Monday, 28 March 2022
Kitching, Senator Kimberley Jane Elizabeth
PRESIDENT (): It is my very sad duty to inform the Senate of the death, on 10 March 2022, of Senator Kimberley Jane Elizabeth Kitching, who served Victoria with distinction in this place from 2016. Senators will be aware that the Senate has been recalled at the request of Senator Birmingham and Senator Wong to enable consideration of a condolence motion for Senator Kitching, and I table that letter. I call Senator Wong.
by leave—I move:
That the Senate expresses its sadness at the death, on 10 March 2022, of Senator Kimberley Jane Elizabeth Kitching, Senator for Victoria, places on record its gratitude for her service to the Parliament and the nation, and tenders its deep sympathy to her family in their bereavement.
Can I start by thanking the Leader of the Government in the Senate, Senator Birmingham, for his cooperation and assistance in arranging to write to the President advising of our desire to recall the Senate ahead of its scheduled next day of meeting in order that a day could be devoted to condolences for Senator Kitching. I also thank the leaders of minor parties and Independent senators, who were consulted as part of this process, for their agreement to ensure this could occur with the full support of the chamber.
I move this motion on behalf of the Senate to express our condolences and our loss following the passing of our colleague Senator Kimberley Kitching at the age of 52. I start by expressing my personal condolences to Senator Kitching's husband, Andrew; to her parents, Professor and Mrs Kitching; and to her brother, Ben. To lose someone you love not only breaks your heart; it shatters your world. And the shock and trauma after so great a loss often feels too much to bear. I know the courage that is required to face each day and every day, and that the grief never leaves you. Grief and loss are mostly private, but we also deal with loss in more public ways, enabling a space for remembrance, a time to honour and to witness a life. In this condolence today, this Senate honours Kimberley Jane Elizabeth Kitching. I hope in some small way Senator Kitching's loved ones gain some comfort from this remembrance here today.
In November last year, as we eulogised the late Senator Alex Gallacher, I reflected that in my role as Leader of the Opposition in the Senate I've spoken on motions of condolence following the passing of a number of former senators and ministers over the last few years, from all sides of politics. But it is a melancholy duty to again be standing here to express condolences following the death of a colleague who just over a month ago sat here amongst us in the chamber. The Labor family is hurting and grieving, and I want to particularly acknowledge the grief felt by so many of my own colleagues.
The breadth of Senator Kitching's friendship across the parliament, media and the Labor movement means many are acutely feeling this loss. I particularly acknowledge the loss felt by Senator Kitching's loyal staff, including those present with us today. It is difficult to confront the reality that someone who had so much more of her life to live would die in such tragic circumstances on 10 March 2022.
As the many tributes since her death have demonstrated, Senator Kitching was a parliamentarian who worked across the political spectrum, relentlessly pursuing what she believed was right. She believed in democracy and its values, including human rights. She worked to shine a light on abuses and corruption around the world and led the charge in this parliament for an Australian Magnitsky sanctions act.
Senator Kitching made substantial contributions through a range of parliamentary committees, especially as the chair of the Senate Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade References Committee, in which she led on a number of inquiries, including most recently Australia's engagement in Afghanistan. She brought a keen interest in Australia's place in the world to this work, examining some of Australia's key diplomatic and defence relationships as well as issues of vital interest to veterans.
Senator Kitching was a patriot, a woman determined to serve her country, who believed in Australian exceptionalism and who concluded her first speech with what she described as 'that old inspiring quote':
And to the love and favour of my country I com mit myself, my person and the cause.
Senator Kitching was born and raised in Brisbane, but her horizons stretched well beyond suburban St Lucia. Her father, William, or Bill, had been a Fulbright scholar, a professor of organic chemistry at the University of Queensland and a fellow at St John's College, Oxford. His teaching and researching took the family to all corners of the world. It was through these experiences in which she learned so much about the world that Senator Kitching grounded a global outlook that endured throughout her life. She had a deep interest not only in what happened in the world but in what it meant and a clear perspective on the strategic and ideological implications of events. She would come to speak several languages and complement her local Bachelor of Arts and a Bachelor of Laws at the University of Queensland with study overseas.
Senator Kitching was widely involved in the Australian Labor Party, having first become engaged with our movement as a student. She contested the position of student union president at the University of Queensland with Murray—now Senator—Watt. After her move to Melbourne in 1995, she became an active party member within her branch, in policy committees and as a delegate to state and national conferences. In recent years, she also regularly attended meetings of the national executive.
In addition to her involvement in the Australian Labor Party and the union movement, Senator Kitching also served in local government as a councillor in the City of Melbourne from 2001 to 2004, the nearest level of government to the people.
Senator Kitching also worked within the broader Labor movement, including in the Health Services Union in a time of some tumult and conflict. Her pride in her work at this time was fierce. She spoke enthusiastically of her longer than expected tenure, helping to build up the union and ensure representation for those at the coalface in our health system. Many of them were marginalised and low paid and did not speak English as a first language.
Following the resignation of former leader of the government and deputy leader of the opposition in this place Stephen Conroy, Senator Kitching was chosen by the parliament of Victoria to fill his casual vacancy on 25 October 2016 and she made her first speech in this place on 9 November of that year. Senator Kitching spoke lovingly of her family. Of her husband, Andrew's, love and loyalty; of her father's life and achievements, her pride in him patent; of her mother, Leigh, one of a 'long line of powerful, confident women … with a twinkle in her eye' and a belief in her daughter; and of her brother, Ben, so close in age and in friendship. She said this: 'But the truth is that they are always with me, wherever I am.' I hope her words stay with those who loved her so.
She argued for Australia's exceptionalism; that we were an exceptional nation not because of sheer luck but because of the hard choices and sacrifices of generations that came before. She advocated for an economy that creates good jobs with fair pay and decent conditions; a society where opportunity is earned, not inherited; and a future that embraces and enhances this exceptionalism. Her friend Bill Shorten has described Senator Kitching as a lioness. In her first speech she emphasised the importance of what she described as 'the unglamorous nuts and bolts of politics: the numbers, the compromises and the tough decisions'. Senator Kitching understood politics and she understood power. She was an extraordinary political operator. And, as I remarked in an interview some years ago, she didn't lack for courage. She served in the opposition shadow executive, first assisting on government accountability and then working with her close friend and mentor, Bill Shorten, in the disability services portfolio.
Although Senator Kitching served on various Senate committees and in different portfolio areas, foreign affairs was her primary area of interest. Senator Kitching's love of foreign affairs took her overseas on parliamentary delegations to Jordan and Lebanon, where she visited Syrian refugee camps; to India, where she met the Dalai Lama; to Papua New Guinea; and to Singapore, Indonesia and Myanmar, amongst other nations. She was seized of the dimensions and implications of this time and its implications for our nation. She understood the reality of strategic competition and the harshness of authoritarianism, and she was deeply committed to human rights.
So perhaps her most significant and lasting legacy of her parliamentary service will be her role on the Joint Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade, with particular reference to the Human Rights Subcommittee and its inquiry into targeted sanctions to address human rights abuses, commonly known as Magnitsky legislation. With the chair, Mr Kevin Andrews, and the deputy chair, Mr Chris Hayes, and other members, Senator Kitching worked to deliver a substantial report on this matter that laid the groundwork for future legislation. It was a topic in which she held a longstanding active interest. Senator Kitching first gave notice of introduction of a bill to implement Magnitsky laws in December 2019, but then postponed this course of action in order to allow the committee to undertake the inquiry, which had been referred to it by the Minister for Foreign Affairs at the same time. Initially the coalition government, through foreign minister Bishop, had been unsupportive of such a bill. Labor hoped a committee referral would both draw out the arguments for action and ground a bipartisan way forward.
In December 2020, the committee tabled its report, titled Criminality, corruption and impunity: Should Australia join the Global Magnitsky movement?When the government disappointingly dragged its heels on a response, Senator Kitching proceeded to introduce her own bill, and did so with the support of the Labor shadow cabinet and caucus. Her bill, the International Human Rights and Corruption (Magnitsky Sanctions) Bill 2021, was introduced at the beginning of August 2021. Some three months later, the government introduced the Autonomous Sanctions Amendment (Thematic Sanctions) Bill 2021. Owing to the strong consensus built around the need for these laws, this bill, as amended, passed into law by the end of the year. Senator Kitching and her staff contributed towards a set of amendments moved by Labor which were adopted by the Senate, including ensuring the title of the bill included the name 'Magnitsky'.
For her work in advocating for and pursuing this legislation, Senator Kitching received the Sergei Magnitsky Human Rights Award, international recognition of her contribution. In recognition of Senator Kitching's accomplishments in furthering human rights, Anthony Albanese has initiated the Kimberley Kitching Human Rights Award to be awarded at each national conference to a member of the party who has demonstrated an outstanding commitment to the advancement of human rights in Australia or globally. This is a fitting tribute.
She was a person who cared about justice in a profound way. I've worked with many politicians who do things for different reasons, but Kimberley did what she did because of conviction and deep dislike of injustice.
Mr Robertson said, in part:
I have highlighted just one of Kimberley's qualities—her intelligence. That is a quality not necessary for a politician, but at a time beset by complex political problems—how to combat authoritarianism, climate change, corporate greed and so on—it surely helps. I was born under Ben Chifley and have encountered every Prime Minister since—it is my opinion that the present incumbent is the least intelligent of them all. When he is replaced by Albo and his team, it is truly sad that Senator Kitching will not be among them.
Much has been said and written in the days since Senator Kitching's passing. Many are hurting and many are grieving. I understand that grief and loss can be so profound that it can provoke anger and blame. I've made my views very clear outside this place about some of that misplaced anger and blame. I will not return anger with anger or blame with blame. As my friend Senator Malarndirri McCarthy said, 'Sorry business is very sacred.' And Senator Kimberley Kitching deserves her life and legacy to be celebrated and remembered.
Perspective is often so hard to find in the lives we lead, in sorrow and in tragedy. But it is that perspective which ultimately enables healing and insight. When Archbishop Comensoli bid us look to the light streaming through the windows at St Patrick's Cathedral, we lifted our gaze and we were reminded of that which matters most—of love, hope and faith, those truths which uplift and sustain. Senator Kitching was of strong Christian faith. Faith manifests itself for different people in different ways but underpins the conscience and values of so many amongst us. At times it is a compass. At times it is a refuge. May all find strength and refuge where it is needed, seek out help where it is available and be surrounded by love and support in sorrow. To those closest to Senator Kitching: may love, hope and time bring you peace.
It is time to decide what kind of parliament we will be. Will we live down to the cynicism of the community about politicians, or will we show leadership in challenging days?
… … …
It is time to decide what kind of country we are. Will we shirk the decisions that face us, or will we once again rise to the moment and choose what is hard, what is complex, what is right?
It is our responsibility to lead that discussion and win that fight, to carry on the work of building an exceptional Australia—a nation and a future worthy of the people who call this great country home.
Those words carry weight. Those words ring true more than five years since they were delivered to this chamber in the first of many powerful contributions by Senator Kimberley Kitching, on Wednesday 9 November 2016.
Today we stop to honour the life of Senator Kitching, a life cut short far too soon. She was a warrior for her beliefs, her party and Australia. In a relatively short time Kimberley made a firm impression on this place and on Australian politics. She lived up to the ideals she spoke of in her first speech. She rose above the cynicism. She did not shirk the decisions. She showed responsibility and she contributed to the exceptionalism of Australia.
Since her appointment to the Senate in 2016, Kimberley immersed herself in her policy passions, building a reputation as a tough operator willing to stand by her convictions. Senator Kitching believed in our democracy. She believed in democracy. She loved our nation and she embraced the opportunity afforded to all who call Australia home.
The daughter of an organic chemist father, Bill, and a physiotherapist mother, Leigh, Kimberley grew up in Brisbane with her younger brother, Ben. Growing up, Kimberley was a keen swimmer and a proud holder of the Bronze Medallion. She continued to swim throughout her life. She lived just a short walk from the University of Queensland, her alma mater, where she obtained her law and arts degrees later in life.
In her childhood Kimberley gained an invaluable international perspective through travel associated with her father's work. It provided Kimberley with rich insights that she carried throughout her life. Her father's work took the family around the globe from Oxford to North Carolina, Barcelona to Bavaria and Bordeaux and back again, finishing up her schooling at Brisbane Girls Grammar. As Kimberley put it, 'My parents had no compunction about sending me to school in places I didn't know the language.' Kimberley believed this constant movement made her more observant. She was observant. Her international experiences also saw Kimberley gain a broad understanding of various languages. She was fluent in French and Spanish and could converse in Italian, German and Russian. But, perhaps even more than her linguistic abilities to connect with others, Kimberley connected in ways that could break down any barriers: her broad smile, an effervescent personality, her sparkling wit, her caring concern and an ability to light up a room.
Kimberley joined Young Labor at an early age and became active in student politics, where her interest in politics and sparkling personality would combine to establish a partnership that would last throughout her life. At a Young Labor quiz night she met a fellow law student from Bond University. That student was Andrew Landeryou. They hit it off immediately and managed a long-distance relationship that only grew and sustained their love, with the two of them marrying in Melbourne six years later in 2000. I acknowledge Andrew, who is here today, and Kimberley's other family, loved ones and friends, both here and watching from afar.
Andrew spoke at Kimberley's funeral, with incredible strength, about their relationship—Andrew's relationship with 'Kimba', as she was affectionately known. He traversed, in an open and courageous way, the highs and lows of that relationship. I say, Andrew, to you that mine is also a marriage born of politics, with the shared interests, passionate debates and occasional very divided opinions that that entails. It is never easy to see those you love judged—even less so when they are sometimes judged not on their worth or deeds but on your own. Your angst at this reality in parts of Kimberley's life is evident, but you should take heart, as should all her family, from all that she achieved and, more importantly, that the light of love between the two of you never appeared to waver one iota. When you spoke of Kimberley's view of friendship and love as being 'all in' and 'absolutist', it resonated with those who knew her.
Funerals are times to grieve, they are times to mourn, they are times to give thanks for a life, but they are also opportunities to reflect. All who spoke at Kimberley's funeral service took us deeper into Kimberley's life, but also gave us a chance to reflect on her life; what it meant to us; the opportunities for us all to be bigger, better individuals; and the importance of love, of courage, of fun and of resolve, especially for those of us in this line of work.
Andrew and Kimberley made Melbourne their home, where she practised as a lawyer and worked in several private companies in information technology and human resources. Her experience in the private sector gave Kimberley firsthand knowledge of pressures faced by businesses in meeting a payroll and implementing a business plan. Without question her legal background and work in the law explained her talent in the art of forensic questioning at estimates, which I and a few others were on the receiving end of, as well as her ability to argue, most effectively, for what she stood for.
Her battles for control and reform of the Health Services Union hardened Kimberley's political instincts and her strength for political battle. One of her early victories in the public sphere of politics came when she served on the Melbourne City Council in the early 2000s, championing the removal of a publicly funded anti-Israel mural from the CBD. Standing against anti-Semitism and in support of freedoms provided by democracies, alongside basic human rights for all, was to be a lifelong focus of Kimberley's public life.
As Kimberley reflected some four years ago on her journey to the Australian parliament, she had never been attracted to the far Left. She believed it was at the centre of politics where the gravitas and responsibility lay. Kimberley fought against those who peddled prejudice to deceive Australians against our own interests. In her time here in Canberra, Kimberley was appointed shadow assistant minister for government accountability in 2019, before becoming the shadow assistant minister for government services and the NDIS in 2021. As Labor's government accountability spokesperson, Kimberley carried out the role with focused and purposeful intent. In reflecting upon matters that she was pursuing in her role, Kimberley reflected positively how great it was that, in Australia, we consider the pub test as the defining way of resolving complex issues.
But Kimberley could delve far deeper than just the pub test into those complex issues. She's rightly remembered for her parliamentary committee work, most particularly in defence and foreign affairs. Just under six months ago, as Senator Wong has referenced, Senator Kitching deservedly received the prestigious Magnitsky Human Rights Award in London for her work in helping to achieve Magnitsky legislation sanctions here in Australia. This legislation allows for the direct targeting of individuals and entities committing human rights abuses and serious corruption. Senator Kitching helped to carry this legislation through by championing it within her own party, across this parliament and throughout the broader community. Thanks to her efforts and those of others, the Australian parliament voted unanimously last December for this groundbreaking legislation.
Senator Kitching made the effort through her interests in national security, defence and foreign affairs to spend time with the women and men of the Australian Defence Force, ensuring that she understood their views, as it helped to inform her work in areas of national security. As she made public, she believed that, in many ways, those who serve our nation in uniform are the best of us. Kimberley observed that those in our uniforms were bright and friendly, highly competent and resilient and a positive, self-reliant, modern embodiment of the Anzac spirit. Reflecting on Remembrance Day in 2017, Kimberley said that it was 'very easy to talk of mateship and patriotism' and that 'politicians are sometimes the worst at throwing these words around'. I do not say it lightly today when I echo the remarks of Senator Wong in declaring that Kimberley Kitching was a great Australian patriot. Kimberley Kitching embodied those qualities that she believed shone through in the best of Australians—a bright and friendly addition to this chamber and, to borrow a description from her dear friend Bill Shorten, a woman of 'serene intellect'.
As a Labor moderate, Senator Kitching believed in 'a strong activist government that works hard to solve the intractable problems in the community'. But as she highlighted in her maiden speech to this chamber:
… I also believe that our duty as elected representatives is to check and limit the inexorable growth of the state and of the taxes that sustain the state. Those taxes come from real people, real pay packets, real families, and they must never be wasted or raised unnecessarily. This vision lies at the core of Australian exceptionalism.
