Monday, 28 March 2022
Kitching, Senator Kimberley Jane Elizabeth
The 40th President of the United States, Ronald Reagan, once said:
I know in my heart that man is good, that what is right will always eventually triumph and there is purpose and worth to each and every life.
I thought I would start my brief contribution to the Senate today with a quote from former President Ronald Reagan, as I know both Kimberley and her husband, Andrew, held him in high esteem as someone who had a very strong legacy and was very passionate about freedom. This is obviously reflected in the names of their beloved dogs, Ronnie and Nancy-Jane—just a friendly reminder. But this quote also touches on Kimberley's values: the moral potential of humanity and her belief in the inherent worth of every individual.
All of us in the Australian Labor Party and, indeed, the parliament more broadly were shocked to hear about her passing a few weeks ago. Only last month we were all up here in Canberra, with Kimberley, as she did best, running around the corridors, checking in to see how we were going, always with stories to tell and asking if we'd got time for a coffee, but working as hard as ever in Senate estimates. The last time I saw Kimberley was at Melbourne Airport some weeks ago. I had just returned from hearings here at Parliament House and she had returned from interstate. She was her usual bubbly self and we had agreed to catch up for coffee. It is difficult to think that I and all our colleagues here will never see her again in person.
There has been a lot of commentary about her wonderful energy, sense of humour and contribution. I know the halls and the offices of this place will be strangely quiet for some time without her laughter, intellect and friendly smile.
Many of us attended her funeral service last week at St Patrick's Cathedral in Melbourne. It was a lovely service, very fitting, and, as the sun lit through the wonderful stained-glass windows, I was reminded of the warmth that she brought into every room she walked into. She approached politics with the determination and grit of someone who knew the importance of the decisions that we make in this place, but she was always warm and generous on a personal level.
She was a patriot in the true sense. I know that word has been used a lot today, but in some ways it sums up who she was. Her love for Australia was her highest motivation. She knew more than many that it is important to stand up for Australian values on the world stage, and she was never afraid to be critical of regimes that tried to project antidemocratic and illiberal values abroad. While this view may be more politically fashionable now, Kimberley was ahead of the pack. She was a champion for human rights. She strongly believed that every human being, regardless of their nationality or religion, creed or colour, was imbued with inherent rights that must be protected. This is what drove her passion to have Magnitsky laws passed in Australia, allowing us to specifically sanction individuals who are responsible for or supportive of human rights breaches. She was successful in this endeavour, rising above party politics, as so few can, to achieve substantial legislative change here on behalf of oppressed people all over the world.
Bill Browder, who spearheads the global movement for the Magnitsky laws, presented Kimberley with an award that we all know about for her outstanding contribution to the movement last year. Upon learning of her passing, he led an outpouring of grief from human rights leaders and advocates right around the world. He described her as 'a brave justice warrior who never stood down or was intimidated by the evil regimes she advocated against,' who 'deeply believed in justice and truth and was ready to take risks to help the dispossessed'. Mr Browder noted that he and Kimberley had all sorts of plans to do more for victims of human rights abuses.
One of the terrible things about her sudden and early death is that we all knew her potential. If we listen to and look back at every single speech today, we will see that. She had achieved so much and was only just getting started. It is amazing what one individual was able to achieve over six years in this place.
Kimberley was unique in her ability to make friendships with people right across the political spectrum, understanding that two people with ideological differences could still share a love for their country and their work towards common goals. Her generous view of those outside of her own political tribe is something we can all learn from to make this place more civil and productive.
When I first entered the Senate three years ago, Kimberley was particularly supportive of me on a personal level. I fondly remember her attending my appointment in the Victorian parliament and my first speech in the Senate. We shared common values on many issues, particularly our views on antidemocratic regimes and human rights abuses across the globe. Closer to home, she and I were also friends of many blue-collar workers—even if certain jobs may have become less fashionable to some. Kimberley knew that so many Australian families and communities depend on traditional industries. These families and communities have lost a strong advocate.
We often spoke about our dogs—hers, Ronnie and Nancy-Jane, and mine, Bismarck. We joked that together our pups were a bulwark against communism and authoritarianism and a force for global peace and freedom. Maybe one day there might be an international award for them as well!
Like so many, I will miss Kimberley. The outpouring of grief from many, from public figures and community leaders, from the international community as well as ordinary citizens, demonstrates the enormous impact she had in her tragically short time here in parliament. Never in my wildest dreams did I think I would be making a speech about someone who passed away at 52. My thoughts are with her family, with Andrew, with her friends and with her very loyal staff with whom myself and my team worked very closely, especially around estimates.
I would like to finish with a short verse from the Bible, James 1:12:
Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him.