Monday, 28 March 2022
Kitching, Senator Kimberley Jane Elizabeth
() (): The incorporated speech read as follows—
For the second time in the life of this 46th Parliament, we mourn the death of a senator in office.
It is also the second time in my parliamentary career that I have had to mourn the death in office of a Victorian Labor senator. The first was the late Olive Zakharov, who died in 1995.
I begin by saying about our former colleague Kimberley Kitching what I said about our former colleague Alex Gallacher:
"The longer I serve in this place, the more I appreciate how you can come to see people differently .
"A life in politics can be very isolating. You have many acquaintances but few friends."
I was privileged to call both Kimberley and Alex friends.
Kimberley was also a neighbour. She and her husband Andrew lived in my home suburb of Pascoe Vale in Melbourne. We spoke often.
Kimberley and I, like Alex and I, came from different parts of the Labor Party.
But that didn't matter.
We shared a conviction that the role of the Labor Party is to build a fairer and more prosperous Australia.
And we shared an understanding about the importance of the Senate in holding executive government to account, especially through the committee system.
Unlike Alex, Kimberley served only a single term in this place.
And her untimely death has made her a media sensation in a way that he never was.
The spate of media stories continues.
Some of those stories have been driven by malice, because some commentators have taken a position on what they imagine to be happening within the Labor Party.
But their comments have indicated that they are not well informed, about either the Labor Party or about Kimberley.
I have been mentioned in some of those comments, because speculation about my future in this place became intertwined with speculation about hers.
It would not be appropriate to engage further with that commentary here.
I will say only what I have already said ina committee hearing, which happened to be the first Senate proceeding after her tragic death from a suspected heart attack.
I am sure that the stresses of this this job must have at least contributed to her death.
Anyone interested in industrial matters knows that workplace stress affects health.
I have been a senator for 29 years now, and I have seen how people here and in the other place have to cope with stress, sometimes in extreme circumstances.
Some level of stress is, of course, inseparable from the job.
It is part of representing the people who elect us, which is no easy burden if we are doing the job properly.
But many people do not realise just how tough a life in politics can be.
It is not enough to say that you just have to cop whatever is served up to you.
How we treat each other in this place matters, and we need to understand that our words and actions can affect people deeply.
The isolation sometimes forced upon people can do more damage than we know.
We should all bear that in mind in our interactions with each other.
The circumstances of Kimberley's death have taught that lesson, if any of us needed to learn it, in a harsh and tragic way.
But it is not only the tragedy of someone being taken too soon that we acknowledge here.
We record our appreciation of a colleague who was bright, well-informed, determined and hardworking.
Those qualities were evident before she entered the Parliament, especially in her work as a trade union official.
She pursued her commitment to this country in a highly effective manner.
It is a great loss to Australia that she cannot continue to do so. You don't have to share all of Kimberley's views to recognise that.
She and I certainly did not agree on everything, but that did not prevent me admiring her talent, her sincerity and her integrity.
In that regard, I want to note that one of the things that has been said about Kimberley is the number of friendships she made across the aisle.
In some quarters that has been used as a reproach.
It should not be. We all have friends outside our own parties.
That is how it should be if we are using our time here fruitfully.
And I have no doubt that Kimberley's passing is not only mourned by her Labor and trade union colleagues.
I offer my deepest condolences to her husband Andrew and their family.
Rest in peace, Kimberley.