Senate debates

Monday, 28 March 2022


Kitching, Senator Kimberley Jane Elizabeth

11:29 am

Photo of Anne RustonAnne Ruston (SA, Liberal Party, Minister for Families and Social Services) Share this | Hansard source

I too rise to pay tribute to Kimberley Kitching and also associate myself with many of the remarks that have been made by colleagues around the chamber this morning.

To Andrew: my most sincere condolences. Obviously, you were one of the very lucky people in this world who had an amazing marriage. I loved your story on Monday when you said that, even when Kimberley was absolutely at her flat-out most busy, she still managed to stop in at the pie shop and buy you your favourite pie. Obviously, that is a testament to the most amazing relationship you had, and that can only make it harder for you as you go through the grief of losing your beloved wife. Also to Kimberley's mum, dad and brother, and her other family, friends and colleagues: my most sincere condolences.

I think that probably the best description of Kimberley was that she was an absolutely unique person. I felt it a great privilege to have known her and also to have served in this place with her. We didn't have a lot to do with each other when it came to policy. Kimberley's focus was so intent on international affairs—foreign affairs, trade and defence—and my focus was often around agriculture and more domestic issues. But she was intelligent; she was vivacious; she was determined; she had the most extraordinary sense of fashion. We would always come in here of a morning and wonder what Kimberley was going to be wearing for today, because she did have such an extraordinary sense of fashion and colour. We often used to talk about things like hot yoga. I failed very dismally on the hot yoga diet but, clearly, she didn't, and she looked fabulous for it.

But her greatest skill, I think, was her ability to cross the political divide. I don't think there is any place in this chamber that Kimberley wasn't welcome when she went to have a chat to someone. I'll tell you a funny story to demonstrate that more than anything else. Pauline Hanson invited me for dinner. Pauline had always been promising to cook me a gluten-free dinner—she knows that I love my home cooking, but it invariably entails having flour in most things, and that's a problem. So Pauline said she was going to cook me a gluten-free meal. I arrived there, thinking that I was going to be having dinner with Pauline and maybe Malcolm or James Ashby or someone. But no: the dinner guests were Kimberley, Mathias Cormann and Terry Young. I thought, 'Hm, this is going to be a particularly interesting night, with interesting conversation.' But I think it was at that time that I realised what an extraordinary intellect Kimberley brought to the dinner table. In the interesting conversation that we had, it didn't matter about politics; it was actually issues of discussion that were the engaging part of the evening. I actually realised that there was almost a cigarette paper of difference between the views on international affairs of Kimberley Kitching, Mathias Cormann and Pauline Hanson. Anyway, I'll leave that one for you to consider.

It all made sense in listening to her father Bill's contribution on Monday about where this all came from. Obviously, it was a great passion for international affairs born of travelling around the world and being engaged in many different countries and cultures throughout her younger years—and her passion for languages. I'm absolutely delighted that she didn't get her way and have Latin returned to the school curriculum during my time, because I was shocking at languages—but, clearly, she wasn't. She was an amazing person and an internationalist. Her passion for those who were persecuted was probably the thing that stood out most in her contribution in this place, to my mind, whether it be the Uighurs or when dealing with issues of anti-Semitism or the stories around Afghanistan—and, obviously, Ukraine was emerging. She had an absolute raw, uncompromising belief in fairness and equity and in making sure that everybody had a chance to be able to succeed.

I think the word that has been used by others in this place that probably epitomises my view of Kimberley more than anything else is 'exceptionalism'. That will be the word that I will always associate with her. I think it should now become her word. To everybody: my condolences. And vale, Kimberley Kitching.


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