Monday, 28 March 2022
Kitching, Senator Kimberley Jane Elizabeth
Let me begin by acknowledging Kimberley's family, friends and staff who are here today and those who are here with us online. Many have spoken in the chamber today about Kimberley's history and background and the number of roles that she had in the Labor Party, including as a shadow minister. But, ultimately, her overwhelming vibrant passion was her roles on foreign policy and defence committees in this parliament, with interests ranging from our alliance with the United States, to support for Israel's security, to the need to pour sunlight on human rights challenges—I'm very bad at these things, Mr President; I just want to put the chamber on notice that my voice is a bit shaky. She spoke out on issues from supporting, as others have said, the people of Afghanistan, to her concerns over Belt and Road agreements, to abuses in Xinjiang.
She did not waste a minute in this place. We shared many views and, particularly, a passion for human rights. Her work was, without doubt, critical to the development of the reforms to our autonomous sanctions legislation, the Magnitsky reforms. As she said in her Sergei Magnitsky Human Rights Award acceptance speech, Magnitsky legislation is necessary because: ' we as human beings who believe in the dignity of human beings cannot allow such evil to go on unchallenged.' She went on to quote Martin Luther King:
Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.
That sums up why we needed Magnitsky legislation, and it sums up the principles that Kimberley Kitching championed. While we must defend the rules based order, while we must support the Ukrainian people against Russia's invasion, it sums up much of what we do as a democracy, promoting our values and shaping the world to do better, and for the better.
Kimberley was also a strong role model for women in politics. As she served in this chamber, she truly put her principles before her personal ambition, and she was prepared to work with anyone and everyone who shared her vision on the issues that she felt were important. In her Magnitsky speech to this chamber—Mr President, I'm not sure if you were in the chamber at the time of the division—she acknowledged colleagues literally right across the broad spectrum of the chamber: Senators Rice and Paterson, me, Senators Abetz and Fierravanti-Wells, and her own party colleagues, absolutely demonstrating her nonpartisan approach to issues that mattered. The fact that—as others have commented—she wanted to see other countries also adopt similar legislation and that she was talking to members of the parliaments of other democracies about this also speaks clearly to her commitment to the global cause of human rights. It couldn't be further from a narrow and domestic political lens.
Her work with the Inter-Parliamentary Alliance on China was also very important to her. I know how committed she was to that. That bipartisanship is as integral to the success of that coalition as is its international reach. It's no wonder that so many of our own Liberal-National colleagues were so shocked but also so fast to make their views and their personal engagements with Kimberley known so openly. After her untimely death, those comments came thick and fast.
Even during the most intense estimates sessions—some people have spoken about estimates today, and I think Don's right; they quaked in their boots as they saw Kimberley Kitching take her chair—we had some very lighthearted moments. On the last estimates occasion, it was Kimberley's birthday, albeit that the much-vaunted cake did not materialise; I'm not sure where Senator Abetz is, but it was a moment of entertainment. And, of course, her language skills came up in estimates, as I lamented my own inadequacies and Kimberley very modestly assisted my French interpretation on more than one occasion. I think her spoken French was the best in parliament, and I say that with absolute confidence, knowing that Mathias Cormann's not sitting where Simon Birmingham is.
I believe that we as a Senate should establish a memorial for senators who die in office, whether that is a photographic gallery memorial or a presence in one of our very beautiful gardens in the Senate. I think it would be a lovely thing to do. Perhaps we might plant a white rose there for Senator Kitching if it comes to be in a garden. We have, as others have remarked, lost more than one colleague in this parliament from this current Senate—and that is two too many—so I think it is important that we do mark that.
It meant a lot to me to be singled out for thanks in her speech on her receipt of the Sergei Magnitsky Human Rights Award. She was a very frank interlocutor; she was always honest and direct. She was a wonderful representative of the state of Victoria who I admired and respected. She was also a friend, so I had to decide what to bring into the chamber with me today of the gifts that Kimberley gave me most recently. I had to toss up whether it was the boxed bottle of pink Bollinger or the copy, personally inscribed by Bill Browder, of his book Red Notice. Kimberley arranged that for me, and she brought it to me after her trip to Paris. I chose Red Notice. That's not to say I don't think that the boxed bottle of pink Bollinger will be utilised at some point to pay appropriate acknowledgement to our friend. To Andrew, your family, Kimberley's friends and staff: my deepest sympathies.