she told me that she was mates with Pauline Hanson. I had been campaigning against Pauline Hanson and One Nation since 1996 in Ipswich. I couldn't believe it. But she was. She had friends across both sides of politics.
I'm going to miss those conversations. I'm going to miss her jocularity and fun. The last time I had a conversation with her, I was in Bill Shorten's office during the religious discrimination bill, which we were discussing. She was there, in fine form, talking about every issue you could possibly imagine, international and domestic. Bill was there. She was there. A number of people's staff were there, waiting around. She might have liked a glass of champagne, but I am telling you that that just lubricated her immense intelligence.
I want to end on one scriptural note. I looked this up because I thought she would understand this—the sacred exhortation to people of faith. Kimberley was a deep Catholic and had a great understanding of where she stood in that Catholic tradition. It was found in the Book of Isaiah 1:17:
Learn to do right; seek justice.
Defend the oppressed.
Take up the cause of the fatherless;
plead the case of the widow.
Kimberley did this and so much more. She obeyed and fulfilled this commandment in her life and in her life's work. Vale, sister, Kimberley Kitching.
This morning Senator Kimberley Kitching would have been at our regular Wednesday morning meeting of the full committee of the Joint Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade. She would have been, I imagine, as always, well read. She would have read all the briefs and she would have certainly had a pile of questions, very thoughtful questions, to ask after the presentation from whoever our special guests were for the day. Her absence this morning was a reminder to us all just how fragile and unpredictable life is.
I saw Kimberley for the last time on 5 March, when we attended the Australia India Business Council gala dinner. I had recently been invited to join the advisory board of the Australia India Business Council, and Kimberley had a long-term association with the council. It was a very enjoyable evening at the Fox Classic Car Collection venue in Melbourne, and Kimberley was one of the keynote speakers. She spoke eloquently and meaningfully about the importance of the Australia-India relationship, particularly its significance around the issues of trade and national security and the importance of both Australia and India as emerging powers in our Asia-Pacific region. These were areas that Kimberley had a very deep interest in and a prolific knowledge of.
Many of our colleagues have spoken of her interest in foreign affairs and national security and her deep interest in the pursuit of human rights issues and democracy. I had the opportunity to witness firsthand in the time that we spent together as members of the foreign affairs, defence and trade committee this abiding interest and awareness.
We both also served on the Human Rights Subcommittee, and I witnessed there, also firsthand, her passion in pursuing the Magnitsky legislation. It was during this period that I got to know her better. I admittedly came to be very impressed by many of her qualities, especially her intellect and her worldliness. These are qualities that have been spoken about widely because they really are qualities and attributes that marked and defined Kimberley Kitching. They are qualities that are much needed up here in this place, qualities that give depth and meaning to issues that are of domestic and national importance and qualities that allow for meaningful debate, even where there are differences of opinion. I can assure you, Deputy Speaker, Kimberley and I did have a different perspective on some issues, one of which was the issue of Palestine and Israel. Both of us held passionately different perspectives.
In this place, where I believe over 90 percent cent of our colleagues are monolingual, Kimberley Kitching was multilingual—or polyglossi, as we say in Greek. She spoke French, Italian, Spanish, English and Latin, and I believe she had some Russian and German. As a bilingual person myself, Greek being my other language, I was thoroughly appreciative of Kimberley's multilingual talents not only because they were indicators of an ability to engage with different cultural nuances but also because I know that being able to speak other languages opens your mind to the wonders of the world and its many cultures. It broadens understanding and fosters tolerance and makes for an excellent ambassador to the world, which Kimberley Kitching no doubt was. On all those trips she had taken abroad as a member of the Australian Senate, she would have impressed those that she met. I have no doubt about that. That itself would have been a real boost for Australia.
In fact, I witnessed the impact of this ability to impress our foreign dignitaries here in Canberra. Some years ago Kimberley and I were at a function at the residence of the then Moroccan Ambassador to Australia, His Excellency Karim Medric. I introduced Kimberley to Karim, and she responded immediately to him in the French language. I was impressed and so was His Excellency. They then continued their conversation and interaction in the French language, and although I only have the obligatory high-school French, which is probably only a few words now, I could hear the fluency and the perfect intonation as she spoke in the French language. I was so impressed to discover this about Kimberley that, of course, I had to ask her how and why this was possible. She then went on to tell me about her schooling in France and elsewhere around the world, and we all know a lot more about that now.
