Senate debates

Monday, 28 March 2022


Kitching, Senator Kimberley Jane Elizabeth

11:17 am

Photo of Don FarrellDon Farrell (SA, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Special Minister of State) Share this | Hansard source

I also rise to speak on the Senate condolence motion for Senator Kimberley Kitching, or 'Kimba' as she's best known by her family and friends. Of course, we've lost too many of our colleagues of late—too many condolence motions, including one recently for our colleague Senator Alex Gallacher. Kimberley was a colleague of all of us in this place and to many, like me, she was a special friend. When she entered this place six years ago, her reputation well and truly preceded her. I thought to myself, 'I must meet this woman,' so a mutual friend from Adelaide, Mark De Garis, organised for us to catch up in a Lygon Street Italian restaurant in Melbourne. In the years that followed, I discovered a strong and assertive woman, whose world view I agreed with almost totally—and, of course, that included Otis.

Kimberley was not a shrinking violet. She was a strong and courageous woman. She always had a view and she was never, ever afraid to express it. Like everyone here, I was shocked, as we all were, and deeply saddened by her death earlier this month. She was 52 years old, or 52 years young, and that's far too young to lose anybody. Kimberley had so much ahead of her and—I speak for myself and my wife—we are going to miss her deeply. In our nation's parliament and our democracy, our democracy will certainly miss her contribution.

Today I think Kimberley herself—and her family and friends, many of whom have joined us here today—would want us to remember her wonderful life. Kimberley was born in Brisbane, a daughter of Bill and Leigh Kitching, who I had the privilege of meeting for the first time at a rosary for her on the eve of her funeral in St Patrick's Cathedral last week. She grew up in the suburb of St Lucia, and during her youth Kimberley spent time in England, Spain, France, Germany and the United States. Her father, Bill, was a chemistry professor, and her mother, Leigh, was a physiotherapist. The family moved around with Bill's academic postings.

Kimberley completed her schooling in the Brisbane Girls Grammar School. She studied arts and law at the University of Queensland, and it was at that point she joined Murray Watt, my good friend here, and she joined Young Labor. Kimberley was admitted as a solicitor by the Supreme Court of Queensland before moving to Melbourne in 1995. She worked in the private sector for several years before joining the union movement. Kimberley became involved in the Labor Party in Victoria. She held a range of party positions, at one stage being the vice-president of the fractious Victorian branch of the party—quite a good achievement, really, when you think about it!

Her first foray into public life was as a member of the Melbourne City Council from 2001 to 2004. Michael Easson, in a terrific obituary in the Sydney Morning Herald, included a quote from Kimberley's maiden speech in this place, in which she said:

Some might think that local government is the lowest form of government; I prefer to think of it as the nearest.

I think that quote sums up one of Kimberley's great qualities that I will always remember: she took each job throughout her life as an opportunity and a responsibility to achieve something for the people that she represented. Kimberley was always committed to making the most of the opportunities her position afforded her in order to make other people's lives better.

In the past couple of weeks I've heard some people say that maybe it would have been better for Kimberley if she'd never come to the Senate. I strongly disagree with this. She loved every moment of being here in the Senate. She loved the responsibility. She loved the opportunity to prosecute the many causes that she so strongly defended, including recently in respect of the oppressed people of Ukraine, whom she'd tweeted about every single day since the terrible invasion by the Russians. She loved the intrigue and she loved absolutely everything about politics.

As well as serving in local government, Kimberley cut her teeth in politics working as a senior adviser in several Bracks government ministries. She was also an adviser to John Lenders, the Treasurer in the Brumby government. Kimberley moved to federal politics in 2016 and, on 13 October that year, she was preselected to fill the Victorian Senate seat vacated by Senator Stephen Conroy on 30 September. Kimberley was formally chosen as a replacement for the Senate by a joint sitting of the Victorian parliament on 25 October 2016. She was sworn in as a senator in this place on 7 November 2016, and Senator Wong and I were honoured that she asked us to bring her into the Senate to sign the roll. I myself was re-elected to the Senate at the federal election earlier in 2016, and for our Senate class of 2016 I suppose Kimberley was sort of the new kid who joined the class mid-term. But her intelligence, experience and ability to be a quick study all meant she very quickly settled in and made her mark.

Initially, many of Kimberley's contributions were through her extremely hard work and dedicated service on a number of Senate committees. Kimberley also soon developed her own very effective style of determined, forensic interrogation of the government and its officials through the Senate estimates process. Public servants would shake in their boots when she entered the estimates room.

After the 2019 election, Kimberley was appointed as shadow assistant minister for government accountability and also Deputy Manager of Opposition Business in the Senate. In January 2021, she became the shadow assistant minister for government services and shadow assistant minister for the National Disability Insurance Scheme, working with her great friend Bill Shorten. I strongly believe that her good work here was going to result in her re-preselection by the Victorian Labor Party and, in turn, her re-election to this parliament to join—something that she was so desperate to achieve—an Anthony Albanese Labor government.

Kimberley of course had a keen interest in accountability from the start, and in her first speech she said—and this is a quote in Latin; it's a long time since I've studied Latin, so excuse me if I mispronounce it:

The question quis custodiet ipsos custodes—'who will guard the guards themselves'—is clearly an important one.


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