In this, we were certainly in agreement. Kimberley was a proud Australian. She truly loved our nation. Again, in her maiden speech, she made that case for Australian exceptionalism:
Australia is not exceptional because we have been divinely mandated, or because of some inherent quality unasked and unearned; Australia is exceptional precisely because generations of Australians have made hard choices and hard sacrifices. In a time of global change and uncertainty at home, we are called once again to choose: to choose an economy that creates good jobs with fair pay and decent conditions, to choose a society where opportunity is earned not inherited, and to choose a future that embraces and enhances Australia's exceptionalism.
As we reflect upon today, Senator Kitching believed Australia's exceptionalism was a result of those generations of Australians that made hard choices and hard sacrifices.
She knew that those of us today across our nation stand on the shoulders of generations who went before us. In future it will be on Kimberley Kitching's shoulders that other generations will also in part stand. Kimberley had an ability to take a step back from the issues of the day and to think deeply, analyse and provide a meaningful voice into our political discourse. She did this most notably in areas of foreign policy and challenge. She spoke not to fill the silence, only to add fruitfully to it.
As we meet here today, there is war in Europe, the aftershocks of the COVID-19 pandemic remain and we see the devastation of increasingly prevalent natural disasters. Senator Kimberley Kitching fought the good fight to the very end. Just a few weeks ago she provided valuable insight in her opinion piece to Herald Sun on the need for Australia to continue building an alliance capable of effectively deterring authoritarianism. True to this day Australia stands strong amidst a time of global change.
Kimberley's untimely and sudden death on 10 March, at just 52 years of age, was a deep shock to all who were privileged to know her. Kimberley was someone with so much more to contribute. Like an unfinished poem, Kimberley Kitching's contribution to public life will always be somewhat open-ended. What would the poet have chosen for this next stanza? How would the poet have completed the majesty of their concept? In the case of Kimberley, what more would she have contributed inside this place or elsewhere? What else would the power of her intellect and the force of her personality have made a difference to? Tragically, those questions will now go forever unanswered. But that we hold such confidence she had so much more to contribute and would have made such a great difference, no matter where life next took her, is itself a testament to the way Kimberley lived life and contributed.
Today we remember someone who thought deeply about the issues at hand, someone who cared deeply for our nation, its values and the way those values are embodied and promoted throughout the world. We lament the loss of a good friend to many in this place and a fierce advocate for human rights and all that she believed in. On behalf of the Australian government and the Australian Senate, I extend our condolences to Kimberley's husband, Andrew; to her parents, Professor and Mrs Kitching; to her brother, Ben; to all of her loved ones, her friends, her staff and her Labor colleagues. We thank you for sharing Kimberley with us, for the support that you gave her and, most importantly, for what she gave to the nation.
On behalf of the Australian Greens and on behalf of Senator Waters, who is unable to be with us today, I rise to reflect on the contribution of Senator Kimberley Kitching to us here in the Senate, to the Australian parliament, to our country and to the globe, and to offer our heartfelt sympathy and love to her family, her friends, her staff and her colleagues, particularly her colleagues from the Australian Labor Party.
What can one say when one of your colleagues suddenly passes away at the age of 52? Life is not fair, is it? Fifty-two is far too young. If life were fair, Kimberley would be here with us this week. She'd be having discussions with people about the war in Ukraine, the draft agreement between the Chinese and the Solomon Islands governments, what more Australia could be doing to apply pressure to the junta in Myanmar 13 months after their coup. I imagined her being here now, as we were all walking in, being cheery, chatty, effusive, connecting with folks. She'd be doing the rounds of the crossbench, of her Labor colleagues and of government senators. She'd be ready to rip into tomorrow's budget. She'd be checking in with folks on where they are at, less than two months out from the election. She would be ready to speak this week to the report of the Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade References Committee inquiry into Afghanistan, which she initiated and chaired.
During the last day of hearings of this committee's inquiry, when I last worked directly with Kimberley, I had to leave early, so I didn't get to ask all my questions and I left them with Kimberley to ask. This was often how the foreign affairs, defence and trade committee worked on issues of human rights. We didn't agree on everything but there was a lot where we did, and we worked collaboratively and cooperatively, and we used the resources of the committee to do our best to shine a spotlight on issues of human rights injustice around the world and to inquire into where Australia could and should be doing more to engage on these issues.
I learnt at Kimberley's funeral last week that Kimberley had personally advocated successfully for 30 people to leave Afghanistan after the fall of Kabul and to seek asylum in Australia. Good on her! This is a massive part of her legacy. I know for me, having done the same for 11 people, that I've got a sense that, no matter what else I manage to achieve in the Senate, advocating for and being a critical part of getting people to safety here in Australia is something I feel really proud of. And I know those 30 people that Kimberley advocated for will feel that they owe their lives and their new lives in Australia to Kimberley, and they'll feel her loss immensely.
Kimberley's role in getting Magnitsky legislation in place for Australia for targeted sanctions on individuals who are responsible for serious human rights abuses was huge, as Senator Wong and Senator Birmingham have already spoken about. I think it's really notable that Magnitsky legislation was something that was achieved with cross-party support, which is what Kimberley excelled at. The Joint Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade Human Rights Subcommittee inquiry resulted in the unanimous report, and then there were the negotiations through the final passage of the bill through the Senate. The committee inquiry report, Criminality, corruption and impunity: Should Australia join the Global Magnitsky movement?An inquiry into targeted sanctions to address human rights abuses, was tabled in December 2020. It recommended, as I said, unanimously, the enactment of a standalone Magnitsky-style targeted sanctions act. Kimberley, who along with others had been involved in the committee's report, continued, after that report was tabled, the advocacy for and the pressure on the government to introduce legislation to implement this recommendation. She introduced her own private senator's bill in August last year, and she was very supportive of the private senator's bill that I also introduced at much the same time.
As we know, our Magnitsky legislation was debated and passed through the Senate in the last sitting week of last year. I recall, after the vote when the legislation passed, the hugs across the chamber. It truly was one of those rare moments in the Senate when we came together to achieve something very significant that will impact upon the lives of millions of people across the globe, with Australia joining with other countries, with the US, the UK, Canada, the European Union, to sanction people who are responsible for war crimes, for attempted genocide and for brutal and violent attacks on democracy and freedom and people's lives and wellbeing.
Kimberley's role in championing the Magnitsky legislation from the opposition benches was recognised by her being awarded the Magnitsky Award for Outstanding Contribution to the Global Magnitsky Movement in November last year, just weeks before the legislation passed through the Senate. The founder of the Magnitsky movement, Bill Browder, noted at the time how momentum to adopt Magnitsky legislation in Australia had stalled until Kimberley took up the cause following a Zoom meeting with him. He told the award ceremony:
Australia's a country that's completely on the other side of the world and for years I'd been trying to get things going, and I couldn't get any traction at all. And the moment I met Kimberley on Zoom, everything started to happen.
Kimberley also had a role in another significant committee process which I was a part of, in 2016-17, which was the Select Committee on the Exposure Draft of the Marriage Amendment (Same-Sex Marriage) Bill, that also ended up with a unanimous recommendation—to legislate for marriage equality. This was just after she took up her seat here in the Senate. I remember Kimberley in that committee process being deep in all the legal technicalities, actively engaging in the discussion around the room about the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and how marriage equality intersected with international human rights law and the issue of protecting people of faith from discrimination and protecting the rights of same-sex attracted and gender diverse folk—these discussions, of course, which were continuing until her passing. Her speech on marriage equality, when the legislation passed through the Senate, ended by quoting Shelley Argent from the Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays, calling for the parliament to allow people to 'finally marry the person they love, to have the same opportunities and privileges that marriage provides'. And Kimberley finished her speech by saying, 'So let us legislate and let the bills ring.'
Sadly, now, the bells are silent for Kimberley. So, on behalf of the Greens, I extend our love and our best wishes to her husband, Andrew. And I particularly know the pain and the grief on the sudden loss of a life partner, and so my heart really goes out to Andrew. It's not something that you wish anyone to have to go through, and I know the pain and grief that you are currently suffering. We express our love and our best wishes to her parents, William and Leigh; her brother, Ben; her staff, friends and colleagues, as I said, particularly those in the Labor Party. I know it's hard that we're going through now, but Kimberley's love and her legacy will live on.
I rise today as Leader of the National Party in the Senate to contribute to this condolence debate and associate us particularly with the commentary from Senator Birmingham but also Senators Wong and Rice. I think we were all completely shocked and saddened when we learnt of the passing of Senator Kitching a couple of weeks ago. So young—I don't think I would have said 52 was young a few years ago, but it seems very, very young right now—so vibrant and so much more to do in this place. She'd only just got started. So I think there was a great sense of tragedy around that news.
As a fellow Victorian senator, Kimberley and I didn't often find ourselves on the same side of the chamber, but when we did, thanks to a common set of values and a few common mutual friends, we would take the opportunity to catch up for a bit of a gossip and a chat, and that was quite an enjoyable part of the day. I think I've always been, like so many others have commentated on, struck by her powerful intellect, her fierce patriotism, her breadth of understanding of international affairs and her sense of irreverence. Her wit was phenomenal. She was part of that old-school conservative Labor mould. It's very hard to find these days, but it was the bedrock that built that party, and she took that tradition forward with great faith and commitment and bravery.
She was brave in terms of always speaking her mind—I think that's sometimes easier to do than at other times—and she never took a backward step, which I think was incredible. Kimberley would never say she was deeply embedded in the issues of rural and regional Australia, but I do know that, when she worked in Victorian state politics, she travelled to regional Victoria with then Premier Brumby in the aftermath of our 2009 Black Saturday bushfires. And witnessing the people rally around each other firsthand brought home to her a great sense of community and pride, a sense of regional Victoria, which she then brought to the Senate.
She was born and spent part of her youth in Brisbane in the early 1970s, and from a young age Kimberley viewed the world as an internationalist. With an academically minded father who became a Fulbright scholar, a professor of organic chemistry and a fellow at St John's College, Oxford, Kimberley lived and attended school in the United States, various European countries and the United Kingdom before returning home to Queensland to complete degrees in law and arts at the University of Queensland.
These quiet beginnings in the unassuming suburbs of Brisbane's inner west wouldn't be the last stop for someone who wanted to change not only her own backyard but the world. Working variously as a lawyer, a policy adviser to the Victorian Treasurer, a Melbourne city councillor and a union official, Kimberley was appointed to the Senate in 2016, replacing former Senator Conroy.
She was in every sense of the word a senator's senator. I notice we've got some House of Representatives colleagues from the other place here with us today, listening to these contributions. But to be a senator's senator means you know how to use the committee work to the advantage of your cause, your political interests, and Kimberley did that like no other. She was determined and detailed in her prosecution of the issues she was near and dear to.
She served with passion as the shadow assistant minister for government services and the NDIS, and as chair of the Senate Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade References Committee she was able to throw herself into international affairs, advocating for victims of human rights abuses and for national and international security issues. She made contributions on the Joint Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade, the Joint Standing Committee on Treaties and the Joint Committee of Public Accounts and Audit.
She was also a strong supporter of the ADF, and their capabilities were heavily assessed through her involvement in these committees. In a recent trip to Lismore, following the floods, I was able to call into the barracks at Lismore, as the ADF flowed in from around the country, and Major Baden Taylor was actually sharing stories with me about a recent ADF deployment that Kimberley had had, with photos. It was just this informal, inconsequential conversation I was having with brave ADF personnel about former Senator Kitching's passion for our Defence Force. They all knew it on the ground, not just those rocking up to our Senate estimates.
What I think Kimberley really brought to parliament was a fierce patriotism. She was an advocate for the liberal rules based international order, which is currently being tested in Europe. She was always one to look beyond our shores, to broader international security issues. Her last post on Twitter before her passing was a retweet of the US Army, where soldiers were arriving in Europe as part of the 7,000 service members deployed to reassure NATO allies of the US's commitment to deterring Russian aggression and strengthening allied forces. I'm sure that's a sentiment we would all share.
Throughout Kimberley's time in the Senate, she relentlessly campaigned to incriminate those who abused human rights. She fought for democratic freedoms and the freedom of expression, particularly when it came to freedom of the press. She had a strong desire to achieve long-term bipartisan public policy outcomes—because guess what, people? That's where most Australians are: in the centre. I think, as a member of one of the parties of government, she really exemplified what's possible when you play to the centre.
She was determined not to waste her time in this place and fought hard for purposeful reforms. She was very keen to ensure that our country was safe within the international challenges that we're facing and she didn't back away from causes she believed in. In her first speech in this place, she said:
Being a part of those reforms, sharing in their creation, is the dream of all those attracted to public life. It is very much my dream too.
She believed in making a difference to Australians at home and abroad. It was a dream of Kimberley's to shape key reforms, and, despite her only serving just over five years in this chamber, I believe she did achieve that dream. She brought important legislation to the chamber in the form of the Magnitsky act. Any new senator that comes into this place with high aspirations need only look to Kimberley Kitching as a model for what one can achieve as a determined, hardworking senator.
Much has been said about the Magnitsky movement here in this chamber in recent months, and just days from being released from a Russian jail, where he was being held for up to one year without trial under Russian law, Sergei Magnitsky passed away at the age of 37, after being denied medical treatment and family visits. In fact, he died on the eve of his 365-day term. Like him, Kimberley was at the height of her career in this place, fighting for victims of human rights when she passed.
Kimberley was instrumental in bringing forward the initial legislation and was subsequently awarded the Outstanding Contribution Award from the Global Magnitsky Justice Movement last year for her work and efforts in bringing about its adoption in Australia. But her efforts didn't stop there. Such was her determination not to shy away from what she believed in that, after a successful campaign to introduce that legislation into our parliament, she was working to extend the law to other jurisdictions in our region, such as Japan and New Zealand. On hearing of her passing, Bill Browder, the architect of the Global Magnitsky Justice Movement, said,
Kimberley was a brave justice warrior who never stood down or was intimidated by the evil regimes she advocated against.
She fought hard, and the more experience she gained in this place, I believe, the more steadfast her resolve to bring about change in the national and international stage became. Much of what she achieved in this place can be summarised in the final lines of her first speech:
It is our responsibility to lead that discussion and win that fight, to carry on the work of building an exceptional Australia … And from this day forward I pledge myself and my service to that high and noble task. It is a task I take up from this moment forward. I do not shy away from this high goal to secure an exceptional future for Australia.
Our sincere sympathies go to Andrew, to her parents, Bill and Leigh, and to her broader family and friends.
Importantly, finally, she was a woman of strong faith, and it was a great privilege to be able to attend her mass recently. She took very seriously that it's by deeds, not by words, that we stand or we fall. Kimberley was a patriot for our country. I considered her a friend. She was intelligent and irreverent and a strong female senator, and our parliament is poorer for her absence. She'll be incredibly missed.
I just wanted to share a couple of personal anecdotes. One of our last discussions in the joint vote was her sharing how she saved Nancy-Jane from the brown snake. She was bravely throwing rocks and sticks and had got rid of the snake. Then, outraged, she pulled up the local ranger, 'What the hell? You've got brown snakes in the park!' Classic! The ranger was like, 'But, ma'am, they're a protected species,' to which Kimberley replied, 'Well, so is my dog, by me,' and then she went to hospital because she'd actually been bitten by the snake, in that protection. The other one—she was such an engaging and charming dinner guest. When she'd come around for dinner, she'd be holding up the Pol Roger and saying, 'Well, I am having dinner with Tories!' She was a fabulous woman and a fabulous example to us all. We thank her for her inspirational service in this place and to our country. Vale Kimberley.
Kimberley Kitching—we talked, we agreed, we disagreed, we laughed. We even dined, as she sought to build a bridge to the crossbench. I've been reflecting on Kimberley over the last short period, and there was one thing about her that really struck me as different, particularly in this place. She would always bump into me in the corridor—sometimes I thought she was stalking me, it happened so often! She would always say g'day and be really cheery, and then she'd do something that's really unusual for senators: she would ask you what you thought about something, instead of what we normally do, which is to tell the other senator what you think. That was something about Kimberley that struck me as being very different.
I worked with Kimberley a little bit on the Magnitsky bill. She was very strong on China. She moved a motion, co-sponsored by me. It was perhaps not approved by her party, but she cared a lot about that particular issue. The one area where she really did work very closely with me was in relation to my bill to have goods and services made by slave labour in Xinjiang prohibited from entering into this country. In the end, the committee manoeuvred and agreed—quite properly, and I was very glad they did—to extend that ban to all jurisdictions, and that's proper. It was Kimberley that worked with me. There were others—Senator Fawcett and others—that contributed, but she did a lot of work in that space.
Just on committees, as well—as a crossbencher I was trying to get the call, and that's not always easy, particularly in foreign affairs, defence, and trade and particularly when Senator Abetz is chairing. I could always go to Kimberley and plead with her for a bit of extra time, and she would give it to me. She was such a wonderful lady. She always tried to accommodate.
I think she's a huge loss to the Labor Party. I think she's a huge loss to the Senate, the parliament, Victoria and Australia. She was my friend and I will miss her. Vale Kimberley.
Y (—) (): I rise to speak to the condolence motion for Senator Kimberley Jane Elizabeth Kitching. I begin by expressing deep sympathy to her husband, Andrew Landeryou; her parents, William and Leigh Kitching; her brother, Ben; and her wider family, friends and, of course, staff in this place.
