Senate debates

Monday, 28 March 2022


Kitching, Senator Kimberley Jane Elizabeth

2:52 pm

Photo of Tim AyresTim Ayres (NSW, Australian Labor Party) Share this | Hansard source

I have to say that I have found all of the speeches in today's condolence very moving, the tone set initially by the leadership of both parties. It's a good thing that this condolence, in this week of all weeks, as we approach a budget and an imminent election, where the conflict over the future of Australia will be intense—it's a good thing that the contributions today have been thoughtful and generous. In my view, they have enlarged us all. It's a good thing when the pressure is on the parliament to do something different, when the pressure is the greatest, that the parliament has today delivered, I think, a wonderful condolence for Senator Kimberley Kitching. Opponents and friends, colleagues all, all of us have contributed to this condolence, and that's the way that it should be.

Sadly, it's not so long ago that we in the Labor Senate caucus had to contribute in a condolence motion for a member of our own caucus who'd died while in office. It seems like yesterday that the Senate paused to remember the life of Senator Alex Gallacher. There is a great difference between the normal business of a condolence motion for an old man or woman, long retired, whose political careers and public lives lie behind them and a condolence motion for one whose life is cut short while they serve here. So it was for Alex Gallacher, who bore his long illness with grace and courage and who, while he was matter of fact about it, fought gamely to the end.

But it's so much more acute when it comes to today's condolence for Senator Kimberley Kitching. The tragedy of a young life cut short by sudden and unexpected death is immense. For family and friends, there is grief and there is trauma. For her colleagues, the Senate, the staff of the Senate and the institution of the parliament there is shock and there is grief. And then there is the tragedy of a life not fully realised, like a book half written—I think Senator Birmingham said 'a poem cut in half'. There is no conclusion, no resolution, and for somebody like Kimberley Kitching, who was an ardent contributor and fierce combatant, that is a real tragedy.

I know that Kimberley Kitching's husband, Andrew Landeryou, and her parents, Professor and Mrs Kitching, have attended the Senate today. Both Professor Kitching's speech, on behalf of the family, and Mr Landeryou's speech made a deep impression on me. Professor Kitching's speech—modest and thoughtful—spoke volumes of the pride that he and Mrs Kitching and her brother, Ben, felt in their daughter and sister, and how their family life of love and faith must have underpinned Kimberley's development, her work and her achievements. Andrew Landeryou's eulogy—dignified and courageous—spoke of their shared life—of their love of life together, yes, but also a life of politics and adventure.

Unlike others whose association with Senator Kitching goes back much further, I first met Kimberley on the very first day I arrived here and found that we were seated together. As bench buddies, we shared wry, usually unrepeatable observations about the performance of our colleagues opposite—sometimes on the crossbench too. I was quite struck by how deep her knowledge of international affairs was—her grasp of languages, her love of languages, and her extensive networks well beyond the parliament. She had a diligent and devoted and smart staff team—in particular, Jordan Heng-Contaxis and Maree Goodrick, who all of us got to know here. I know they are hurting now, and I am thinking of them in particular.

I served with Kimberley on several committees, most notably the foreign affairs, defence and trade committee and the joint standing committee. She was a remarkable chair of the references committee. She had a record of achievement there. I don't think that the parliament or the government was quite as seized of the importance of the Magnitsky legislation as she. I could see its premise was inarguable at the commencement of the term, but she was utterly convinced and used the processes of the parliament, the joint committee and the Senate committee to persuade all of us, and ultimately to persuade the parliament—quite an achievement, and she was right. She was right. The Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade References Committee inquiry into the Afghanistan conflict is an outstanding achievement—its first tranche delivered essentially as a consensus report, and the delivery of the second tranche only interrupted by her untimely death. I welcome, very much, the comments of the deputy chair of that committee, Senator Abetz, in his beautiful speech, that the report will be delivered very soon, but ultimately it is entirely a report authored by Kimberley Kitching. She was a participant in the National Executive of the Australian Labor Party, and it is a very fine and appropriate thing indeed that the Leader of the Labor Party proposed to the executive, and that the executive adopted unanimously last week, that at every national conference of the Labor Party there will be an award that celebrates the commitment of a Labor Party member who has made the best contribution to human rights.

As I said before, this condolence motion is a ritual of the Senate usually reserved for senators who have long since retired. I sincerely hope that in some small way it provides some small comfort to Professor and Mrs Kitching, to Ben, to Andrew Landeryou and to all of the family and friends of Senator Kimberley Kitching in their grief and sorrow.


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