Senate debates

Monday, 28 March 2022


Kitching, Senator Kimberley Jane Elizabeth

1:17 pm

Photo of Sarah HendersonSarah Henderson (Victoria, Liberal Party) Share this | Hansard source

tor HENDERSON () (): I rise on this Senate condolence motion for Kimberley Kitching. Much has been said about Kimberley's life today, so I will make a brief contribution.

Kimberley was a shining light of the Labor Party, of the Australian Senate, and her light shone so brightly across the nation and around the world in the causes for which she so passionately and effectively advocated. Kimberley's passing is a shock and a tragedy. She died way too young. She was cut down in the prime of her life, at a time when she had found her calling. She was, as we have heard so often, a senator's senator. She understood the power of her fierce intellect, her warmth, her commitment to the values to which she held so dear—human rights, democracy, freedom, justice and truth—and she wasn't wasting a moment.

I express my deepest condolences to you, Andrew, Kimberley's beloved husband; to her parents, Bill and Leigh Kitching; to her brother, Ben; to her extended family; to her close friends, including Diana Asmar, who is here in the gallery today as well; to her staff; to the Australian Labor Party; and to the many friends she made across the political aisle and in all walks of her life. At times like this, words seem so inadequate, but Andrew's eulogy, honouring his wife, his soulmate and his life partner, was the best I've ever heard. Almost 20 years ago, I sat in the gallery of the Victorian parliament for the condolence motion for my mother, Ann. She, too, died way too young. There were so many magnificent words and tributes for my mother, in the cut and thrust and trials and tribulations of politics—words that I had never heard uttered whilst she was alive. Today, as we listen to so many magnificent tributes to Kimberley, her life and her achievements, I just wish that I had done a better job at conveying to Kimberley what a magnificent person and a magnificent senator she was.

This is a terrible reminder that life is precious. We only have one life. There are no second chances. As I said in the public hearing of the Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs Legislation Committee conducted last week—the first meeting of the Senate since Kimberley's passing—Kimberley was a magnificent Victorian senator. She was brave, formidable and funny, and she was a friend. She was deeply respected as a warrior of freedom and democracy. I also want to commend the incredible words of Senator Carr, who also paid tribute to Kimberley during that meeting. Kimberley played her politics hard and tough, particularly in committee inquiries and in estimates. As I've expressed to Andrew privately, we had one particularly robust stoush in the Australia Post inquiry, which upset me mainly because I didn't want to be in conflict with Kimberley. Over time, things returned to normal and we resolved to catch up for a glass of wine, but that day never happened and I deeply regret not making a greater effort to do so.

Kimberley's contribution to our nation cannot be overstated, but she will forever be celebrated for her work in the passing of the Autonomous Sanctions Amendment (Magnitsky-style and Other Thematic Sanctions) Act 2021. On that bill, she gave one of the best second reading debate speeches that I have ever heard since entering the Senate. She started her speech with these words:

The world is at a tipping point in the struggle against creeping or, in some places, marching, authoritarianism. In Australia, we live with the benefits of a stable and prosperous democracy. Its superiority over any other model of political and economic organisation may seem self-evident, but this is actually not the case for many people in many parts of the world. Democracy and personal liberty cannot be taken for granted anywhere or at any time. They must be defended and, if I may put it this way, they must be defended aggressively in all of our countries.

She ended her speech with these words:

This legislation is important. We are a democracy and as a democracy we should stand with other democracies and other like-minded people around the world and say no to the evil that we also see in our world.

After she gave this speech, I was in the chamber and I approached Kimberley and congratulated her on the most incredible speech. It will go down in history, I am sure, as one of the best second reading debate speeches ever given in the Senate.

In the speech, she only briefly and humbly mentioned the international award she had received just weeks earlier in London, the Sergei Magnitsky Human Rights Award. She put far greater focus on the people she had met who had been deeply impacted by human rights abuses, including people whose hands have been permanently affected by the poison that agents of the Russian state administered. Kimberley Kitching was so generous of spirit, acknowledging the role of Foreign Minister Payne, Senator Rice, Senator Paterson, Andrew Hastie, Kevin Andrews and, of course, Chris Hayes in bringing the legislation to the floor of the parliament. But I will always remember Kimberley as a great and true warrior of the Labor Party—not of the left, but a traditional, conservative Labor woman—who made a real difference. I support Senator Payne's proposal to establish a permanent memorial to senators who have died, here at Parliament House, and I, too, wish and hope that Kimberley's passing continues forever to remind all members and senators of the incredible benefits of working together across the political aisle to deliver great things for our nation.

As I joined with hundreds of mourners in St Patrick's Cathedral to pay my deepest respects and celebrate the life of Kimberley Kitching, Archbishop Comensoli remarked on the golden light which shone through the magnificent windows on the western side of the cathedral. Kimberley, from above, had timed this perfectly, her shining light forever etched in our hearts.


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