Kimberley's sudden passing at such a young age is a tragic reminder that, here in this place, we don't pause enough to get to know our colleagues and to learn more about them. My last conversation with Kimberley was varied. It included the forthcoming election, but more so it was about the Australia-India relationship and, all the way through, we took time to speak about the vintage cars in the collection that surrounded us at that venue. I was looking forward to working with Kimberley on the Australia India Business Council because, apart from my own engagement on foreign affairs issues, my interest in this also relates to my own electorate where we've settled large numbers of migrants from India and the subcontinent. As a Victorian senator, Kimberley was very active in her engagement with our local diverse communities with which she herself had a very strong relationship, including with the emerging Nepalese community. I often wonder now how long it would have taken her—if she hadn't started already—to begin learning the Nepali language or even Hindi because she certainly had that gift.
It also makes you wonder how much more she would have achieved because she was capable of so much more, as reflected in her fine achievements thus far, including the Magnitsky Human Rights Award. It is therefore fitting that our party, the Labor Party, has chosen to honour her with the Kimberley Kitching Human Rights Award.
As I left on that night of 5 March, the last words Kimberley and I exchanged were making an agreement to meet up at the Psarakos brothers in High Street, Thornbury, for a cup of coffee, and I was to buy her a jar of Cretan thyme honey. She had discovered the delicious beauty of this honey known to me, of course, since childhood, and I promised to buy her a jar of the best thyme honey ever. That following Thursday I learnt of her passing. The shock was greater still because I had seen her only five days before, elegantly dressed as always for the occasion and, as our female host of the night remarked on that night, where she was so full of life, so learned, so aware and so engaging.
Death is such a final and cruel blow. In extinguishing a life, it steals potential. Kimberley was too young to die. She had so much more to offer and many mountains still to conquer. To her family—her parents, Bill and Leigh, and her brother, Ben—my condolences. Your loss is immense. To her husband, Andrew, who will feel the burden of her loss beyond what can ever be imagined, may the memory of your life together give you comfort and strength. Andrew, as I promised Kimberley that jar of honey, I hope to be able to give it to you in her memory. Vale, Senator Kimberley Kitching.
Kimberley Kitching was a friend and colleague of mine over a long period of time. I rise to pay tribute today to Kimberley and to pass on my condolences to her family. I begin by offering my heartfelt condolences to Andrew, Kimberley's soulmate. Theirs was a partnership in every sense of the word, a collaboration the likes of which one rarely sees. I hope that his memories of how much adventure and joy and achievement they were able to squeeze into their time together provide Andrew with some consolation during these difficult days. I also offer my condolences to Kimberley's parents, Leigh and Bill, as well as to her brother, Ben. It was always clear to me how much Kimberley valued family, and how much her family provided her with a bedrock of support during good times and bad. My thoughts are also with Kimberley's staff, who I worked with often over recent years. She loved them, and they loved her. There was a deep and shared passion and purpose in her office. I also acknowledge the loss felt by Bill and Chloe Shorten, who lost a lifelong friend.
Kimberley and I met and became friends while we were both active in the ever-changing and exhilarating right wing of the Victorian Labor Party. It's fair to say that that background remained a constant over the coming years. We worked together as ministerial advisers in the Bracks and Brumby governments, a time when I saw firsthand Kimberley's passion for policy and creativity for outcomes. During this period, she and I shared a passion for rigorous economic policy in the Hawke-Keating mould. This was an approach to economic policy that was central to both of those Victorian governments, and that we worked on and both took great satisfaction in working on together to that end. Finally, we were parliamentary colleagues together during the current term of this parliament. It was during this time that the focus of our discussions turned more to foreign policy, and it was during this term of government that Kimberley achieved so much in that realm.
Kimberley had so many qualities, each of which could fill a speech. She had intellect, loyalty and a vivacious embrace of life, all of which were evident throughout the period I knew her. I want to focus today on her courage, her creativity and her loyalty.
