Senate debates

Monday, 28 March 2022


Kitching, Senator Kimberley Jane Elizabeth

2:32 pm

Photo of Claire ChandlerClaire Chandler (Tasmania, Liberal Party) Share this | Hansard source

Likewise, I rise to pay my respects and recognise the vast contribution in this place of Senator Kimberley Kitching. Listening to some of the contributions from colleagues this afternoon, there are a couple of words that we keep on hearing, and 'patriot' is one of them.

I certainly wish to associate myself with those comments made by colleagues to that end. Senator Kitching was an absolute patriot. She was a fierce defender of human rights and of liberal democratic principles. I'm sure that these are all things we come to this place seeking to uphold in some way, shape or form, but Senator Kitching was truly one of our most passionate and our most eloquent in doing so. I know that we will miss her very much in that regard.

Another word that has been used so frequently to describe Kimberley is that she was a very 'collegiate' senator and acted in the true nature of the Senate. She worked with people from across this chamber. I think that all of the contributions across party lines that have been made here today certainly reflect her commitment to that, and I will speak about that a little later.

In echoing my colleague Senator Abetz's comments, I was pleased to work with Senator Kitching as a fellow member of the Inter-Parliamentary Alliance on China as well as being a fellow Wolverine. Her fierce defence of human rights and the liberal democratic principles upon which our society is based is something that I certainly hope we had in common.

I got to know Kimberley, particularly, working on the finance and public administration committee over the last 12 months or so since I was appointed to that committee, and I acknowledge the deputy chair of that committee, Senator Ayres, in the chamber as well. While often, in Senate estimates, we on this side of the chamber and those on that side of the chamber will find ourselves having differing views on the way that estimates might be conducted or the issues that we are talking about, I certainly always recognised the passion and commitment that Senator Kitching brought to estimates and recognised the role that she had to play there and the interest that she had, particularly in relation to the Department of the Senate, the Department of Parliamentary Services and the Parliamentary Library—a lot of great institutions in this place. It was not always a pleasure to listen to her questions, because some of the responses were not always as rigorous as she would have liked, but it was certainly insightful and, for me as a relatively new senator, educational in listening to how she grilled those witnesses that appeared before our Senate committee.

It was through our respective roles on that committee that Kimberley and I first got to know each other. We had a cup of tea in her office one afternoon, and she really demonstrated her ability to find common ground with someone and to find something that you were both interested in and be able to talk about it and have a conversation. We were sitting down to talk about a committee hearing that was upcoming and the fact that some of the evidence relevant to the hearing would be conducted in camera and some of it would not. I made a terrible slip of the tongue and said, 'So, Senator Kitching, when we move out of in camera,' and I stopped myself and I thought: 'Goodness, I'm a Latin scholar; I shouldn't have said that. Senator Kitching, "ex camera" is of course what I meant to say.' I don't really know why I said that; I probably came across as a bit of an idiot. But she, of course, knew what I was talking about because Senator Kitching herself was somebody who had studied Latin. She said: 'Oh, you've studied Latin. You don't see that much amongst senators.' And we had a good old chat about how arguably not particularly useful it was that we had both learnt a dead language. She was very good at forming those bonds with colleagues across the aisle and being able to have those connections regardless of what political differences you might have had—and, certainly, relevant to that issue we were discussing, there were a few. So I was very grateful to her for breaking the ice.

Much has been said publicly about Senator Kitching's advocacy around human rights, and in particular the development of the Magnitsky-like legislation, and our relationship with China. Senator Abetz talked about her role on the Parliamentary Friends of Israel committee. All of these are incredibly important issues, but what I think we need to remember about Senator Kitching is that these weren't always issues that were easy to stand up for. She was a woman who stood by her principles, she was unafraid of doing so and she persevered in doing so. I think that that, as a senator in this place and in particular as a woman in this place, is something that is truly to be admired.

Before I arrived in Canberra this afternoon, I was speaking at a women's leadership breakfast in my home state of Tasmania, down in Hobart. Part of the brief for my contributions to this breakfast was to talk about female leaders that I had had the pleasure of working with or who I admired. In my comments in Hobart today, I mentioned Senator Kitching. I want to, for the purposes of the Hansard, recite the words that I gave in that contribution: 'Tragically Kimberley was taken from us much too soon, but because of her perseverance she was able to effect real and important change, which makes our country a stronger and a safer place. Whatever the issues we are trying to address, it's an example that we can all aspire to.' I certainly think that many of us in this chamber will be thinking of that great example that Senator Kitching set to us all over the coming weeks, as we go into a federal election, and, I am sure, in the coming months and years ahead. We will often find ourselves thinking, I suspect, 'I wonder what Senator Kitching would do in this situation.'

I wish to extend my condolences to Kimberley's husband, Andrew, and the members of her family and friends who are here today. I cannot begin to imagine the loss that you must be feeling, as we all are down here as well. I mentioned that Senator Kitching and I had a common love of the dead language of Latin, so I think it would be fitting for me to conclude by saying: requiescat in pace, Senator Kitching.


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