Since Senator Kitching's passing, many have noted what a shock and tragedy her death is. Senator Kitching's husband and father spoke movingly, about their shock and loss, at her funeral last week. Like some in this chamber, and like many in the community, I know something of coming to terms with an unexpected death in one's family. Such tragic shocks often cleave the lives of those left behind into before and after. So much has been lost and nothing for the family will be the same again. In an instant, a family is irrevocably changed. For a family in such circumstances the grief can be profound—for the loss of a life but also for the loss of a future. Since the day Kimberley died, her family have been in my prayers.
We as senators gather today to pay respects to Kimberley Kitching's family and to stand with them in sympathy at an extraordinarily sad time. We also gather to pay respect to Senator Kitching's contribution to this chamber and to our country, and it is fitting that we do so. It is a fine tradition of this Senate and, indeed, of this parliament to set aside time to honour our colleagues for their contribution to Australia and its people. It was only too recently we gathered, for the same purpose, for our colleague Senator Alex Gallacher, and today we do so for Senator Kimberley Kitching.
Senator Kitching's time in this place will no doubt be marked by her enthusiasm for the Senate estimates and committee processes and, indeed, her enthusiasm for questions on notice. Kimberley was dedicated to her committee work, particularly in foreign affairs, defence and free trade. She took an expert eye for scrutiny to a range of issues across a variety of portfolios. Of course, Kimberley served on the front bench of the Australian Labor Party as a shadow assistant minister for government services and the NDIS, where she brought great passion and compassion, as well as being the Deputy Manager of Opposition Business in the Senate.
As Senator Wong has so well outlined and other senators have remarked, Senator Kitching was a driving force in Australia for a Magnitsky act, introducing the private member's bill in August 2021 before the government introduced its own bill in November 2021. In November last year, Kimberley Kitching was rightfully awarded the Sergei Magnitsky Human Rights Award for outstanding contribution to the global Magnitsky movement, at a 2021 ceremony in London.
I served with Kimberley since my election in the Senate in 2018. When I first arrived, we were seated at a bench that we decided was clearly reserved for people with the initials KK. We campaigned together in 2019, in Victoria, on the campaign bus. We visited the USS Ronald Reagan in Brisbane together, along with other members and senators across the parliament, and we experienced being catapulted off an aircraft carrier. I still have in my phone photos of Kimberley smiling in her helmet and protective gear as we boarded that plane.
After the election, Kimberley and I also worked together to introduce new formal and informal ways to build teamwork within our caucus, especially within the right faction of Labor senators, including meetings and social events that we coordinated together. Sadly, COVID lockdowns and physical separations made maintaining some of those processes a real challenge.
I was not as close to Kimberley as some, but the Kimberley Kitching I experienced was, as Matthew Knott wrote in the Sydney Morning Herald, 'fascinating' and 'complex'. In my experiences in working with Kimberley, I would never have described her as a shrinking violet. She was never backward about coming forward. If she had a view she put it, and in many ways I found this refreshing. In politics we often have to resolve matters of policy or process quickly, and some people are not always direct about what they want. I welcomed that Kimberley was not one of those people.
In the days since Kimberley died, much has been said and written, especially about the stresses she was experiencing as her preselection approached. Others have had a lot to say and write about this issue, and some of what has been suggested I have strongly responded to on the record outside this place. But today, in this place, I will treat her life and her legacy as I did prior to her tragic death: with deep respect for her intelligence and her capacity. She was never to be underestimated. She made her own decisions. She was not manipulated by others in her career, her beliefs or her passions. Those who use the grief caused by her death for purposes other than honouring her life and her work will find no friend in me.
At Kimberley's funeral on Monday, her friend Bill Shorten spoke of her qualities, encouraging everyone in the Labor family to channel their grief into winning the upcoming federal election. Bill said:
She understood—in the marrow of her bones—that the people who count on Labor count, above all, on Labor government.
So I know if she were here with us still all her energy and activism and enthusiasm and the powerful force of her personality would have been dedicated to a Labor victory in May.
Guided by Bill's words, that is what we should do. Alongside the humanitarian award that Anthony Albanese has established in her name, securing a Labor government is the most fitting tribute to Kimberley's life and service to the Australian Labor Party.
In conclusion, I reflect upon Kimberley's Catholicism, which is a faith we shared and something we discussed, especially as the parliament considered how to provide protections to people of faith from discrimination. One of the rites of passage for a Catholic is the Sacrament of Confirmation. It is a moment where a young person chooses the Catholic faith for themselves and confirms their membership in the church. As part of the sacrament, a young Catholic chooses a saint's name as a new name for themselves; Kimberley chose the name 'Elizabeth'. In the Catholic tradition there are several St Elizabeths, but two in particular—St Elizabeth of Hungary and St Elizabeth Ann Seton—seem particularly relevant today as we honour the life of Kimberley Jane Elizabeth Kitching.
St Elizabeth of Hungary was born of nobility in the year 1207. She was educated abroad, she was worldly and she shared a deep love in her marriage to her husband, Ludwig. They were considered a powerful political couple in their time. St Elizabeth Ann Seton was the first American-born saint, and she is widely considered the founder of the American Catholic education system. As Kimberley's father recounted at her funeral, Kimberley thrived in her primary-school years in the United States. St Elizabeth of Hungary dedicated her life to serving the poor, often doing so quietly so as to avoid detection. One of the most famous miracles associated with St Elizabeth of Hungary is the miracle of the roses. Today the Senate honours Kimberley Jane Elizabeth Kitching with her favourite flower, a single white rose, on her empty desk. As roses did for her namesake, that rose today serves as a symbol and a reminder of the love and grace God gave to Kimberley Kitching in her life and now in her death.
I end my condolence where I began, expressing my deepest sympathies and prayers for Kimberley's family, for their loss, amongst all our losses, is the most significant. May the words of Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton provide some solace on this day:
The accidents of life separate us from our dearest friends, but let us not despair. God is like a looking glass in which souls see each other. The more we are united to Him by love, the nearer we are to those who belong to Him.
Vale Kimberley Kitching.
I too rise today to pay tribute to someone who was without a doubt a fierce political opponent, but, more importantly, to honour, respect and remember a friend.
From the moment, as we've heard, that Kimberley Kitching stepped into this place, it was without a doubt for all of us she would be and become a formidable senator. Her intellect, thoughtfulness, humble disposition and passion for our great country, Australia, was on display in her maiden speech. Those qualities, however, did not end there, as we've heard, and many more admiral traits were shown by Kimberley in the years that she spent as a senator in this chamber.
Many who have spoken before me today have reflected on the words that Kimberley used in that maiden speech, which, Mr President, says something to me: people listened. They listened to and they took on board what Kimberley said the first time she formally spoke in this chamber. And then today they have remembered her by the words that she used in that speech. In that speech, she well and truly set the tone for the sort of senator she would be and the type of person that we have heard reflected on today when she said the following:
I am mindful and deeply humbled that only 591 Australians have ever served in the Senate. I am mindful that so much that is great about this nation comes from rising to meet challenges.
… … …
God gave us boundless plains to share, and mostly that is what we have done. We have shared. While other nations struggle with diversity, we have excelled and bloomed because of it. Our future prosperity is deeply connected with the huge benefits, in terms of trade and investment, that diversity brings. Diversity is central to our competitive advantage.
She then went on to say, 'Our history as a people is truly exceptional in the literal meaning of that world.' Again, Mr President, these are words that others have today quoted, which shows that Kimberley's words actually had an impact. She said:
In this parliament, we must proudly make the case for Australian exceptionalism. Australia is not exceptional because we have been divinely mandated, or because of some inherent quality unasked and unearned; Australia is exceptional precisely because generations of Australians have made hard choices and hard sacrifices.
… … …
I do not shy away from this high goal to secure an exceptional future for Australia. I rely on an old inspiring quote: 'And to the love and favour of my country I commit myself, my person and the cause.'
I would strongly contend that in the way that Kimberley conducted herself in this place, and from the words that we heard as we said goodbye to her recently and in particular from the words that have already been stated in the chamber today, she lived up to—she well and truly lived up to—the high standards that she set for herself in that first speech. She definitely pursued the high goal to secure an exceptional future for Australia.
Without a doubt, Kimberley Kitching had a real impact on this nation and on this place—and I do note that it's something that's not always easy to do from the opposition benches, but that did not stop Kimberley. She campaigned, as we have heard and has been so appropriately recognised at the highest level, relentlessly and passionately for a Magnitsky-style act so that Australia could impose sanctions on human rights violators just like our allies Britain, the US and Canada do. As we have also heard, and as senators in this chamber know, the Autonomous Sanctions Amendment (Magnitsky-style and Other Thematic Sanctions) Bill passed through both houses late last year and is now being utilised by the government, under the guidance of Senator Marise Payne, our foreign minister, to impose sanctions against Russia.
It was fitting that Kimberley was appropriately honoured in 2021 with the Sergei Magnitsky Human Rights Award at a ceremony in London. The businessman who presented her with that award, Bill Browder, paid this tribute to Kimberley:
"Losing Kimberley is a terrible tragedy for her family, her friends, Australia and the world …
"Kimberley was a brave justice warrior who never stood down or was intimidated by the evil regimes she advocated against.
"She deeply believed in justice and truth and was ready to take risks to help the dispossessed.
It is clear her passionate campaigning and fighting for what she believed in, for what she would not compromise on, clearly had an impact not just here in Australia, but around the world. Without a doubt, Kimberley was a true patriot who stood firm in the protection of Australia's democracy.
It is instructive to examine the types of words that have been consistently used to describe Kimberley since her tragic passing. Some of the words that have been used most often are 'brave', 'daring', 'courageous' and 'resilient', and I do note that those words have been used by people right across the political spectrum. The thing about Kimberley was, even if you did not agree with her politics, you could admire the qualities that she displayed. I would personally add, as some in the chamber have, 'wonderfully warm' and 'compassionate' to those words that have already been used to describe Kimberley. We heard at her funeral, and it was just such a beautiful reflection, the wonderful story of how she went above and beyond to help a young Afghan woman flee the country by getting her to photograph herself in a yellow scarf. Kimberley then got that photo to an Australian soldier at the Kabul airport gate. Kimberley went on to help rescue at least 30 people as Kabul fell. Her compassion was always on display. We also heard from her husband, Andrew—her soulmate, as she often described you—about the great love story that their life together had been. My condolences and thoughts go out to you, Andrew—her husband and soulmate—and to her mum; her dad; her brother, Ben; her family; and, of course, all of her friends—and I honour Diana here in the chamber today.
As I said at the commencement of my speech, it was very obvious when Kimberley came into this place what an accomplished, formidable senator she would make, and that is today what we're all reflecting on. But as I got to know her, as so many did, over the years, I discovered what a wonderful person she truly was. We regularly swapped stories and pictures—there is a group of us in this chamber—of our fur babies. It doesn't matter what side of politics you're on; if you are a fur baby lover, you're on the group.
Kimberley has been described as politically brave, but, as Senator McKenzie reflected, she put her bravery on display in other ways. I remember one day we were in the chamber and we were in a division. Kimberley, as always, was beautifully, impeccably dressed—always so well presented. She came over and sat down with us. She had a bandage on her hand, and we said: 'Kimberley, seriously, what's happened? Tell us the story.' There were rolling divisions, so we had some time sitting together. She literally launched into, as Bridget has said, this blow-by-blow analysis of when they had arrived at the national park. As they got out of the car, Andrew went off to do something, Kimberley and Nancy-Jane went for a walk and there was this terrible incident. There was a snake, and Kimberley was defending her child, poor Nancy-Jane. Nancy-Jane was then saved from the terrible snake. We said, 'That's all great, but what happened to your hand?' She said, 'Oh, I was bitten by the snake.' That was the least of her worries; Nancy-Jane was okay. That's what I loved so much about Kimberley. She would do anything to protect her beautiful Nancy-Jane.
So as we say goodbye formally in the chamber: Kimberley, I will miss, like so many, your wonderful company. I am so sorry I never got to try hot yoga with you and I'm also really sorry that, like so many of us, we didn't get to catch up the last time we were in Melbourne. Kimberley, you left us far too soon. Rest in peace.
I also rise to speak on the Senate condolence motion for Senator Kimberley Kitching, or 'Kimba' as she's best known by her family and friends. Of course, we've lost too many of our colleagues of late—too many condolence motions, including one recently for our colleague Senator Alex Gallacher. Kimberley was a colleague of all of us in this place and to many, like me, she was a special friend. When she entered this place six years ago, her reputation well and truly preceded her. I thought to myself, 'I must meet this woman,' so a mutual friend from Adelaide, Mark De Garis, organised for us to catch up in a Lygon Street Italian restaurant in Melbourne. In the years that followed, I discovered a strong and assertive woman, whose world view I agreed with almost totally—and, of course, that included Otis.
Kimberley was not a shrinking violet. She was a strong and courageous woman. She always had a view and she was never, ever afraid to express it. Like everyone here, I was shocked, as we all were, and deeply saddened by her death earlier this month. She was 52 years old, or 52 years young, and that's far too young to lose anybody. Kimberley had so much ahead of her and—I speak for myself and my wife—we are going to miss her deeply. In our nation's parliament and our democracy, our democracy will certainly miss her contribution.
Today I think Kimberley herself—and her family and friends, many of whom have joined us here today—would want us to remember her wonderful life. Kimberley was born in Brisbane, a daughter of Bill and Leigh Kitching, who I had the privilege of meeting for the first time at a rosary for her on the eve of her funeral in St Patrick's Cathedral last week. She grew up in the suburb of St Lucia, and during her youth Kimberley spent time in England, Spain, France, Germany and the United States. Her father, Bill, was a chemistry professor, and her mother, Leigh, was a physiotherapist. The family moved around with Bill's academic postings.
Kimberley completed her schooling in the Brisbane Girls Grammar School. She studied arts and law at the University of Queensland, and it was at that point she joined Murray Watt, my good friend here, and she joined Young Labor. Kimberley was admitted as a solicitor by the Supreme Court of Queensland before moving to Melbourne in 1995. She worked in the private sector for several years before joining the union movement. Kimberley became involved in the Labor Party in Victoria. She held a range of party positions, at one stage being the vice-president of the fractious Victorian branch of the party—quite a good achievement, really, when you think about it!
Her first foray into public life was as a member of the Melbourne City Council from 2001 to 2004. Michael Easson, in a terrific obituary in the Sydney Morning Herald, included a quote from Kimberley's maiden speech in this place, in which she said:
Some might think that local government is the lowest form of government; I prefer to think of it as the nearest.
I think that quote sums up one of Kimberley's great qualities that I will always remember: she took each job throughout her life as an opportunity and a responsibility to achieve something for the people that she represented. Kimberley was always committed to making the most of the opportunities her position afforded her in order to make other people's lives better.
In the past couple of weeks I've heard some people say that maybe it would have been better for Kimberley if she'd never come to the Senate. I strongly disagree with this. She loved every moment of being here in the Senate. She loved the responsibility. She loved the opportunity to prosecute the many causes that she so strongly defended, including recently in respect of the oppressed people of Ukraine, whom she'd tweeted about every single day since the terrible invasion by the Russians. She loved the intrigue and she loved absolutely everything about politics.
As well as serving in local government, Kimberley cut her teeth in politics working as a senior adviser in several Bracks government ministries. She was also an adviser to John Lenders, the Treasurer in the Brumby government. Kimberley moved to federal politics in 2016 and, on 13 October that year, she was preselected to fill the Victorian Senate seat vacated by Senator Stephen Conroy on 30 September. Kimberley was formally chosen as a replacement for the Senate by a joint sitting of the Victorian parliament on 25 October 2016. She was sworn in as a senator in this place on 7 November 2016, and Senator Wong and I were honoured that she asked us to bring her into the Senate to sign the roll. I myself was re-elected to the Senate at the federal election earlier in 2016, and for our Senate class of 2016 I suppose Kimberley was sort of the new kid who joined the class mid-term. But her intelligence, experience and ability to be a quick study all meant she very quickly settled in and made her mark.
Initially, many of Kimberley's contributions were through her extremely hard work and dedicated service on a number of Senate committees. Kimberley also soon developed her own very effective style of determined, forensic interrogation of the government and its officials through the Senate estimates process. Public servants would shake in their boots when she entered the estimates room.
After the 2019 election, Kimberley was appointed as shadow assistant minister for government accountability and also Deputy Manager of Opposition Business in the Senate. In January 2021, she became the shadow assistant minister for government services and shadow assistant minister for the National Disability Insurance Scheme, working with her great friend Bill Shorten. I strongly believe that her good work here was going to result in her re-preselection by the Victorian Labor Party and, in turn, her re-election to this parliament to join—something that she was so desperate to achieve—an Anthony Albanese Labor government.
Kimberley of course had a keen interest in accountability from the start, and in her first speech she said—and this is a quote in Latin; it's a long time since I've studied Latin, so excuse me if I mispronounce it:
The question quis custodiet ipsos custodes—'who will guard the guards themselves'—is clearly an important one.
An honourable senator interjecting—
Well, of course she did. She spoke so many languages. In fact, that was the one that I think we might have missed—her Latin skills. Of course, they were all Romance languages that she knew; they all came from Latin.
She pursued that dedication to government accountability in all of her work in this parliament, and, as shadow minister, in Senate question time and through Senate estimates. Of course, her tireless work for human rights was recognised by her Magnitsky award. A great memory for me and my wife was celebrating that award in my office when she returned from Paris, not long before she died. In fact, my wife got to spend time with Kimberley, only a short time before she died, when she came to Adelaide to campaign for the new member for Spence, Matt Burnell, at the Edinburgh base in the north of Adelaide.
In parliament, Kimberley's intellect, her research skills and her ability to quickly understand a wide range of issues and perspectives made her a very valuable asset to the Labor Party and to Australian democracy. She was true to what she believed in and worked towards meaningful outcomes for those people she represented.