Winston Churchill once said, 'Without courage, all other virtues lose their meaning.' Kimberley's abundance of courage meant that all of her other virtues were that much more impactful. Kimberley clearly had courage and, like Churchill, was willing to suffer criticism in the short term from friend and foe alike if she felt that was necessary to take a stand that would be vindicated in the long term. She saw threats looming for Australia and our allies on the horizon. She was one of the first to stand up for the Uighurs, the Tibetans and the residents of Hong Kong. She recognised the need to draw attention to human rights abuses, and she made a strong, unambiguous case for autocratic regimes to be held to account. Kimberley's life demonstrated how courage can effectively leverage other virtues—in her case, her intelligence, her compassion and her creativity—and how courage could make them more impactful.
Kimberley's most high-profile achievement was her championing, over many years, of Magnitsky legislation. Australia now has a Magnitsky act in large part as a result of Kimberley's efforts. This was a reform that was far from unanimously supported when it was raised some years ago. It took tenacity and inexhaustible reservoirs of energy to maintain the momentum for the passage of this bill over a period spanning years. But it wasn't just determination. She also showed incredible creativity. When a parliamentary committee considered the bill, Kimberley organised for evidence to be provided by, amongst others, Amal Clooney, Geoffrey Rush and Bill Browder. Highlighting the international dimension of support for such legislation undoubtedly strengthened the case for Australia to join with our allies. Marshalling all of this support was no mean feat, and few if any other people in parliament could have achieved this.
I remember catching up many times with Kimberley for a morning coffee and comparing our schedules. I would complain about having had to attend a dinner the night before with a stakeholder; she would then recount having been an online participant in a panel at 2 am or 4 am at Harvard or Oxford, with a raft of internationally recognised academics or public thinkers. It was clear to me that she was right at home in these elite gatherings and that she maintained regular contact with these people that she met. It always left me thinking how inadequate my efforts were.
Her achievements on Magnitsky weren't just about seeing clearly the right path to take; they were also about having the connections, the persuasiveness and the energy to bring unexpected resources to bear in the support of her case at a critical juncture in time. Her other virtues—her intelligence, her tenacity and her creativity—were leveraged by her courage. As many others have noted, her sustained contribution led to her being awarded a Sergei Magnitsky Human Rights Award. I am pleased that a permanent human rights award has now been created in her honour in this country.
In the field of human rights there are too many achievements to recount, but another that bears noting was her personal intervention to save 30 people from the chaos of the fall of Kabul. Once again, it was her intelligence, hard work and creativity leveraged to her courage.
In her inaugural speech, Kimberley posed some fundamental questions for herself, her colleagues and the nation. She said:
It is time to decide what kind of parliament we will be. Will we live down to the cynicism of the community about politicians, or will we show leadership in challenging days? It is time to decide what kind of party Labor will be. Will we be seduced by the glamour of narrow interest-group politics, or will we continue to fight for all Australians? It is time to decide what kind of country we are. Will we shirk the decisions that face us, or will we once again rise to the moment and choose what is hard, what is complex, what is right?
She answered her own questions through her own deeds, and in her short time in this place she painted on the largest of canvasses.
There is so much else that could be said of Kimberley. She was a piercing cross-examiner in estimates, she was a public policy wonk and a voracious reader, she was a committed trade unionist, particularly for some of our most vulnerable workers, and, of course, she was a patriot, so often willing to put the interests of our nation above all else. Above and beyond these qualities were her qualities as a loyal friend. As Andrew noted in his powerful eulogy, 'With Kimberley, it was all in.'
Kimberley always greeted you joyfully with an embrace and a kiss on the cheek as if you hadn't seen her for an age. Kimberley made you feel that every discussion was something profound. Kimberley was a political friend that you knew would be there in thick and thin. Politics can be fickle, but Kimberley could never be accused of that. She left an indelible mark on Australia's public life and on all of those lucky to have been her friend. I will miss her terribly. May she rest in peace.
Ms FLINT (Boothby—Government Whip) (12:06): I would just acknowledge the member's lovely contribution about his dear friend the late Senator Kimberley Kitching. Everyone has spoken beautifully about her and her incredible contribution to our nation, particularly to this parliament. It's probably been hard for everybody to speak about Kimberley, because it is a terrible tragedy that we've lost her at just the age of 52. To lose anyone at that age is a tragedy, and to have to remember a brilliant, vibrant woman taken from her friends, her family, our parliament and the Australian people at just age 52 is truly tragic.
