Senate debates

Monday, 28 March 2022


Kitching, Senator Kimberley Jane Elizabeth

3:00 pm

Photo of Matthew CanavanMatthew Canavan (Queensland, Liberal National Party) Share this | Hansard source

The incorporated speech read as follows—

Kimberley Kitching's too early passing left me deeply sad because I miss a great friend. Not long after her passing, I pulled up our WhatsApp chats. They are a constant stream of jokes and laughs. Even though I laughed out loud often while reading them, I couldn't help but feel melancholy because I can't send her another joke now.

Canberra can be a lonely place but is only bearable because of people like Kimberley. She was bubbly, vivacious and always ready to laugh at herself and the absurdity of life as a modern politician. Most of all she was just lots of fun. Laughter was probably invented as a way to get us through the vale of tears that can be life on earth. I miss her deeply and will always miss her.

The outpouring of grief nationally shows that it is not just me but a nation that grieves for having lost her. This reaction is remarkable for a first term Senator and it demonstrates that it's not just what Kimberley did that we are sad for, but how she did it.

If we are ever to restore trust and respect in politicians we need more like Kimberley Kitching. She approached her job as a politician as a true stateswoman. Someone that would steadfastly and honestly fight for the values she believed in. You never felt that you were getting manufactured viewpoints from Kimberley. She spoke from the heart and you did not need to agree with her to respect her integrity and passion.

It has been reported that the Labor leaders office had stopped sending Kimberley the daily talking points, ostensibly because of some disagreement. I am not sure how that would have been any kind of restriction to Kimberley. She thought for herself and spoke for herself.

Kimberley was a steadfast, intelligent and committed Australian patriot. She saw the threats to the freedoms we enjoy. Kimberley was mindful of the risk of war re-emerging, as we see today in Ukraine, and the related pernicious infiltration of Chinese communists into our political parties and institutions. At a time when many among us denigrate our history and achievements, Kimberley defended western traditions and values that have delivered unprecedented individual human opportunity. She fearlessly called out abuses of human rights around the world.

As a free-spirited individual, Kimberley was at times a fish out of water within the Labor party. I don't mean this in a pejorative sense, but Labor has traditionally lent more to collective decision making, rather than permitting the intellectual individual freedom of members.

Kimberley bucked this dogma and angered many of her colleagues by doing so. Just a few months ago she named in Parliament a Chinese individual accused of seeking to bribe Australian politicians. Her action was apparently not approved of within the Labor leadership.

Kimberley openly pushed for Magnitsky laws that strengthen our ability to sanction individuals who have abused human rights overseas. Notwithstanding opposition, Kimberley was successful in getting these laws passed. Thanks to Kimberley we are using her laws today to crackdown on Russian officials and oligarchs involved in the invasion of Ukraine.

When you start as a Senator there is no "how to" guide provided to you. You do not start the day with a list of tasks to do or complete like in some jobs. You have to make your own way. Kimberley's legislative achievements will have a lasting impact on our nation but it is Kimberley's approach that will perhaps leave the most significant impact.

Any aspiring politician should study the career and approach of Kimberley Kitching. She approached her task with commitment, determination, passion and good humour. Hers is the way to succeed and hers is the approach for which there is a demand in the Australian public.

There is a hunger for authentic and honest politics. If we were to be honest, we know that when you put 76 committed Australians together to discuss our laws, you will get different views.

So much of our adolescent political commentary focuses on the trivial differences in opinions, and then generates confected outrage at the so-called disunity within a political party because of them. This then leads to politicians that are robots regurgitating the approved "lines" worked out by faceless men and women in backrooms. Kimberley was no robot.

You get the feeling sometimes that the most dangerous thing in Canberra is a difference of opinion. But we should celebrate different views especially when they are argued with the depth and consideration that Kimberley brought to every discussion.

Kimberley was closer to the American congressional model where it is not unusual for politicians from the same party to vote differently on different issues. Kimberley was a harbinger of a trend and, in her successful development of legislation like the Magnitsky laws, was more like a US Senator than the traditional Australian example.

Someone told me once that the most dangerous politician is the one that has nothing to lose. Kimberley acted with the courage of someone who disregarded personal consequences when she knew it was the right thing to do.

Because she acted with great personal bravery her Senate preselection was under threat, and she had been under great stress in recent months. I have no idea if this contributed to her sad and untimely passing. But the outpouring of respect and love for her over the past week will give confidence to future Parliamentarians that hers is an example to mimic and follow. This will be her greatest political legacy.

As much as I am sad, I cannot begin to understand the sadness that must have overcome her loving husband Andrew, her parents Bill and Leigh and her brother Ben. I know there is a great loss felt with the Australian Labor Party too.

I hope Kimberley's family and friends can take some solace from the genuine respect and admiration for her that her passing has revealed. I did not know Kimberley's parents or husband before her passing, but having seen their beautiful and humble tributes last week, it is clear where she got her personality from.

Andrew gave a beautiful eulogy. Andrew and Kimberley clearly had a special bond. And like all married couples had their ups and downs, but like good marriages the downs seemed to strengthen, not break their bonds.

Kimberley's parents shone through as the humble suburban Brisbane parents whose love clearly helped nurture the inquiring and playful mind of Kimberley that we all knew well.

Kimberley's passing has exposed some of the uglier aspects of politics. We would be naive to believe that we can eradicate such skulduggery completely. It has always been thus with politics since Caesar was a boy. But we can take her passing to reflect on how we act and do more to rectify the impact of our actions on others.

As the beautiful Catholic mass reminded us last week, the first thing we can do is to learn to forgive. I know Kimberley was committed to the beauty and irony of the Catholic Church. A bedrock of the Catholic faith is that we do not seek to create perfection on earth, we just learn how to suffer the inevitability of sin (including our own) with grace and forgiveness. We could do well to apply that lesson here more.

I know that Kimberley will now be in the loving embrace of her creator. I can't WhatsApp her anymore but I can pray. And my prayers are with her, her family and her many friends. Vale Kimberley Kitching.


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