As a friend and a colleague, she was full of life—a witty, charming and fun person to be around. She was one of those people that had the ability to make you feel as if you were the most special person in the world. It's a rare ability. She would often bounce into my office, generally with a bottle of champagne in her hand—her office was just down the corridor from mine—and, with that bright smile, impish grin and cheeky laugh, we knew that she was up to something!
As a Labor senator in our nation's parliament, I know her positive contributions to Australian democracy would have only continued to grow over time. Sadly, her time has been cut so tragically short. Kimberley is survived by her husband, her parents and her brother, Ben. Andrew's eulogy to Kimberley at St Patrick's church last week was one of the finest that I've ever heard in my life, and I was very privileged to read a statement from you, Mr President, on behalf of the Senate, praising her work. Like so many on my side of Labor politics, she admired John F Kennedy, and—I think I've got this right, and I'm sure Andrew will tell me if I haven't—Andrew quoted that great president: 'Let us, if we can, step back from the shadows of war and seek out the way of peace.' To Kimberley's family, her friends and colleagues, and to her staff, I offer my deepest condolences. And now it's time to let our friend Kimberley rest in peace.
I too rise to pay tribute to Kimberley Kitching and also associate myself with many of the remarks that have been made by colleagues around the chamber this morning.
To Andrew: my most sincere condolences. Obviously, you were one of the very lucky people in this world who had an amazing marriage. I loved your story on Monday when you said that, even when Kimberley was absolutely at her flat-out most busy, she still managed to stop in at the pie shop and buy you your favourite pie. Obviously, that is a testament to the most amazing relationship you had, and that can only make it harder for you as you go through the grief of losing your beloved wife. Also to Kimberley's mum, dad and brother, and her other family, friends and colleagues: my most sincere condolences.
I think that probably the best description of Kimberley was that she was an absolutely unique person. I felt it a great privilege to have known her and also to have served in this place with her. We didn't have a lot to do with each other when it came to policy. Kimberley's focus was so intent on international affairs—foreign affairs, trade and defence—and my focus was often around agriculture and more domestic issues. But she was intelligent; she was vivacious; she was determined; she had the most extraordinary sense of fashion. We would always come in here of a morning and wonder what Kimberley was going to be wearing for today, because she did have such an extraordinary sense of fashion and colour. We often used to talk about things like hot yoga. I failed very dismally on the hot yoga diet but, clearly, she didn't, and she looked fabulous for it.
But her greatest skill, I think, was her ability to cross the political divide. I don't think there is any place in this chamber that Kimberley wasn't welcome when she went to have a chat to someone. I'll tell you a funny story to demonstrate that more than anything else. Pauline Hanson invited me for dinner. Pauline had always been promising to cook me a gluten-free dinner—she knows that I love my home cooking, but it invariably entails having flour in most things, and that's a problem. So Pauline said she was going to cook me a gluten-free meal. I arrived there, thinking that I was going to be having dinner with Pauline and maybe Malcolm or James Ashby or someone. But no: the dinner guests were Kimberley, Mathias Cormann and Terry Young. I thought, 'Hm, this is going to be a particularly interesting night, with interesting conversation.' But I think it was at that time that I realised what an extraordinary intellect Kimberley brought to the dinner table. In the interesting conversation that we had, it didn't matter about politics; it was actually issues of discussion that were the engaging part of the evening. I actually realised that there was almost a cigarette paper of difference between the views on international affairs of Kimberley Kitching, Mathias Cormann and Pauline Hanson. Anyway, I'll leave that one for you to consider.
It all made sense in listening to her father Bill's contribution on Monday about where this all came from. Obviously, it was a great passion for international affairs born of travelling around the world and being engaged in many different countries and cultures throughout her younger years—and her passion for languages. I'm absolutely delighted that she didn't get her way and have Latin returned to the school curriculum during my time, because I was shocking at languages—but, clearly, she wasn't. She was an amazing person and an internationalist. Her passion for those who were persecuted was probably the thing that stood out most in her contribution in this place, to my mind, whether it be the Uighurs or when dealing with issues of anti-Semitism or the stories around Afghanistan—and, obviously, Ukraine was emerging. She had an absolute raw, uncompromising belief in fairness and equity and in making sure that everybody had a chance to be able to succeed.
I think the word that has been used by others in this place that probably epitomises my view of Kimberley more than anything else is 'exceptionalism'. That will be the word that I will always associate with her. I think it should now become her word. To everybody: my condolences. And vale, Kimberley Kitching.
I too put on the record that the year Senator Kimberley Kitching came into the Senate was the same year that I came into the Senate. As Don said, there was a bit of a bonding of those of us who were the class of 2016. It was a bonding that only those in that class can talk about, as we all reflect on the different years that each of us have come in as senators in this place.
I put on the record, on behalf of the people of the Northern Territory and on behalf of the First Nations federal Labor caucus, our deepest condolences to you, Andrew, to Mr and Mrs Kitching, and to Ben. Sorry business is very sacred business, as First Nations people, and as a Yanyuwa woman from the Gulf Country I can tell you we speak straight. Liantha Wirriyarra baginda yamalu yinda. We are people whose spiritual origin comes from the sea country. I ask, are you doing okay this day? Sorry business is so sacred, and the spirit of the people that we love is first and foremost the most important part of that sacred sorry business. It is good and right and proper that we speak today with the utmost dignity and respect for Kimberley's service to this Senate, to our country and to her family and to the people of Victoria. It is with great sadness that we reflect that we have lost someone so young.
I was travelling in Central Australia when I heard the news and I cannot express how I felt when I heard, so there is no way we can express how the family of Kimberley must be feeling. We can look only at our own experiences in sorrow and grief to know that it is one that numbs you completely. It is a place where you cannot see things, where you're blinded by your tears and the ache of losing someone that you never thought you would lose. That is a place that each of us experiences at different times in our own life, but today it is the life of Andrew, Mr and Mrs Kitching, Ben and the dear friends of Kimberley. We must uphold the importance of that grief and sorrow, and rise above whatever imperfections we each may have, because the beauty of having worked beside Kimberley is that she has made an enormous difference to our country on so many levels. It is a difference that is so deeply personal for some, a new life for others. The example at the funeral given by Bill, of how Kimberley assisted with the Afghans in leaving Kabul, was just one incredible significant difference she made to the lives of so many people. It is an example that holds to the highest of what Kimberley was, and it is that which we must value and remember always.
To all the colleagues here—and in particular her staff, who I know are deeply distressed and need as much support and love around them as anyone else—I say: thank you for your work with Senator Kitching, and for your diligence, long hours and advice. I'm sure you heard so many things. Please know that your service to this parliament is also deeply respected.
Mr and Mrs Kitching, can I just say that to attend and meet with you on Sunday, at the rosary at St Patrick's Cathedral, was a really special moment because, for us as First Nations people, we know that that ceremony begins when the family truly come together with open hearts, and you welcomed all of us who came there that afternoon. And to you, Andrew, my heart goes out to you. Yo bauji barra. That's all for now, thank you.
Let me begin by acknowledging Kimberley's family, friends and staff who are here today and those who are here with us online. Many have spoken in the chamber today about Kimberley's history and background and the number of roles that she had in the Labor Party, including as a shadow minister. But, ultimately, her overwhelming vibrant passion was her roles on foreign policy and defence committees in this parliament, with interests ranging from our alliance with the United States, to support for Israel's security, to the need to pour sunlight on human rights challenges—I'm very bad at these things, Mr President; I just want to put the chamber on notice that my voice is a bit shaky. She spoke out on issues from supporting, as others have said, the people of Afghanistan, to her concerns over Belt and Road agreements, to abuses in Xinjiang.
She did not waste a minute in this place. We shared many views and, particularly, a passion for human rights. Her work was, without doubt, critical to the development of the reforms to our autonomous sanctions legislation, the Magnitsky reforms. As she said in her Sergei Magnitsky Human Rights Award acceptance speech, Magnitsky legislation is necessary because: ' we as human beings who believe in the dignity of human beings cannot allow such evil to go on unchallenged.' She went on to quote Martin Luther King:
Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.
That sums up why we needed Magnitsky legislation, and it sums up the principles that Kimberley Kitching championed. While we must defend the rules based order, while we must support the Ukrainian people against Russia's invasion, it sums up much of what we do as a democracy, promoting our values and shaping the world to do better, and for the better.
Kimberley was also a strong role model for women in politics. As she served in this chamber, she truly put her principles before her personal ambition, and she was prepared to work with anyone and everyone who shared her vision on the issues that she felt were important. In her Magnitsky speech to this chamber—Mr President, I'm not sure if you were in the chamber at the time of the division—she acknowledged colleagues literally right across the broad spectrum of the chamber: Senators Rice and Paterson, me, Senators Abetz and Fierravanti-Wells, and her own party colleagues, absolutely demonstrating her nonpartisan approach to issues that mattered. The fact that—as others have commented—she wanted to see other countries also adopt similar legislation and that she was talking to members of the parliaments of other democracies about this also speaks clearly to her commitment to the global cause of human rights. It couldn't be further from a narrow and domestic political lens.
Her work with the Inter-Parliamentary Alliance on China was also very important to her. I know how committed she was to that. That bipartisanship is as integral to the success of that coalition as is its international reach. It's no wonder that so many of our own Liberal-National colleagues were so shocked but also so fast to make their views and their personal engagements with Kimberley known so openly. After her untimely death, those comments came thick and fast.
Even during the most intense estimates sessions—some people have spoken about estimates today, and I think Don's right; they quaked in their boots as they saw Kimberley Kitching take her chair—we had some very lighthearted moments. On the last estimates occasion, it was Kimberley's birthday, albeit that the much-vaunted cake did not materialise; I'm not sure where Senator Abetz is, but it was a moment of entertainment. And, of course, her language skills came up in estimates, as I lamented my own inadequacies and Kimberley very modestly assisted my French interpretation on more than one occasion. I think her spoken French was the best in parliament, and I say that with absolute confidence, knowing that Mathias Cormann's not sitting where Simon Birmingham is.
I believe that we as a Senate should establish a memorial for senators who die in office, whether that is a photographic gallery memorial or a presence in one of our very beautiful gardens in the Senate. I think it would be a lovely thing to do. Perhaps we might plant a white rose there for Senator Kitching if it comes to be in a garden. We have, as others have remarked, lost more than one colleague in this parliament from this current Senate—and that is two too many—so I think it is important that we do mark that.
It meant a lot to me to be singled out for thanks in her speech on her receipt of the Sergei Magnitsky Human Rights Award. She was a very frank interlocutor; she was always honest and direct. She was a wonderful representative of the state of Victoria who I admired and respected. She was also a friend, so I had to decide what to bring into the chamber with me today of the gifts that Kimberley gave me most recently. I had to toss up whether it was the boxed bottle of pink Bollinger or the copy, personally inscribed by Bill Browder, of his book Red Notice. Kimberley arranged that for me, and she brought it to me after her trip to Paris. I chose Red Notice. That's not to say I don't think that the boxed bottle of pink Bollinger will be utilised at some point to pay appropriate acknowledgement to our friend. To Andrew, your family, Kimberley's friends and staff: my deepest sympathies.
I lay this rose on the desk of former senator Kimberley Kitching as a symbol of friendship and hope for this place—hope that this place is welcoming to those who have been provided the ultimate privilege to represent the people of their state and territory and that there is compassion, respect and kindness afforded to each and every one of us in this place by our colleagues each and every day. Those who represent their communities deserve common respect from political allies and political opponents. This will serve our communities and our democracy, and we will then be a parliament of the best people. More decency and kindness afforded to each other must become the norm, or who will we attract to this place—the best of the best, like Kimberley Jane Elizabeth Kitching, or mediocre representation?
Kimberley was one of mine; she was Aquarius, and that says it all. From the time she was born, I'm sure, on 16 February 1970—she was born in Brisbane and raised as a Catholic—we had a lot in common. But, from the time she walked into this chamber on 25 October 2016, she brought a ray of sunshine. She was married to Andrew, who was her love. Her endless, undying love endured, and we all knew about it. She graduated with a Bachelor of Arts and a Bachelor of Laws from the University of Queensland. She was admitted as a solicitor by the Supreme Court of Queensland and moved to Melbourne in 1995. She had an interesting life before she came to this place, and, yes, she was one of those local government representatives, like a certain family member of mine, who believed that local government was the most important tier of government in this country.
Kimberley was fierce. She had a wicked intelligence and was a woman of conviction. She was also patriotic and a humanitarian in the true sense of the word. She advocated every day for democratic principles that we hold so dear: the rule of law, freedom of speech, freedom of religion. Ultimately, she was a human rights advocate. She wanted to celebrate and protect Australian sovereignty. She would not be bullied by people or other countries, even though she was because of the strength of her convictions.
Kimberley was as tough as anything, but, more than that, she was kind, she was warm and she had a sense of humour. Her infectious smile lit up every room she entered. Even at her wake, I was still expecting her to come down the staircase and join us one last time. She could totally disarm you with her charm. Kimberley could talk to anyone, and she would. She wanted friendship in this place, which was not always easy to forge with such blind ambition prevalent in these corridors. She entered this place in 2016 with passion, vision and hope, and she has been described as forward thinking, with bounds of courage to relentlessly follow her views, which I admired and respected. She was passionate about furthering the cause of Labor. She took her work of pursuing government accountability and advocating for the rights of people with disabilities very seriously. So many contributions today have highlighted her skills, her depth of character, her faith, her belief in what was right, and why she would fight for what she believed in.
Kimberley was brilliant at her job, and she achieved so much in an incredibly short time. Her abiding passion was protecting human rights, and she pushed for laws that would allow human rights abusers to have their assets seized. She demonstrated that her passion for her country was always greater than any partisan view. For this she was awarded a Magnitsky Human Rights Award after calling for legislation and regulations on transparency and accountability in government in the digital age, and in artificial intelligence. She truly wasn't here long enough, and that is a complete tragedy, but her work will have a lasting legacy. Labor has lost a loyal, talented, hardworking and caring daughter. Kimberley believed in the goodness of our politics and democracy. She knew that the power of government could be put to good use to make the lives of Australians better and to make Australia stronger and safer in a changing and unstable geopolitical environment.
Kimberley was fearless. She would not hold back when she knew she could try to make our democracy stronger. She wanted political donation reform; she wanted to ensure there was no foreign interference in our democracy. She was never a fence-sitter. She was always on the front foot, and her sharp opinions were backed with sound reasoning. She worked so hard and earned the respect of most of her colleagues, even across party lines. Her ability to unpick details to a forensic level of insight was unmatched. In the Senate committee hearings and at estimates she had this unbelievable wit and the skill to lead witnesses down a path, and the way she did it was ingenious. But there was never anything nasty in her politics, and her complete civility was well renowned. Her elegance and her impressive ability to recall historic references for just about every situation was a testament to her incredible mind. Kimberley stood out from most in this parliament as she was one of the very few who wanted to build others up, and that is a characteristic that is certainly not the norm in this place.
One of my colleagues likes to remind people: in politics, if you want a friend buy a dog. I don't believe that's true. It certainly hasn't been true with some of the politicians that I've worked and served with, and it certainly wasn't true of Kimberley. I had the good fortune to have been in the Senate during Kimberley's term, and I'm so grateful for the opportunity I had to get to know her and spend some memorable and enjoyable times chatting over a glass of bubbly—or maybe two! Yes, she was always late. There was always someone who needed to chat with her or someone she had to give some sage advice to. Or she would bump into someone on her way down the corridor to whichever office we were meeting in. But she did turn up. She turned up and she was with you. When you needed a friend, she was always there.
Many people have spoken about her intelligence, and she certainly was very intelligent. We know that she has left her mark in this place and right across the globe. I know she would have continued to be a good a leader, a patriotic Australian and a proud Australian, and she would have achieved so much more if she had been given the time.
Kimberley's husband of almost two decades, Andrew Landeryou, spoke so eloquently at her funeral. The huge attendance at her funeral reinforced how Kimberley touched so many lives and was held in such high esteem. It's almost impossible to put into words the sadness at losing Kimberley far too soon felt not only by us but, more importantly, by her husband, her parents, her brother, her family and her real friends. My heart goes out to each and every one of them. And let's not forget her loyal and hardworking staff.
Kimberley was here in the Senate for much too short a time, but what a legacy she has left behind. Others were always impressed when they first met Kimberley, but her warmth, her incredible energy and her impeccable manner meant that people were always comfortable in her presence. As I said earlier, she was formidable, but she could totally disarm you with her charm. Her skills as a parliamentarian were widely lauded, but not only was she a great politician; most importantly, she was a great person. She was a great friend. This parliament and future parliaments will miss out on the opportunity of having her wit, her intelligence and her wisdom.
Kimberley will continue to inspire me every single day to be a better person. My condolences go to Andrew and his parents and family. It will be our memories, our faith and the love of our own families that will help, in time, to heal our hearts. But, Kimberley, we will never forget your charm, your smile, your intellect and your friendship. We honour you today, Kimberley. Rest peacefully.
I rise to contribute to the condolence motion for our friend and colleague Senator Kimberley Kitching. May I begin by expressing my sympathy to her husband, Andrew, who is clearly a soulmate in every sense of the word; to her family, particularly her parents and brother; to her many friends, to her staff, whom I know she held in such high regard; and, of course, to her colleagues.