The word 'tragedy' is probably used too freely these day, but Senator Kimberley Kitching's death at just 52, in the prime of her life, in the prime of her political and policymaking skills is just that, a genuine tragedy. It's a tragedy for her devoted husband, Andrew, and our hearts go out to him; her parents, Bill and Leigh; her brother, Ben; her devoted friends, like Bill and Chloe Shorten, Diana Asmar; and so many of those opposite who have spoken so beautifully.
It's a tragedy for her devoted staff, who, as we heard yesterday from the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition, were very hard working. They put something like 12,000 questions on notice to government in this term of parliament alone. I'm sure that's somewhat of a record. But the loss of Kimberley is a tragedy for Labor and, ultimately, for our nation. We have lost such a fine woman and such a fine mind.
The stories about Kimberley's achievements, her incredible generosity, her talent for policymaking, that we've heard since her death have emphasised what a huge loss she is to our nation. We know about her tireless work to see the Magnitsky act passed and the international award recognising her work on the act, her work on human rights, including her rescue of some 30 people from Afghanistan as it fell to the Taliban and whose names her dear friend the member for Maribyrnong recorded in his condolence motion yesterday, and I think we're all grateful to him for doing that.
Her funeral last week was testament to her generosity of spirit and her vibrant spirit, attracting people from across the political divide, and I was in attendance. There were ambassadors, diplomats and people whose lives she had touched and, indeed, saved. I doubt there are many other members of parliament, from around the globe, who are sent a personal message from the Dalai Lama to recognise their passing. Such was the person that Kimberley Kitching was.
I did not know Kimberley really well, but she touched my life as she has touched the lives of so many others. Despite us never having properly met, Kimberley penned a generous opinion piece about me on 17 March last year, in response to my speech to parliament pleading for everyone in politics, but particularly Labor, to ensure an end to sexist, misogynist and dangerous behaviour towards women in politics and public life. And I have to say, I do struggle to read the opinion piece that she wrote—it was not published, but she sent it on to me through the member for Canning—and I struggle because it's so kind, generous and courageous, and it shows her incredible character. But I also struggle because, as we unfortunately now know, she herself was having a hard time, as a woman in politics, for many reasons more than those that she shared in her opinion piece. I think, perhaps, her compassion was unfortunately based in her lived experience, and I can only say I'm sorry that I didn't know. And, because of this, there was nothing I could do.
I do want to share a few of her words, as they are a reminder to us all to do better, to protect and look after each other and to try to make politics a safer place for us all. Because if it isn't then our democracy is weaker and our community loses their easy access to us as their elected representatives, and that makes it so much harder for us to do our jobs. Kimberley wrote: 'My party needs to be much more vigilant in shutting down and repudiating gender-based political violence, particularly when we know ahead of time that it's likely to arise in heated political contests, from the fringes, from idiots, online trolls, from the kinds of supporters you don't really want but are too embarrassed to call out publicly.' But I want to be clear: it's not just Labor's responsibility; it is all of our responsibility to call out this sort of behaviour, to stop this behaviour, so that we can get on with our jobs representing our communities.
I'm proud that our government—my government—and this parliament have strengthened the electoral act to give better protection to MPs and candidates, that we introduced the Online Safety Act that was passed by the parliament to prevent and give greater protection from cyberbullying and trolls. These are the sorts of things that, if we all keep working together, make sure that our democracy stays strong and that people are safe.
Kimberley also wrote the following in her opinion piece from March last year: 'I'm sorry the necessarily robust contest over a marginal seat between our two great parties turned into an occasional debacle where misogyny was weaponised against you, where you felt unsafe and denigrated. I don't know you well, but you seem such a graceful, confident, tough, articulate, passionate person. And I am deeply troubled that it appears gendered political violence has caused you, a formidable politician, to fall out of love with politics and has prompted you to decide to leave. And for that, I am deeply sorry; not just for you but what it says about all of us, and the limits Australian society is allowing to be put on the contribution of Australian women.'
I think Kimberley's incredibly kind words are better directed at her. She was graceful, confident, tough, articulate and passionate but also unbelievably kind and compassionate. She was a Christian. Her Catholic faith guided her. She was vibrant and vivacious, with wonderful wit and humour and an enthusiasm for life. She was a patriot and a warrior, as so many have recorded. She was a patriot and a warrior for Australia, our freedom and the freedom of so many others.