I first met Kimberley at a christening—or a name day, actually. That was before either of us entered the Senate, but even then her reputation preceded her. She came here with such fanfare, such mythology, such celebrity and such a weight of expectation, and she proved worthy of it all. While we worked together in various capacities over the last six years, it was doing television with Kimberley over the last 12 months on a show every Friday that I got to know her so much better. Of course, I now realise what an extraordinary privilege that was.
She was bright, funny and intellectual in a way that we rarely see in this place or anywhere these days. She would quote Voltaire as easily as Marx or Burke, Rousseau or Sartre, John Stuart Mill or Adam Smith, Vladimir Lenin or John Lennon. She believed that parliament was the true clearing house of ideas and that the Senate, right here, was where scrutiny and accountability were paramount. She enriched every single issue to which she applied herself. She was never underprepared, and she was always ready to take up the fight with either a scalpel or a boxing glove, whichever the issue called for. I say that with experience, because I was one of those who sat opposite her at estimates and whose nervous twitch began when she walked in the room. I can safely say that I will never wear my Cartier watch to estimates ever, ever again. She always did so with extraordinary charm and intelligence, and, despite her intellect, she did all this without a hint of hubris.
She had a warm energy and a talent that made hers a very compelling and persuasive personality. She was a conviction politician, certainly, but she also knew that conviction without persuasion convinces nobody. She was courageous in a way that few in here dare, knowing that the critical path in here rarely involves a movement away from the party line. But she was never one to be a political sheep to be penned and counted in the Senate alcove, and for that, even for the exceptionally talented, there is often a professional price to pay.
To quote one of her heroes, Ronald Reagan, Kimberley knew two things. She knew that 'The future doesn't belong to the faint-hearted; it belongs to the brave' and that 'Evil is powerless if the good are unafraid.' Well, Kimberley Kitching was unafraid. I always enjoyed her company and conversation. I loved the fact that she took her job very seriously, but not necessarily herself, and I admired her ability to build relationships across the aisle and across the building. The one thing that struck me about Kimberley, above all others, was that she always remembered the names of my children; I will remember that. In this place of conflict and crisis, and in a zero-sum game, where somebody's failure is attributed to somebody else's success, where somebody's elevation is somebody else's fall from grace, to take a moment to be genuinely interested in someone else's life—and not just their wiki life—and the things that are important to them, the private and the powerful, is so important. And I won't just remember it; I'm going to learn from it, too. I'm going to try and do as she did, with her grace and her charm and her kindness, so that she will always stay with me. So, farewell, Kimberley—farewell to our vanished but never vanquished friend. She was truly the best among us.
I didn't prepare a speech, because there's something very special about former senator Kimberley Kitching—something very special. I couldn't identify what it is; it was even deeper than what I thought on the surface. So I thought I'd see what emerges and share that.
First of all, I extend my condolences—and condolences on behalf of the One Nation party and Senator Hanson, particularly—to family and staff. I know Senator Kitching valued family enormously, and we've shared text messages, Andrew. I'll share more about that later. The second part of the motion of condolence is to extend our sympathy to family, and we certainly do that, and to the staff. Kimberley thought so highly of her staff, and I can see why.
I'll talk more about something special within Kimberley Kitching, and that's through appreciation for some of her qualities. Andrew and I exchanged text messages, so I'll just share something from that, because family was very important to Kimberley. Sometimes a few words say it best. In this case—yours, Andrew—she was such a happy soul. But, even more than that, there was her competence and dedication, and I will remember her amazing, beautiful smile. That shone from somewhere deep within. It wasn't a superficial smile; it was a smile—I'll summarise it this way—that is the beautiful, pure energy that is Kimberley. It's one of the most wonderful smiles I've ever seen, one of warmth, love and acceptance.
It stunned me that I was stunned by Senator Kitching's death. Death is a natural part of life. Sure, we have losses, but death, still, is death. Why was I stunned when I got the text message saying that Senator Kitching had died? I wondered: why was I feeling so much grief? It was just bright and easy to be with Kimberley. It was so bright and happy. She always had time and was always sincere. I knew I was getting the real deal with Kimberley Kitching—always, every time. It didn't matter if I bumped into her in a hallway—she'd say, 'Oh, Malcolm,' and it was sincere. If I caught her at a bad time, she'd say, 'Can I call you later?' It was always sincere.
We didn't work together much, but we got on very well. That's rare, as some people have said. Senator Hanson—Pauline—took it to heart. She was very, very upset, and she has been for a while, because she and Kimberley confided in each other. Senator Hanson has been through a lot, yet she still finds it so easy to trust people. But it's very easy for her to let that trust go if someone abandons it. Never once did Kimberley Kitching do that, and that meant a lot to Senator Hanson and to me.
The breadth of her loss—across the whole parliamentary spectrum, across politics—is coming out right now. That's due to her work and her personality. People have mentioned Magnitsky and China, and the protection of Australia, and they've also mentioned that Senator Kitching worked well on committees. Her purpose was beyond the party; it was for the parliament. But it was beyond the parliament; it was for the people of Australia. It was for the national agenda, not for a personal agenda, and, as others have said in here, that is rare. She wanted to hold everyone accountable—not only the government and her party; she'd hold me accountable if I said something she didn't agree with. She served the people. That is what parliament is supposed to be for but quite often is not.
Labor, if it gets into government, as so many are tipping, has incurred a great loss in the loss of Senator Kitching. The crossbench is important, as people are working out. The Liberals understand that. They put one person in charge of the connection with us, because they know how important trust and honesty are to Senator Hanson and me. Senator Kitching got that. She worked it out pretty early. Her honesty, her reliability and her respect meant she was a natural fit with Senator Hanson and me. I'd even go so far as to say that, coming from Queensland—where State of Origin is so important—her state of origin was Queensland. She was a Queenslander, and we're proud of that.
I'll get on to the third part of the condolence motion: appreciation. Intelligence—that's obvious. So many people have said so. But it was with humility and respect, not lording it over people, not extending power over people or controlling people; it was to help people to work together because she understood that working together is so much more beneficial and so much more effective. Courage—there was no nonsense, no BS. She was direct, yet she was always personable. It's so, so rare. She had the ability to understand complexity and to get right through to the guts of it to get the kernel and understand that, and then she would work around that.
One of the most important things, I think, about Kimberley Kitching was that she was female; she was feminine. These days we're not supposed to be feminine or masculine, but Kimberley said 'nonsense' to that—I can see you smiling, Andrew. She was feminine to the core. She knew that being feminine has a certain power to it, and she used that power very effectively, not to manipulate but just as a female human; she did it so well. She was wonderfully feminine, a beautiful, beautiful human.
She had a sense of humour, and she was always personal. We were never a vote to Kimberley Kitching; we were people who had a vote. She maintained her integrity and her honesty, and she always engaged and connected—really sincerely connected. I can see Senator O'Neill understands exactly what I'm talking about, and so does Senator Polley. Her biggest thing was that smile. But it wasn't the smile itself; it was the heart that was reflected in that smile, her approachability and her personality. It is very, very rare.
I extend my condolences again on behalf of Senator Hanson and myself and the One Nation party to you, Andrew, to Senator Kitching's family and to her staff. My life is much better for having known Kimberley, the parliament is much better for having experienced Kimberley and Australia is much better for having experienced Kimberley. I hope that as the grief flows—and I acknowledge Senator McCarthy's wonderful comments about grief—and as that grief passes, you can focus on how much she gave to us all and value that.
I rise to make a short contribution to condolences for the late Senator Kimberley Kitching. My Tasmanian colleagues, Senators Carol Brown and Catryna Bilyk, have requested that my comments be attributed to them also.
Kimberley joined the Senate on 25 October 2016 and was sworn in in November 2016, filling the vacancy created by Stephen Conroy's resignation in September that year. Following the 2019 election, Kimberley was appointed shadow assistant minister for government accountability and also Deputy Manager of Opposition Business in the Senate.
I was elected Opposition Whip following the 2016 double dissolution election, and it was in this role that I got to know Kimberley. When any new senator is elected, the role of the whip is to ensure that their entry to the Senate is as smooth as possible—or at least as smooth as we can make it—and also to ensure that their staff have the help and support that they need in that new role. It was in that role that I got to know Kimberley and her staff, particularly Maree and Jordan.
It was after the 2019 election that Kimberley and I spent more time together. We often, as whips, spend many, many hours here in the chamber with frontbenchers who are on duty, and we spend that time together. Quite often our time is taken up ensuring that the smooth running of the chamber occurs, but at other times, when people are talking for hours on end sometimes, we just get the opportunity to chat with the frontbencher. When we got the opportunity to chat, when Kimberley was on the frontbench, I don't ever recall talking politics with her. We had many conversations. They were mostly about our pets—swapping photos of her dogs, Ronnie and Nancy-Jane, and my cats, Sam and Eddy. We talked for a very long time about them, laughing about their antics and also about how much we spoilt them. We chatted about our families. In the last sitting in 2021, we talked about visiting our respective families on the Sunshine Coast and how we were both looking forward very much to visiting them over the Christmas/New Year break, particularly given the lockdowns and the length of time that we'd been unable to catch up with our families. We joked about being on the Sunshine Coast at around the same time and maybe catching up for a coffee. Of course, we didn't get to do that. Our time was full with our grandchildren and family, and I'm sure that Kimberley's time with her family was the same.
During the lockdowns in Victoria, I would often call in on the Victorian senators to check if they were going okay. Again, the chats Kimberley and I had were long. They were about how hard the lockdowns were, about the Chief Medical Officer in Victoria and how good he was in fulfilling his role, and about how he'd worked with my sister in the accident and emergency department in Burnie for some time. So we shared a common theme, and we often joked about the connection there. But the conversation after I phoned her was always ended with a 'thanks for calling', and she would then say, 'Bye, darling.' I'm not sure whether she spoke to everyone that way when she ended a phone call, but generally that was how she finished our conversations.
I wish to pass on my sincere condolences to Andrew, who I met a couple of times here when he was in Canberra and was introduced by Kimberley, and to her family, her friends and her staff, particularly Maree and Jordan, who we work with closely here in Canberra. Vale Kimberley.
I seek leave to have the contributions of Senators Carr and Marielle Smith incorporated into Hansard.
The speeches read as follows—
() (): The incorporated speech read as follows—
For the second time in the life of this 46th Parliament, we mourn the death of a senator in office.
It is also the second time in my parliamentary career that I have had to mourn the death in office of a Victorian Labor senator. The first was the late Olive Zakharov, who died in 1995.
I begin by saying about our former colleague Kimberley Kitching what I said about our former colleague Alex Gallacher:
"The longer I serve in this place, the more I appreciate how you can come to see people differently .
"A life in politics can be very isolating. You have many acquaintances but few friends."
I was privileged to call both Kimberley and Alex friends.
Kimberley was also a neighbour. She and her husband Andrew lived in my home suburb of Pascoe Vale in Melbourne. We spoke often.
Kimberley and I, like Alex and I, came from different parts of the Labor Party.
But that didn't matter.
We shared a conviction that the role of the Labor Party is to build a fairer and more prosperous Australia.
And we shared an understanding about the importance of the Senate in holding executive government to account, especially through the committee system.
Unlike Alex, Kimberley served only a single term in this place.
And her untimely death has made her a media sensation in a way that he never was.
The spate of media stories continues.
Some of those stories have been driven by malice, because some commentators have taken a position on what they imagine to be happening within the Labor Party.
But their comments have indicated that they are not well informed, about either the Labor Party or about Kimberley.
I have been mentioned in some of those comments, because speculation about my future in this place became intertwined with speculation about hers.
It would not be appropriate to engage further with that commentary here.
I will say only what I have already said ina committee hearing, which happened to be the first Senate proceeding after her tragic death from a suspected heart attack.
I am sure that the stresses of this this job must have at least contributed to her death.
Anyone interested in industrial matters knows that workplace stress affects health.
I have been a senator for 29 years now, and I have seen how people here and in the other place have to cope with stress, sometimes in extreme circumstances.
Some level of stress is, of course, inseparable from the job.
It is part of representing the people who elect us, which is no easy burden if we are doing the job properly.
But many people do not realise just how tough a life in politics can be.
It is not enough to say that you just have to cop whatever is served up to you.
How we treat each other in this place matters, and we need to understand that our words and actions can affect people deeply.
The isolation sometimes forced upon people can do more damage than we know.
We should all bear that in mind in our interactions with each other.
The circumstances of Kimberley's death have taught that lesson, if any of us needed to learn it, in a harsh and tragic way.
But it is not only the tragedy of someone being taken too soon that we acknowledge here.
We record our appreciation of a colleague who was bright, well-informed, determined and hardworking.
Those qualities were evident before she entered the Parliament, especially in her work as a trade union official.
She pursued her commitment to this country in a highly effective manner.
It is a great loss to Australia that she cannot continue to do so. You don't have to share all of Kimberley's views to recognise that.
She and I certainly did not agree on everything, but that did not prevent me admiring her talent, her sincerity and her integrity.
In that regard, I want to note that one of the things that has been said about Kimberley is the number of friendships she made across the aisle.
In some quarters that has been used as a reproach.
It should not be. We all have friends outside our own parties.
That is how it should be if we are using our time here fruitfully.
And I have no doubt that Kimberley's passing is not only mourned by her Labor and trade union colleagues.
I offer my deepest condolences to her husband Andrew and their family.
Rest in peace, Kimberley.
() (): The incorporated speech read as follows—
Mr President, I cannot say I have known Kimberley for as long as many people in this room.
We first met when I was sworn into the Senate in 2019, and I was instantly captured by her warmth, wit and intelligence. Kimberley was captivating.
I enjoyed her company from the beginning, but it wasn't until I was preparing for the arrival of my daughter Zara that we became friends.
I was serving on nine committees at the time. In order to spend a few precious months with my newborn daughter, I needed to find colleagues to take on the work in my absence.
Kimberley was enthusiastic and willing to take on the most complex and work intensive committees on my behalf. She was excited, even. She was keen to get across the brief, across the mission, and to support the work the Chair and myself had already put in. Most importantly, she reassured me and comforted me that it was okay to take the leave, that I could rely on her.
That started the beginning of the opportunities I had to get to know Kimberley better.
To work with her on committees.
To share a glass of wine.
To celebrate successes, especially her work towards the Magnitsky laws, her incredible legacy to human rights in our world.
And, so importantly to me, to provide support when things were tough.
On one tough day for me, Kimberley was quick to the phone, to offer not just sympathy, but strategy.
It took me by surprise, but in that moment, I saw a glimpse of what an incredible ally she could be to those she cared about.
I know for her closest friends, that ferocity, that loyalty, those qualities of a lioness, will be irreplaceable. I feel lucky to have witnessed it.
I hope Kimberley felt that when things were tough, she had a friend in me too.
I will miss Kimberley. Her cheeky smile, her warm demeanour, that sparkle in her eye. The chats which could range from the need to defend human rights to Senatorial Sartorial style!
I will continue to admire her—for her work ethic, her tenacity, her dedication to the values and ideals she believed in.
And I know she will leavea legacy both here, and around the world. She does so because she always worked with purpose.
And that is something that should inspire and encourage us all.
I want to express my condolences to Kimberley's staff. We all know in this place that the relationship we have with our staff is an incredibly close one, forged by long hours and the need for a deep trust in one another.
The loss they must be feeling at the sudden and tragic passing of not only their boss, but also a close friend, is surely deep and profound.
I also express my sincere condolences to her deeply loved husband Andrew. May we all take inspiration from your partnership and love.
To Kimberley's family and staff, you have so much to be proud of. I am so verysorry for your loss.
Vale Kimberley Kitching. Your legacy will endure.
I too rise to pay tribute to the life of Senator Kimberley Kitching and associate myself with the remarks that have been made around the chamber today. It seems just too soon that we're reflecting on the loss of another one of our colleagues in this place. I think I said on that last occasion how tragic it was to lose somebody that we're all serving with, and it's a genuine tragedy that we're doing the same thing again so soon.
I want to acknowledge Andrew, his family, Kimberley's family and her good friends, but particularly also the Labor family, who have lost a second valued member in just a very short time. These sorts of events shake this place. They give us pause for reflection. They make us all think about the way that we're working here in this place and the things that we might or might not achieve during our time here. I think it probably also gives us a very strong sense of time and moment. The reflection is a good thing. It's a valuable thing for us all to take that time to reflect on our purpose here and what we want to achieve here.
Many times today, there's been reference to Kimberley's first speech. The first speech is usually a marker of somebody who arrives here and sets down what they would like to achieve, how they would like to operate and how they would like to interact. If we're lucky, we get the opportunity to reflect on that at the end of our career. Unfortunately for Kimberley, she doesn't get the opportunity to do that. It is left to us today to reflect on those markers that she laid down in her first speech, acknowledge them, pay tribute to them and congratulate her for the work that she did and some very rare achievements.
I acknowledge the quote from her speech that Minister Birmingham read out at the outset, about the way that Kimberley decided she would like to operate here in the chamber. She was true to her word. The things that she set out in her first speech were the way that she went about her work. I think that is reflected in the heartfelt words that have been attributed in acknowledgement of Kimberley across the chamber today. She was genuinely a bright light in this place. We all felt that and we all had the opportunity at various levels to reflect on that. My last conversation with Kimberley was at the end of the last Senate estimates, at the airport. She was revelling in the fact she'd just had a period of time in estimates but she was also reflecting on the speech she was going to make the following Monday, and she was looking forward to the impact that would have, too. It's been said a number of times she wasted no time while she was here, and we should acknowledge that.
It is very, very rare for somebody to achieve what Kimberley achieved from opposition and to be recognised as broadly as she was for that, with her work in support of Magnitsky legislation. It is a rare thing to garner support across the chamber, across the political divide, and to have that recognised and to have that composed into legislation, and for that legislation to then be passed unanimously. It does not happen very often from opposition; it's a rare thing. It's something that should be remembered and recognised and acknowledged, as it duly has been in this place and internationally.
Kimberley spoke of her love of local government—the closest to the people. Having also served in local government, I can say it is a great place for you to get a good understanding of how politics works at a local level. She also worked in state politics and, clearly, here in the Australian parliament, but she had the capacity to raise her eyes when it was needed to address those things at the appropriate level and, clearly, as we've discussed here today, to achieve success in all those things. It's fitting that the things she didn't get the opportunity to reflect on—her goals, aspirations and ambitions from her first speech—are appropriately recognised by us here today in the chamber in acknowledging not only her life but also her contribution to this place and the way she went about her work here, whether that was here in the chamber, in committees or in Senate estimates, or just her capacity to interact across the parliament, whether that was with her own side, with the crossbench or with those here on this side of the chamber. It's appropriately being reflected by the comments being made here today. Quite frankly, this place could use more people of the like of Kimberley Kitching.
I extend to Andrew and to Kimberley's mum and dad, brother, family and friends my sincerest condolences. I also extend my condolences to those on the other side and to the Labor family. As I said before, the loss of someone serving with us shakes us; I want to acknowledge that. I say to Andrew: I trust that you and your family can gain some comfort in the very warm words being expressed in the chamber here today and in the community more broadly at this time of loss for you. My sincerest condolences. May Kimberley rest in peace.
First, I offer my sincere condolences to Kimberley's family, both to her immediate family and to her husband, Andrew, and his beautiful sister, who was of such support to him in the lead-up to the funeral. I also extend my condolences to Kimberley's mother, Leigh; to her father, Bill; to her brother, Ben; and to her many cousins and the extended family network. You all loved her. You lived all or most of your lives alongside her, and I know that your grief is deep and abiding. As her work colleague and friend, I will miss her so much. But as her family, the whole rent in the fabric of your life together, the plans you had for times which are now never to be—that is truly the tragic loss. Andrew, your funeral remarks were extraordinary, and I acknowledge the contribution of my colleague Senator Farrell here this morning who absolutely called it as it is: it was a remarkable celebration of a remarkable life.
I also want to take this opportunity to acknowledge the support in enabling such a tremendous send-off for Kimberley, a daughter of the faith, at St Patrick's Cathedral in Melbourne. I want to thank the Archbishop of Melbourne, Peter Comensoli, for his facilitation of that remarkable celebration of a life well lived. I also want to acknowledge former senator Jacinta Collins. The skills she developed as the Manager of Government Business and the Manager of Opposition Business were, I think, very, very helpful in the course of that week of preparing the send-off for Kimberley.
I also want to acknowledge Kimberley's friends in the trade union movement. It's a vital part of Labor. We are two wings, and we fly with the strength of both. I want to acknowledge the strength, compassion, leadership and courage of Kimberley's great friend Diana Asmar, who read at the mass on the day. I know that she will seek to make sure Kimberley's great contribution is well remembered.
As Senator Roberts indicated, Kimberley was originally from the great state of Queensland. I know that she will be returning there. I want to acknowledge Archbishop Coleridge and the Archdiocese of Brisbane for their facilitation of that and acknowledge what a great team the whole family has been, in their time of crisis and grief, to come together and honour Kimberley in a remarkable way.
I only met Kimberley on her arrival here in Canberra as a senator for Victoria. And what a force of nature she was. Her smile was simply bedazzling. Her pace of movement around the corridors was urgent. Her work ethic was unmatched. Her determination was fierce. Her intellect was abundantly evident. Her care for others and loyalty to friends was unquestionable. What a woman. What a loss to this place, to our Labor family, to our Senate and to our nation. Kimberley was a patriot. She was a woman of courage, capacity and integrity. She was a great Australian who was also very kind.
Kimberley and I rarely worked on the same committees, but we often discussed them and our work in those committees. On one occasion, however, we ended up together undertaking an inquiry into the Foreign Investment Review Board. We came at that hearing from very different places, with different life skills and different perspectives, but we came at it strongly as two Labor women determined to do our bit to protect our nation, to stand for our nation, to interrogate the government for our nation. Our deep suspicion of the influence of the Chinese government and its influence in our markets through supposedly family business structures was my particular interest with regard to Alinta Energy. We were concerned, both of us, about risks to national security, the failure of this government to see the risk, the failure of leadership under Mr Morrison, who, as Treasurer, with his Foreign Investment Review Board in cahoots, ticked off the sale of the Port of Darwin. We were both alive to that failure, and the risk, and we pursued it that day with vigour. Can I say that, although there were only two people overseeing compliance with Foreign Investment Review Board directions at that hearing, there were about 25 very shortly thereafter. These small victories, that will never make a headline and that didn't make a star of Kimberley Kitching, were the stuff of her work here every single day. And that is what makes this place a strong place where we pursue our passion for justice and for fairness with vigour, never losing sight of the thing at the heart of Kimberley: an authentic and genuine care for her fellow human beings whether near or far.
One lingering memory that will always delight me about Kimberley is of a post briefing discussion after one of the hearings that was actually related to the Foreign Investment Review Board inquiry. We were chatting with some witnesses following the close of formal proceedings and the next thing I heard was an animated conversation in French off to my right. I turned around to see Kimberley in full flight with one of the witnesses in French. Normally, in other contexts, this wouldn't be an extraordinary thing to happen, but in this more monolingual Australia—colleagues, I am sure you would agree—it's an uncommon thing to find your colleagues engaged in deep discussion in another language in your proximity. It rarely happens. That was the moment—not by heralding—when I found out that Kimberley was a fluent French speaker. She never bragged about it. She just did it when the time felt right. Our witness was clearly delighted to be able to speak in his native tongue ,and Kimberley facilitated that effortlessly.
Much has been made of Kimberley's capacity as a linguist in recent days—five languages and a predilection for Latin. If only she had been with us longer, I know that those language and personal skills—Kimberley's practical and cultural capacity to speak out into the larger world—would have been used to serve democracy, to serve peace in our world and to always advance the benefits to this nation.
Kimberley's leadership in developing the Magnitsky legislation was remarkable. She deeply understood how vital that legislation would be for our country and how prescient she was in advancing it. Others have spoken about this remarkable achievement in the course of these speeches this morning. That it was passed unanimously with her amendments is a tribute to the leadership that she showed right throughout that process against opposition at many turns.
It's not surprising then that in recent days—with Senator Hollie Hughes—as Australia's delegation to the Inter-Parliamentary Union, we would run into a friend of Kimberley's, a friend who was devastated, as we were, by her recent passing. I have the honour, with the Senate's permission, of placing some words on the record from a colleague from the New Zealand parliament, Louisa Wall, the member for Waikato. She begins: 'My appreciation to Senator O'Neill, who I recently met in Indonesia, for this opportunity to join you in remembering our colleague Senator Kimberley Kitching. Kimberley Kitching was an incredibly proud Australian, a passionate representative of your parliament and people, who sought to use the privilege of office always as a good global citizen, and who was so generous to others who shared the same motivations. Kimberley and I were co-chairs of the Inter-Parliamentary Alliance on China in our respective countries. We joined this global network because, as proud members of democratic political parties, we understood how fundamental it was to safeguard and develop the integrity of our political systems and to voice our support for a free, open and rules based international order. We shared a commitment to human dignity, human rights for minorities and the marginalised, and a belief that this practice of democracy must be fought for intentionally, and that we must join with like-minded countries, participating actively in initiatives that contribute to global good governance and international peace and security. This, for Kimberley, was epitomised in her passion for Magnitsky law reform. It was this law reform that Kimberley was helping her Kiwi colleagues to socialise with colleagues across the New Zealand parliament on. On Monday 7 March 2022, at 7.30 am New Zealand time—5.30 am for Kimberley—IPAC New Zealand convened a Magnitsky sanctions panel discussion on Zoom, with Bill Browder, Geoffrey Robertson QC and Kimberley. My colleague and IPAC co-chair, Simon O'Connor, who I acknowledge today attended Kimberley's funeral on our behalf, sent a text of thanks after the event. Kimberley's reply: "And it's really my pleasure."
I really believe it would be good for New Zealand to have Magnitsky. It's also a very useful tool to have, I think, and also aligns countries with democratic values. Kimberley had helped Australia to have Magnitsky law, and she wanted to help New Zealand too. We're so very grateful to Kimberley for this support, and Magnitsky law remains an IPAC New Zealand priority.
Kimberley and I represent Labor and Labour's formal involvement in IPAC. Our belief is that all people are created equal and entitled to the same basic human rights protected by the state, to dignity, to respect and to an equal chance to achieve their potential. Our commitment to peace and social justice promoted throughout the world by international cooperation and mutual respect is that our governments have a critical role by ensuring fairness and by achieving a more equitable distribution of life outcomes to all our citizens.
I paid tribute to Kimberley in our house and I noted Kimberley was seen as a tireless and fearless, brave justice warrior. I remember Kimberley as a parliamentary representative we should all be. We should all fight for the values of our respective parties. We should all fight for social justice and for human rights. We should all speak out when we see an abuse of power, an abuse of privilege. We should all practice those values our parties are based on. When we use our voices in this context, we should be supported by our colleagues, by our leaders. Unfortunately, this is often not the case, and Kimberley continued anyway, putting her health and possibly her career at risk. Kimberley knew that the point of being a representative was to represent her party, her country, and she did so with utter commitment and resolve. That her health suffered for this is an absolute tragedy.
Kimberley's legacy will live on in the actions of others. Her passion and generosity will not be forgotten. Her husband and family: may you find peace in the appreciation of others of your beautiful Kimberley. Thank you for supporting her service and not only Australian citizens but global citizens from many countries who will benefit from her work.'
I also offered the opportunity to put on the record condolence words from her staff, Marree Goodrick and Jordan Heng-Contaxis. This is their contribution: 'Just weeks after losing Kimberley, we remain unable to adequately convey the deep sadness we feel. Much has been written about Kimberley in the weeks since she passed: of her formidable intellect, her wit, her toughness. No doubt much more will be said here today.
To say Kimberley was only our employer is simply inaccurate. As in many offices in this place, a bond exists between a member or senator and their staff that is something so much more. It's a bond that is impenetrable, a bond of unwavering loyalty and trust. It's a bond that's forged during gruelling 16-hour sitting days and the irregular hours in the electorate. It's a bond that's born during late night chats, takeaway food between commitments, and texts and calls at all hours. For us, this just stopped one day. There was no off ramp, no preparation, no warning as in the case of retirement; it just was and then it wasn't.
We shared a deep and personal relationship with Kimberley. She was our boss but also our friend, our confidant and our mentor. For some of us, Kimberley gave us our first jobs. For others, we came to work together later in our careers. But there was never a hierarchy. Kimberley cared about what we thought, about our desires, our struggles and our relationships. Kimberley supported us, she encouraged us, she challenged us. Our contributions were greeted with respect. Kimberley valued our opinion. She made sure we celebrated our professional and personal successes and, equally, we supported each other in challenging times. Kimberley did so much for us, and, while she regularly expressed her thanks, we now realise we never really told her how much she meant to us. We're sure she knew, though.
Many years ago we printed and taped to a wall in our Canberra office the poem Japanese Maple by Clive James. Kimberley loved this poem. She'd often stop and read it. Written towards the end of his life, Clive James's words both reflect on his life and say goodbye. These words now carry a new weight for us:
Enhanced, in fact. When did you ever see
So much sweet beauty as when fine rain falls
On that small tree
And saturates your brick back garden walls,
So many Amber Rooms and mirror halls?
Ever more lavish as the dusk descends
This glistening illuminates the air.
It never ends.
Whenever the rain comes it will be there,
Beyond my time, but now I take my share.'
In closing, I want to reflect on the opportunity that I had to meet Bill and Leigh as we left the rosary at the cathedral in Melbourne a bit over a week ago. To meet Leigh and hear her speak of Kimberley as a baby was profoundly instructive. She described going to the cot in the morning and finding a baby that was just smiling and kicking her arms and legs, desperate to say hello and good morning. The joy that she had as a parent was too much for her to bear, so she'd say, 'Bill, Bill, come in and have a look at this baby!' Her words to me were, 'She made us feel like gods.' That natural abundance of joy was a gift, and Kimberley never hid it. She gave it in spades to everybody for a lifetime.
She began her life with joy. She shared it every day—joy overflowing. She wanted a good life, not just for herself but for everyone, and she lived a good life. Kimberley, I hope, will be remembered not only with the award for human rights, not only in the way that Senator Payne has indicated today, but in our action—our action as we leave this chamber today. We need to commit to a kinder, more harmonious place to work and to lead. We need to commit to agreement-making, seeking respectful disagreement rather than torrid taunting and brokenness. That's not leadership; it won't take us anywhere good.
We all need to lift and rise in her honour. That is the commitment that I make and that is, I hope, the practical outcome of the loss of our great friend. I do want to acknowledge the many beautiful times of sharing a glass or two of champagne with Helen, Jacinta and Kimberley in various offices—well shared, well enjoyed—and how privileged we were to know her. Now, after all her heroic efforts in the 52 years of life she was granted, may Kimberley Kitching rest in peace.
I rise to make a small contribution in memory of Senator Kitching. Senator Kitching was a principled, kind and intelligent parliamentarian. She was warm, gentle and decent. Her decency, her trustworthiness, her fidelity to ideas and principle meant she was effective in working across the aisle to advance what she believed was in the national interest. She and I came to become friends in that context. Along with colleagues like Senator Paterson, Mr Hastie and Mr Byrne, we worked together often to ensure that Australia's interests were protected, despite the changing geopolitical environment, even though—and Senator Paterson might remember this—in the early days this was mocked by some corners of our respective parties. We were, together, able to raise awareness of important threats to Australia's sovereignty and to help make Australia safer. While Kimberley was so very loyal to her party, and fierce in debate, she was capable of rising above the tribalism that so often characterises this place. This job is hard, it is exposed, and the expression of vulnerability that is so vital for good mental and physical health is harshly penalised. Many have commented today on Kimberley's beaming smile and how her enthusiasm could be contagious; but if we are honest, friends, we know those big smiles often hid a sadness and were sometimes a necessary protective device in an environment that can often be harsh and, at times, cruel. The realities of the human experience don't fit well into the black and white of the sound bites that are chased in this place; but Kimberley was courageous in difficulty, and, though she was quick-witted and intelligent and bright, she never used it to wound. It's part of the reason debate with her in this chamber was always such a joy—and she was no less effective for that grace.
Andrew, I know your life will never be the same. I hope you will have peace, despite your grief, knowing hers was a life well lived. To Professor and Mrs Kitching, I'm so sorry you've had to bury the daughter you raised and educated with so much love. To staff, I hope the time you've had with Senator Kitching puts you in good stead for what's ahead. It's my sincere hope that this place will become kinder, fairer, less tribal and more nuanced as part of Kimberley's enormous legacy.
Kimberley Jane—I'm Amanda Jane, and we would often laugh together that people of a certain age were either Janes or Louises in the middle—may God rest your beautiful soul. We'll always claim you as a Queenslander.
When I first met Kimberley Kitching, the sound track of our Brisbane lives was dominated by The Cranberries, The Breeders, Pearl Jam and The Cruel Sea. The Joh years had finally ended. Goss was in power. Keating was fighting John Hewson's fight back—and so were we all—and everything for Labor seemed possible. Of course, it is a universal truth of youth politics that this did not in any way guarantee that Kimberley and I would work together on campus. Kimberley was seeking election as president of the UQ student union, supported by the now member for Oxley, Milton Dick. I was on a different ticket, seeking to be elected as secretary, and supporting Murray Watt as president. Murray ended up winning, Kimberley conceded graciously, and we all settled in to working together in the student council. Shortly thereafter, she and I both left Queensland—she went to Melbourne and I went to Sydney—and both of us settled into our new geographic and political homes. Neither of us ever returned to membership of the Queensland branch, where it all started for both of us. But we were reunited when she was elected to the Senate, and Kimberley was keen to mull fondly over that past and her shared history with Murray, Milton and me.
My relationship with Kimberley was not especially close—not when compared to others in this place—but it was long. Sometimes in politics, that can be nearly as important, and that's especially so when those relationships are formed in youth. So I rise today to make just a brief contribution about her life. Like most of us, I was first shocked and then immensely sad when I learnt of her death. Fifty-two is very young, and there are a number of conversations that I'd imagined we might have that will now never take place.
Here in the Senate, Kimberley worked very hard, and, serving alongside me on Finance and Public Administration, Kimberley and her tireless and loyal staff defined the issues that they wanted to pursue, brought them into the committee and brought all the resources they could to pursuing them. Kimberley and I also travelled together, travelling to Jordan to better understand the nature and scale of the Syrian refugee crisis there and the opportunities to strengthen Australia's response. Browsing through my photo collection reveals Kimberley entirely at ease in this environment—laughing with young Syrian girls; listening carefully and empathetically to the stories of traumatised women; and smiling graciously with our hosts as we confronted tables groaning with food, a mark of the incredible generosity of our hosts. Kimberley was only very recently arrived in the Senate at that time, but she had already applied her formidable networking skills to establishing an ambitious schedule of personal meetings to augment the official program. Much has already been said about this passion for international affairs. It is fitting that Labor will establish an award in her name.
Tragically, it is only a few months since we farewelled Senator Alex Gallacher. In speaking just here, Kimberley said this:
I'm sad to be eulogising Alex Gallacher, but I'm also weary of reflecting on so many careers like his: too much time spent in opposition and not enough time … to make real change—all that time, all those missed opportunities, all the good that should have been done and could have been done.