In closing, I remember very clearly the last time I saw Kimberley. It was on the day of my valedictory speech on 16 February this year. She was leaving the Sky studio here in Parliament House with one of her loyal and dedicated staff members, Jordan, having just appeared on Paul Murray Live. As we know, Kimberley was not afraid of the contest of ideas, even in what might be classed by some as enemy territory. She looked absolutely gorgeous. She was in a beautifully fitted white suit and she just looked radiant. She gave me one of her enormous smiles that, as we all know, lit up a room; a kiss on the cheek, as everyone has recorded she would greet you with; and a big hug; and she asked how I was. That is how I will always remember Senator Kimberley Kitching—gorgeous and glowing and, as ever, so kind. Rest in peace, lovely lady.
I'd like to join with colleagues on this sad occasion to pay my respects to the late Senator Kimberley Kitching. I acknowledge the contribution that my colleague the member for Boothby has just made and the contributions that others in this chamber have made today. Like others, I found Kimberley a kind, generous, warm, intelligent, committed parliamentarian, a person who sought justice in every way she could for those who could not, in many instances, find it for themselves.
I had the privilege of travelling on two delegations with Kimberley, one to the Tibetan administration in exile. We went to Delhi first, to meet with His Holiness the Dalai Lama, and then we travelled further north in India to the foothills of the Himalayas at Dharamsala, where we met with officials of the Tibetan administration in exile. That was a wonderful journey, an opportunity, travelling around in four-wheel-drive vehicles in that mountainous region, visiting many of the places that were so important to the Tibetan people and meeting with their leaders. One of my treasured memories of Kimberley is a photo of both of us with a group of Tibetan children at a school that we visited there. Others have spoken about her warm smile, the twinkle in her eye and that glow in her face, and they're just captured in that photo of Kimberley. That was an important example of her commitment to seeking human rights for people wherever they are in the world. The other delegation was an ASEAN delegation to three of the ASEAN nations: Myanmar, Singapore and Indonesia. Once again, particularly in Myanmar—before the current troubles but when the problems with the Rohingya were occurring—Kimberley was seeking to try and improve the human rights of so many people.
It is through human rights that I believe she will be most remembered. I had the privilege of co-chairing, with her, the group of parliamentary friends of democracy in Hong Kong—and democracy is something which sadly has disappeared under the Chinese Communist regime. It is the greatest tribute to her that she championed, for such a long time in this parliament, the adoption of Magnitsky-type legislation. I have the privilege of chairing the Joint Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade's Human Rights Subcommittee, of which Kimberley was a member, and members on both sides of this parliament unanimously proposed that we should have Magnitsky-type legislation. There can be no greater tribute to her than the fact that that legislation passed unanimously through this parliament. Indeed, just in the last couple of days, the government has used that legislation to sanction individuals for human rights abuses, kleptocracy and similar, related offences.
Like many other members and senators, I had the privilege of attending her funeral at St Patrick's Cathedral in Melbourne. That was such a wonderful tribute to her, not just in the words that were spoken by many, including her friend the member for Maribyrnong, Bill Shorten, but also in the cross-section of people who attended that funeral. There were people there from all walks of life. There were people from both sides of politics. Importantly, there were people that she stood for, that she had represented, and who shared her values.
I think one thing that one can say about Kimberley is that she was a parliamentarian. I'm not sure that I would describe everybody in this place as a parliamentarian, but she certainly was. And she made that a forte.
I think what's important about someone like Kimberley was that she believed that you should plant your standard in the ground and say: 'Here I stand, or here I fall.' And that was what she was prepared to do. She acted courageously on many occasions in saying: 'These are the things which I stand for,' and I think this parliament is only enhanced by having people—regardless of what their particular views might be or what their causes are—who are prepared to plant their standard in the ground like that.
So I join with all my colleagues in extending my condolences—particularly to her many friends, and I wish to note one in this regard. My former chief of staff Brendan Darcy was a very, very good friend of Kimberley and Andrew. I think they met for coffee most weekends in Maribyrnong, where they lived, and I know that he, along with many others, is truly saddened by the premature death of Kimberley Kitching. To her husband, Andrew, to her parents and to her brother, I extend my sincere condolences. May she rest in peace.
I understand it is the wish of honourable members to signify at this stage their respect and sympathy by rising in their places, and I ask all those present to do so.
Honourable members having stood in their places—
I thank the Federation Chamber.