Kimberley perceived that good intentions are not enough, that good outcomes require power.
I actually don't know if Kimberley ever read Joan Kirner's The Women's Power Handbook. It was certainly in frequent circulation among the young, politically active women of my generation. But she certainly heeded its lessons. She was comfortable with the exercise of power and she pursued it without apology. Having joined Labor just as our national party was formalising its commitment to the representation of women, Kimberley came into the parliament with a keen sense about what she wanted to achieve, and she was determined to acquire the means to do so.
I attended Kimberley's funeral at St Patrick's last week. I was struck by the deep love and affection expressed by her family and her friends. She was a loving daughter and a fun and dedicated friend. She was a light in the life of many. I offer my most sincere condolences to Andrew; to her parents, Professor and Mrs Kitching; to her brother, Ben; and to her many friends, who grieve her keenly. Vale, Kimberley.
I rise today to say a few things that I really don't want to say. I don't want to have to remember my friend or my neighbour now, not at this time, and whilst it's ridiculous to say 'not ever', I sincerely had hoped that we would have many more years together in this place. It's perplexed some outside of this place as to why so many people across the aisle have been so upset to lose KK at this time. She was and forever will be 'KK', as our darling mutual friend Milton Dick used to refer to our little corridor as the 'HH, KK space', one he joked about joining—in fact, even joining the Senate at one stage—just so he could hang out with us a little bit more.
But our Kimba was a warrior. She fought hard, she worked hard and she loved hard. She loved her husband, Andrew—maybe almost as much as Nancy-Jane!—and she loved her staff. I've only ever had the pleasure of knowing Maree and Jordan. But, Jordan, who's here today, you were quite the team. She loved the Labor Party, something that I understood less, but she would fight for what she believed were true Labor values, something that I fear the Australian public may see less and less of these days. But I do think, most of all, she loved Australia. She was a true patriot. She truly understood the importance of sovereignty, of protecting our nation and our citizens, that we had the right to encourage and support free trade on fair terms around the world. She was not naive to the threats of terrorism and socialism and communism, and the threats that those ideologies were to our own democracy. She wasn't frightened to call out human rights abuses. She worked hard to ensure that those rights were recognised around the world—the Uighurs, the plight of Tibet and, of course, China.
Her work, and ultimate recognition with the awarding of the Magnitsky award, was globally known, and, unfortunately, perhaps better appreciated by those outside of our own country. There are very few in this place who would be recognised by the Dalai Lama on their passing, even those with a foreign affairs attachment of their portfolio within her party. She really was seen as a wonderful, proud Australian, who truly understood and could relate on a human level to anyone that she met. I remember seeing her arriving at Parliament House one day, walking down our corridor ever bright and giggling, telling me about all the new oddities entailed in international travel. And I'm embarrassed to say that I had to ask her where she had been and why as there had been no reporting locally on her incredible achievement.
As Senator O'Neill said, last week I attended the 144th IPU conference. Deb and I both struggled all week: do we go? Do we not go? We had our briefing and, after that, we both felt that we had to go because Kimberley would want us to go. Ultimately, we decided that Deb would go to the funeral and cry for both of us while I would fly the flag for us at the conference in Bali. I assure you there was no time by the pool, something that I'm sure would devastate Kimberley as well, but I think we did her proud. And I do have some pride in knowing that Kimba would be proud that in Australia's contribution to the Ukraine debate, we were the only nation to call out China by name. The speech was incredibly well received and other nations supported us in calling out China and its complicity in not condemning the illegal invasion by Russia.
Kimba was a great adversary in estimates. In true Kimba style, I would get short shrift had I interrupted her while she was trying to make a point, only for her to ultimately concede that, yes, that was my job—we would do this usually over a glass of bubbles and look forward to our next sparring exercise. I'm starting to feel the theme of the glass of bubbles to rectify things was strong for those of us who played a part in Kimba's life. I do think perhaps my fondest memories of her were in fact our far-too-new Christmas traditions: the ridiculous but beloved inflatables we put outside our office that started to become some form of competition, with mistletoe and Santa that would make Santa's workshop blush. I am looking forward to this festive season, where Kimba's inflatables will join mine outside my office—with no apologies to whomever moves in between Senator Chisholm and me in the future. They will just have to learn to deal with them. I will miss her giggles, her love of a good gossip that was never malicious and for being someone who fully understood the need that sometimes a champagne was exactly what was required—and the fact that she often wore more colour than me, and very often wore it much better with the addition of a ruffle or a sparkle.
To Andrew and her family, her dear friends, her staff and to everyone that loved her: your loss is beyond anything that words can feel, but my deepest condolences to you all. Rest in peace my darling KK.
I would like to make a short contribution on the condolence motion for our colleague Senator Kimberley Kitching. I would like to begin by associating myself with the remarks already made by other senators today. Sadly, this is the second time in this term of parliament that we've had to farewell a sitting senator from this side of the chamber.
Senator Kitching's sudden death, just three weeks ago, was a huge shock to everybody. It is of great sadness and has affected all of us deeply. Nothing can put into words the pain and grief that those who loved her have been going through since her passing. To her family, husband, parents, brother, extended family and friends I offer my most sincere condolences. A sudden and unexpected death brings a unique experience of grief. Without notice or warning, worlds are fractured, and it leaves lives that will never be the same again. The love for and loss of Kimberley were evident in the touching and heartfelt contributions made this time last week at the service in Melbourne.
I first met Kimberley on her election to the Senate in 2016. Since that time I've got to know a woman of great intellect, passion and belief. She was strong and forthright in her views. She was an eloquent orator, surefooted and poised. She was also expansive. She made a difference. She had an impact and she achieved much in her short time in this place. She was hardworking, focused and committed. I'm a teetotaller during sitting weeks, and she is the only senator who has ever managed to convince me to have a drink on a sitting evening. She ended up serving me my first ever martini, in a very stylish martini glass. She was truly shocked that I'd got that far through life without ever having one.
Since Kimberley's passing I have reflected deeply on my relationship with her, and I will continue to do this. Whilst our policy areas didn't often cross paths—hers specialising in foreign affairs and defence and mine following more mundane budget numbers—I have spent time recently reading her speeches in this place. I came across a speech which would turn out to be her final remarks in this place. It was a short contribution speaking on an economics committee report about manufacturing in Australia. In that speech she managed to paint a picture of a domestic policy challenge through an international lens. She spoke about the need to increase sovereign capability in manufacturing, about international challenges, and about the importance of jobs of the future and the importance of getting the policy right. She was a powerful orator and wove a deeper narrative than most contributions in this place when speaking to rather mundane committee reports. Her final remarks were a trademark contribution: forward looking, optimistic and solutions focused.
A lot has been said and written about Kimberley since her passing. Those who knew her best describe a loving person generous of spirit, tenacious and loyal, fierce and formidable—a person of strength and purpose. She forged strong relationships wherever she went, and the strength of her relationships right across this chamber is testament to that. We also saw this at Senator Kitching's funeral last Monday, with people from across the political spectrum and from all sectors of public life coming together to celebrate her, her professional contributions and the friendships that she had made, all in a packed cathedral of mourners in Melbourne.
In closing, I wish to quote Senator Kitching's remarks in this place in speaking to the condolence motion for our colleague Senator Alex Gallacher. She said:
The death of a colleague while they still serve here in the Senate is a reminder to all of us that our time on Earth is limited and that we should never waste a day, or indeed a minute, here.
Again, I offer my most sincere condolences to her family, friends, colleagues and staff on her passing.
I address these comments to Kimberley Kitching's colleagues; to her staff, Jordan and Maree; her family; her husband, Andrew; Professor and Mrs Kitching—the tragedy of losing a child is so shocking—but particularly Kimberley's brother, Ben. Having been through the tragedy of losing a sibling, my heart goes out to you for the loss of somebody who is flesh of your flesh, who has the shared memories of the good and bad Christmas holidays and the family relationships. I particularly am thinking of you at this time.
Senator Kitching and I shared some beginnings: we were born at the Mater Hospital just over a week apart, we went to the same university, the University of Queensland, and we both joined our respective parties at that time as well. Senator Watt, I didn't realise how closely our paths might have crossed at that time. We shared a faith, and we shared a love and a connection to regional Queensland. When I heard news of Kimberley's passing I was in Charleville, under the incredibly bright stars of the western sky. We had fireworks that night. It seemed incredibly appropriate that I would be thinking of Kimberley under the western stars, but with fireworks. That's because that is the extent of the relationship or the comparison that I can make with Kimberley, because she was an extraordinary person, a senator that exemplified all the very best, particularly of this place, of the human spirit.
In the early days of the parliament, as others have raised before, I had the opportunity to get to know Kimberley in some of the movings about the chamber, and she shone so brightly—her smile, her personality and her warmth. I saw some strange comparison to a Disney senator, because if anybody was going to sing the birds out of the trees it would have been Kimberley. She was just an extraordinary person.
But, of course, I don't want to let you think that I didn't understand the true capacity of her intelligence. It was not long into my term that we shared a Senate inquiry into the performance of the submarines. Kimberley arrived, and I smiled because she was someone I knew, someone I liked. She greeted the French contractors in French and chatted to them in French. I thought, 'Goodness, the Senate is going to be a much higher standard than I was really expecting.' But then she carried out an interrogation of the issue with insight, with great research, which left me and everyone in no doubt that she wasn't just a charming, intelligent woman; she was a woman of incredible intellectual capacity. Not for her the folders of preprepared questions by someone else. She went with purpose; she knew what she was doing.
When I reflect on Kimberley, I think of what Senator Birmingham said this morning about how we have choices; we choose the path that we have before us. I talked about the brightness of Kimberley and I also reflect on noticing that she was a little dimmed this year. I didn't ask her how she was or what was going on. I suspect, knowing the little I did of her, that she would never have shared anything that was happening across the way. But it is my take-away that we can all do better as people, as senators, as members of this place. I just think she was an extraordinary person of a calibre that I will certainly use my time and the rest of my term to ensure I live up to—the legacy of being a genuinely decent, intelligent, warm person who also has the intelligence to carry out the job that Australians have sent us here to do.
My heart goes out to all of the friends, colleagues and family of Kimberley. It's such a difficult time, but I hope you take some condolence from the fact of how well loved she was, how well regarded she was and how she leaves her legacy.
I wish to add to other speakers my sincere condolences to Kimberley's family—her parents, Bill and Leigh; her brother, Ben, and her husband, Andrew—her friends and her staff after her untimely passing recently. Since Kimberley's passing, we have seen many emotions on display: grief, sorrow, anger, reflection and many more. For me, on a personal level, my reaction was and remains overwhelmingly one of deep shock. This is no doubt in part because Kimberley was of a similar age to me and most of my friends now, and these sorts of things do make you think about life. But, more, my reaction was one of shock, because of how long Kimberley has been a part of my life.
I've known Kimberley Kitching for nearly 30 years, having first met her at the University of Queensland law school in the early 1990s. As other speakers have mentioned, Kimberley was a true child of the suburb of St Lucia in Brisbane's inner west. It's a leafy suburb, populated by families of academics, of whom Kimberley's was one. That upbringing, with the travel that it involved, gave Kimberley her love of languages, her curiosity and her deep and abiding interest in the world, and it was these experiences that Kimberley brought with her to the University of Queensland.
As best I recall, Kimberley and I first got to know each other as members of the University of Queensland law student society executive in the early 1990s. We went on to be members of the Law Revue, in which we poorly attempted acts of comedy. My recollection is that Kimberley tended to be typecast as flamboyant characters and I tended to be typecast as bogans from the Brisbane suburbs. Not much has changed in either regard. We got to know each other, though, as has been mentioned by Senator McAllister, through our shared experiences in student politics, particularly in the elections of the University of Queensland student union in 1993. That student union election launched many political careers. Kimberley ran as the presidential candidate for what was essentially the Labor Right ticket with her campaign manager, now the member for Oxley, Milton Dick. I ran as the presidential candidate for the Broad Left ticket, with my dear friend and comrade Senator McAllister. It's also worth noting that the presidential candidate for the conservative ticket in that election was Ted O'Brien, now the member for Fairfax, who says that politics is not a diverse bunch and that there are too many student politicians in politics today.
Kimberley and I running on different tickets wouldn't be the last time that we had different perspectives on Labor's direction, but Kimberley's involvement in that election certainly meant that we had a lot of fun while arguing against each other, because, as she continued to do throughout her life, Kimberley did like to do things differently. One of the things I remember from that election campaign was that many of Kimberley's slogans were based on songs by ABBA, a band that I think she continued to love for the rest of her life. I remember slogans about 'Mamma Mia' and many others like that, and I must admit: at the time I didn't quite understand the connection between ABBA songs and lyrics and the important issues of student politics, such as the price of student parking, the price of food in refectories and changes to HECS payments. The results of that election indicated that other students didn't understand the connection either. But it certainly did keep things interesting having Kimberley as a candidate for that election.
As often happens, Kimberley and I lost contact after university. She moved to Melbourne and forged wide networks in the Labor Party, in the business community, in the media and in other groups as well. As has been acknowledged, she went on to play a significant role in the Melbourne city council and the HSU, among other organisations. It was during that time that she forged a reputation as a strong political warrior, someone who knew how to flex political muscle—and, let's face it, none of us gets to be here in the Senate unless we understand and have those attributes.
Kimberley and I reconnected on her election to the Senate a few months after I was elected here in 2016. I was actually just thinking as I was walking outside today that it really is going to be hard to imagine not running into her here in the corridors deep in conversation with her political friends or foes. While she was here, Kimberley and I mixed in different circles and we sat on different committees. But her contribution was clear to me—and it has been remarked upon by pretty much every speaker here today—particularly in the fields of foreign affairs and national security, and her achievements in relation to the Magnitsky laws. Those contributions will forever be remembered.
Of course, as all of us remember, COVID also interfered and meant that we didn't see a lot of Kimberley and our other Victorian colleagues for a long period of time. What that meant was that my last extended conversation with Kimberley actually occurred over the Christmas holidays, at the end of 2020. She was back visiting family and we both happened to be holidaying at Peregian Beach on the Sunshine Coast. I remember this clearly: there was one particularly wet Queensland January day when I took my kids out to salvage coffee for my wife and me, and we ran into Kimberley. Coming up from behind was this slightly wet, bedraggled-looking woman. And I, also being in holiday mode, was not looking my best—it was a far cry from how both of us tended to look when we were in the chamber. We actually sat down and had a coffee; it was probably the longest conversation I'd had with Kimberley since we both got here. We talked about politics, about our chances at the upcoming election and, most importantly, how our families were going. Probably it was that conversation that taught me exactly how much family mattered to Kimberley. I think it was that day that I was introduced to her brother, Ben, who passed us by, and we had a bit of a chat there as well.
What I'll remember Kimberley for, having known her for the best part of 30 years, is her intellect, her wit, her curiosity and her warmth to her friends. At her funeral, which I attended last week, it was clear that a very large number of people remember her the same way. Again, I wish my condolences to her family, her friends and her loyal and hardworking staff. We appreciate all of the efforts that you have put in and I cannot imagine the grief that many of you are suffering right now.
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.
I rise to add my condolences to my friend Senator Kitching, and, in doing so, I recognise her family, friends and staff in the gallery today. I say 'friend' with sincerity, irony and sadness—'sincerity', because I don't mean 'friend' as we often do in politics as a synonym for 'professional acquaintance'; Senator Kitching had a genuine interest in my life and my family, away from this place, as I did for her. I say 'irony', because I confess that, when she first arrived in this place, I was wary; her reputation preceded her and, like others, I had heard all the warnings about her, but, whether I liked it or not, she was determined to be my friend, and the earlier I gave in the easier it would be. In fact, I distinctly remember being puzzled by how, with her husband, Andrew, in tow, she enthusiastically sought me and my wife, Lydia, out at a reception at Yarralumla hosted by the Governor-General at the commencement of the parliament after the 2016 election. I think I even remarked to Lydia how random it was for this freshly-minted Labor backbencher to be reaching out to this almost equally freshly-minted Liberal backbencher. But clearly she just knew before I did that we would become kindred spirits. And I say 'sadness' because, in the extensive commentary we have all read since her passing, I learned that her friendship with me and others on my side of the aisle was an apparent justification for the treatment she received while she was here.
In the aftermath of Kimberley's death, I refrained from publicly commenting on these issues for two reasons. Firstly, I thought it was important that those who knew her best from within the Labor Party and the labour movement who could most authentically tell this story should be given the space to do so. I didn't want the discussion about her experience here to be a partisan debate. Secondly, I share the desire of her family that her life's work not be judged through this prism alone or for her many achievements to be obscured by it. I will speak about it today only because, as someone who was a close witness of Kimberley's time here, I feel I have a duty to history to share what I observed, and because I think there are important wider lessons to be drawn about the way politics is functioning in this country today. I don't do so with any animosity. I don't come here to point any fingers or to name any names or to settle any scores. I certainly don't claim perfection for myself or for my side of politics either. But I believe that the idea that this can and should simply be dismissed with a glib line or two does Kimberley and everyone who will follow in her wake a gross disservice.
I am also not one of those people who claims to be an expert on the internal workings of other political parties. I don't know whether it is true, as some have claimed, that there was never any real threat to her preselection, but if it is true that her place here was assured then it seems especially cruel that it was dangled in front of her for as long as it was.
There is no doubt in my mind that she was under significant pressure over the past few months. She confided in me about the ostracisation and exclusion she often experienced here in Canberra within her own party. Combined with the shift in the balance within the Victorian ALP and her unresolved preselection, she was not herself—something that many of her friends discussed in the last few months.
Given that her friendship with me and other Liberals has been cited as a reason for why she was distrusted by some of her colleagues, I feel duty bound, on the pain of misleading the parliament, to state that she never—not once—inappropriately shared with me internal Labor Party tactics or strategy. Nor do I share the view expressed by some commentators on the Left and the Right that she was somehow not really a committed member of the Labor cause, that she was somehow a closet Liberal. On the contrary, from what I observed, she was passionately, tribally Labor.
It is true, as some have written, that she was a bit of a throwback to a tradition within the labour movement that is not as strong today as it was in the second half of the 20th century. I don't think she would have thought it was an insult to be called a Cold War Catholic, and in that way she was a modern custodian of a very important intellectual tradition which was crucial in underpinning a united Western response to the threat of Soviet communism. But I suspect that the next few years will demonstrate that, far from being a historical oddity, Kimberley was ahead of her time and that her deeply felt and proudly held belief in democracy for the rest of the world, as well as for us, is coming back into fashion, quickly. I certainly hope so, because without people of Kimberley's strength and conviction on the Left of politics we are going to find our uncertain strategic environment much more difficult to navigate.
It is of concern to me that her friendships with Liberals and our cooperation on national security matters have been alluded to as an explanation for her estrangement from some of her colleagues. I think that the expectation the Australian people have of us is that we do work together cooperatively on what are existential challenges. That is not to say that genuine philosophical differences won't arise from time to time, both between and within political parties, nor that they should be papered over for a bland bipartisanship which denies voters a choice, but where we do see eye to eye and where there are opportunities to work together in the national interest we must take them. I worry that the lesson that her colleagues will take from Kimberley's experience is that it's just not worth it. There are other people on the Labor side who I work with closely and professionally and whose company I sometimes even enjoy. Yes, some of them are the obvious ones, but not all of them. For the sake of their careers I won't name them here today.
Senator Kitching and I were co-conspirators in a shared enterprise with a handful of our colleagues to drag both of our political parties to a more realistic appraisal of Australia's relationship with China and its plans and intentions for the region. Although I concede we had some help from the Chinese Communist Party and Xi Jinping, I think any fair assessment will show that, in setting out on this path five years ago, we were ahead of our time and have had some impact. So I note with some cynicism that the same commentators who confidently assert there is no difference between the two major parties on China also cite Kimberley's views on the topic as another reason for the cold shoulder she felt from some colleagues. It requires some cognitive dissonance to believe both. If there really is no difference between us on China then Kimberley was an indispensable part of forging that consensus and should be celebrated, not shunned, for it.
Senator Kitching has rightly been recognised for her leadership on legislating a Magnitsky act. It will be a very fine part of her legacy when kleptocrats, human rights abusers and malign cyberactors who threaten us bear a real cost for their conduct, with Australia playing a proud part. At the very least, we got here much earlier than we otherwise would have without her determined and consistent advocacy. We had a similar experience of being publicly in favour of Magnitsky-style sanction regimes before either of our parties had come to accept the idea. Politics is the art of conversion. It would be churlish and unwise to condemn people who come to the same view you do only later, but it is remarkable that, until recently, Senator Kitching got much more international recognition from her work on Magnitsky than she ever did here in Australia or within her own party.
During the debate about the foreign relations bill, in defence of the provision which empowers the foreign minister as the final arbiter for whether an agreement with a foreign power should remain in force, I made the point that I would be more comforted knowing that a future Labor foreign minister would make that decision instead of some sort of committee, however constituted. Because they were in the chamber, and because of their interests in these issues, I said I would be happy to see that power in the hands of a future Foreign Minister Wong, Ayres or Kitching. Kimberley told me later how amused she was to see the raised eyebrows I got back from her side of the chamber, and we agreed that it probably wasn't the idea of Senator Ayres filling the role that they objected to.
But the truth is that, in Kimberley, Australia and the Labor Party have lost someone who would have been a very fine foreign affairs, defence or home affairs minister. Just look at how much she achieved here, in six years, from opposition. Imagine what she could have achieved had she had the chance to be a senior cabinet minister in a future Labor government. Yes, she spoke five languages, had travelled widely and had an inherent interest in Australia's place in the world, but more important than that was how she was driven by the national interest and the burdens that she was willing to bear in defence of it. When it came to national security, she always put country before party, as we should all strive to do.
I do not want to remember Kimberley as a victim. It was her defiance, grit and resolve that I most admired about her. I think that, with her courage, she shamed a lot of us to do more for the causes that we believed in. Some in social media land have objected to the label 'patriot' when it comes to Kimberley, but I know it was a badge that she wore with pride. And that's exactly what she was: a true Australian patriot, a friend of freedom and a tireless warrior for her cause. We should all aspire to be remembered that way.
I rise to make some remarks in the debate on this condolence motion about Senator Kitching, who was a person I admired and respected greatly. The point of going into public life is to stand for things and achieve things, and I think that she exemplified that. There were two things in particular that I noticed in my work with Senator Kitching. The first was that she was an institutionalist, in that she used the institution of the parliament very effectively to hold the government to account through Senate estimates. Many have said that there are not enough integrity measures and organisations in this town. That may be the case, but Senator Kitching used what we have very effectively. She did that with civility and respect, which I think was part of her great effect—what you saw was what you got; there wasn't any particular effort made to grandstand. And the results of her work are there for everyone to see.
The second point is that Senator Kitching was committed to bipartisanship where it was appropriate. I agree with Senator Paterson's formulation: this is not about denying people a choice, but there are areas where we should work together. I would say that if the worst part of this parliament is the ridiculous circus that we see in question time, the attempt at showing people that we're having a debate, the best part is the committees. I worked with Senator Kitching on one committee and, as has been said today, her effort was always to try and get to a bipartisan commitment on a policy principle wherever that was possible. That is the best work of this parliament, and I think she was an exemplar of that. We thank her family very much for the time that she had here. We are all the richer for it.
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.
It is with great sadness that I rise to speak on the recent death of our colleague Kimberley. To Andrew and all your family, to Kimberley's parents and to her staff: heartfelt condolences from me, my husband, John, and my staff. I am sorry that due to a bad fall on 2 March I sustained injury to my right knee and ankle, and I was unable to travel to attend Kimberley's funeral.
I knew Kimberley very well. We spoke on many subjects. Her knowledge of Italian meant we had a wonderful affinity and were able to have conversations on a whole range of different issues. Our ability to discuss different issues, including ones of conscience, often gave us solace in the knowledge that we were doing the right thing.
I was trained under former minister Jim Carlton, who once told me that even through the rough and tumble—which, Jim noted, could be very robust on the floor of the House in those days—he always made a point of civility and friendship with opposition members; in fact, he told me that it was quite common to go off and have a beer together. After all, we are all Australians. In this spirit Kimberley and I worked very well together, most especially on the foreign affairs, defence and trade committee. Most especially we shared concerns on the challenging issue posed by the communist regime in China. On that basis we fought strongly for an inquiry into our current relationship with China, as well as for Magnitsky laws and anti-slave-labour legislation.
It was poignant that an ABC news article on 12 March 2022 drew parallels between Kimberley's preselection struggle and the one I was about to face. Ironically, the article stated:
For a parliament in which much has been made about the threats of China and the treatment of women … the biggest political victims of the moment were women taking the fight up to the Chinese government.
Like Kimberley's, my comments on China drew the ire of coalition leaders and ministers. When I first raised my prescient warnings in 2016, during my time as a minister, they were ignored. Those responsible for our foreign trade and defence policy did not want to offend China. Politicians across the spectrum preferred appeasement rather than accepting the necessity to confront Beijing. Whilst the leviathan ship of state is changing direction slowly on the issue, there is still a long way to go. The stance that I took years ago has been vindicated, and I am pleased that others, like Kimberley, joined the fight and we were able to achieve some change.
On another front, much has been written about the treatment that Kimberley received from what the media has described as the 'mean girls'. Like Kimberley, I too had experienced the Liberal Party sisterhood. For example, when I appeared on the ABC Four Corners program on 9 November 2020, I made various comments about values and beliefs, but I also made the following comments about integrity:
When we sign up to this job, we sign up for public service, we sign up as service to the Australian public. And so therefore, there is an expectation that in service of the Australian public, we abide by the highest possible conduct and integrity.
They were fair, neutral and appropriate comments at the time. Yet, after I made those comments, not one coalition female supported me—not one of them. Not one had the gumption to even say, 'Well done for speaking out.' As Peter Hartcher pointed out in his article on 13 March 2021 entitled 'Australia's women are roaring, but where are their Coalition sisters?' there was a resounding silence over ministerial conduct. Instead, the coalition women's WhatsApp group was more concerned with trivial tenth-order issues. Sadly, I note my female coalition colleagues would privately whinge and complain, but there had been no fortitude or appetite to stand up publicly and say what needed to be said. I expect they were concerned about being summoned for a fireside chat with the threat of demotion for breaching groupthink.
I shared my own experiences with Kimberley. I understood how Kimberley felt, having been treated the way she was. The concept of mean girls is not confined to one political party. Often we discussed the slings and arrows with preselections, particularly as we were both outspoken and not constrained by prevalent groupthink within our political parties. I empathised with Kimberley about the bitter internal factional fights within our respective political parties. We both had factional enemies who desperately wanted to see us defeated, and they worked very hard at it. It is interesting that, following Kimberley's passing, the Victorian ALP division is now off to the High Court in an attempt to resolve bitter factional disputes. As a parallel, a legal action has been commenced in New South Wales by a member of the state executive to defend our own constitution.
I am sorry, Kimberley, that you were not able to withstand the pressure. I have no doubts that the stress of fighting for your political career took its toll and led to your death. Your death put much into context for me. It made me realise that all the stress associated with factional warfare is not worth the toll that it takes on health and family. Andrew, while you too have been a factional warrior, I am sure it has been very hard to watch the effect on Kimberley. I know how hard it has been for my own husband, John, himself a cancer survivor, who has stood by me through all the slings and arrows of internecine factional and intrafactional skulduggery. So, Andrew, whilst John and I can walk away, you will be left to walk alone. Our heartfelt condolences go to you, Andrew, and to all your family. Vale Kimberley Kitching.
I join my colleagues paying tribute to Kimberley Kitching—'Kimba' as those close to her fondly called her. My thoughts and prayers are with Andrew, her parents, her brother and her extended family and friends. My thoughts are also with Kimberley's staff, who were always considerate, thoughtful and busy, which is very much a reflection on their boss.
Her funeral service was a beautiful tribute to Kimberley with magnificent eulogies led by Andrew, her father and Kimba's great friend Bill Shorten, and a moving mass led by His Grace Archbishop Comensoli. As someone who seeks comfort from their Catholic faith during times of grief, the service was a fitting tribute to Kimberley in honour of her life.
I associate myself with the remarks of my colleagues and particularly those who have spoken about her many parliamentary achievements and roles. Like Senator Farrell, I had not met Kimberley prior to her entering the Senate, but anyone who had been active in the Labor Party over the last 20 years had heard of Kimberley. I had only been elected months earlier myself, so I'd benefited from the Senate school that was run for new senators to learn the ropes. Understanding this induction probably wasn't as thorough for someone filling a casual vacancy, I made contact with Kimberley to provide some of the material I had been provided as a new senator. Whilst Kimberley was appreciative, I also got a sense that she had it all under control, already knew how to navigate the system and, more importantly, what she wanted to achieve. As someone who after almost six years still doesn't feel comfortable in this place, that is something I admired in Kimberley.
I think it was Kimberley's first question in question time where she took a point of order. From memory, it wasn't just any point of order like the standard relevance we often rely on; it was actually a relatively obscure one that demonstrated Kimberley had already mastered the Odgers' Senate practice book that many of us still don't understand today. As many of my colleagues have remarked, Kimberley belonged in the Senate and thrived in the role from day one.
One of life's great missions is to find something you are good at and enjoy doing. I think if you contribute to society it makes it even more worthwhile. It is something that I often reflect on when someone passes. Unfortunately, I've had to think about this more often than I would like in recent months. With some indulgence: my mum passed away just before Christmas, and I had to reflect on her life, which she dedicated to helping others—that was my mum's great mission. In recent days, I've had to reflect on the life of one of my oldest schoolmates, Paul, who is battling aggressive cancer at the moment. I visited him twice over the weekend and believe that his great mission is one of being a fantastic husband and father. He has many talents and achievements, but I get the sense it is those two roles that have been his great mission in life.
It is with Kimberley not hard to work out what her great mission in life was, and that was being in this place. As a Labor senator for Victoria, Kimberley was born for it and didn't waste a day of her Senate life. So there is a sadness that someone whose great mission was to serve in this place has had her career cut so tragically short at the age of 52. It is a sadness I observed with Kimberley's parents attending the funeral of their daughter; a sadness for Andrew—and anyone who knows Kimberley understood that Andrew and Kimberley were such a devoted couple, through thick and thin, as Andrew so eloquently pointed out in his eulogy; and a sadness for Kimberley's extended family and her so many loyal friend who will miss her so deeply.
There is a sadness for those who benefited from her advocacy across her life and for what was to come. Given the ability Kimberley had demonstrated to achieve from opposition, imagine what she could have achieved if our party was to one day get the opportunity on the government benches. It's a sadness for what Kimberley could have achieved for the benefit of the broader Labor movement and those who value freedom and democracy around the world.
Rightfully, her legacy will live on in many ways. One of the things I think about is those 30 people Kimberley helped rescue out of Kabul that many of my colleagues have mentioned and the opportunity that those people will have with their families to contribute to society because of the work Kimberley did to free them. Using her talents and skills will be such a demonstrative way to demonstrate Kimberley's ongoing legacy. My thoughts and prayers are with Kimberley's family and her many friends. Vale, Kimberley Kitching.
The nation, the Senate and the ALP all lost a star on 10 March, with the untimely passing of Senator Kitching. Her staff lost a great boss—staff who were a great reflection of the senator's personal disposition. The office was truly a team—Team Kitching. The loss must be keenly felt by them, and I am pleased the Special Minister of State is looking after them in relation to their immediate futures. Senator Kitching's family has lost a warm human being, and Senator Kitching's husband has lost his soulmate. That loss is unspeakable, but shattering and severely dislocating. He will remain in my prayers. It's a very tough road. May God be his strength in these dark days, which will remain for a considerable time. However, people of faith can look forward with hope to genuinely meeting again, a hope which helps to buoy and sustain in the inevitable loneliness which will follow.
The loss of Senator Kitching leaves a hole in our body politic here in Australia and also on the world stage. Having 'welcomed'—and for the purposes of Hansard, please put that in inverted commas—Kimberley Kitching's arrival in the Senate with certain observations just a few short years ago, today I unreservedly pay tribute to the life and public contribution of a friend. As is the wont in life, one meets people with preconceived ideas. Sometimes those preconceptions are found to be deficient; we can be disappointed, betrayed or surprised. No need for me to say that, with Senator Kitching, I was surprised. While we never did reconcile or resolve our differing views on matters of the Registered Organisations Commission, which we would often robustly express in this place—undoubtedly for our mutual benefit and edification!—we didn't allow that uncomfortable start and issue to set the tone of our working together in a host of areas. I was Senator Kitching's loyal deputy chair, as I kept reminding her, of the Senate's Foreign Affairs Defence and Trade References Committee, and she would remind me of her status as my loyal deputy of the counterpart legislation committee. Indeed, our last text message exchange was only one week before her untimely death. She had sought a favour for an extension of time, and my response was simply, 'Your wish is my command', to which she responded, 'With thanks'. At the time of receiving—courtesy, might I add, of Senator Fierravanti-Wells—the devastating news of Senator Kitching's passing, I had actually locked myself away at home and was reading her draft report on Afghanistan. I was on the very final page of her report. After having read the text message of Senator Fierravanti-Wells advising me of the news, I looked back down on the page and saw 'Senator Kimberley Kitching, Chair'. And I must say that that moment will remain forever imprinted in my memory. It was a particular honour, very shortly thereafter, to be able to pay tribute to her that evening on the Paul Murray Live program.
Senator Kitching was a fellow Wolverine, a fellow member of the Inter-Parliamentary Alliance on China, and, to use our terminology, my loyal deputy of the Australia-Israel Parliamentary Friendship Group, Israel being the only democratic country in the Middle East. She was also a friend of the democratic and freedom-loving people of Taiwan. It was a privilege to work with a senator so committed to the principles, values and benefits of our liberal democratic system, a colleague who had the strength, character and backbone to stand up and advocate for these principles, even when the naysayers were at their ugliest. Senator Kitching was willing to call out duplicity and cowardliness. She was a true patriot, realising leadership is to be founded on rock-solid, timeless values, not on passing fads. She knew history; she did her homework. Senator Kitching understood the issues. She displayed wisdom and long-term insight.
Unpopular as it was—and still is, in some quarters—Senator Kitching stood up for the right of Israel to exist in secure borders, something which her party was in fact instrumental in helping to establish. She understood the pure evil of barbarous dictatorships which held one million of their citizens in concentration camps, and she was willing to call it out. She was not one to turn a blind eye; that was not her way. Senator Kitching's advocacy for Magnitsky legislation was something for which all Australians and, in particular, the world's oppressed can be thankful. We both advocated the cause in our respective parties. It was a real pleasure to work with her on that issue. Her speech in support of the legislation was an absolute stand-out and is well worth a read for everybody.
In our many private conversations—which I believe are inappropriate to divulge, but the exception proves the rule, and I'm sure Kimberley wouldn't mind me saying this—I often opined to her that the one thing that concerned me about her was that it was people like Kimberley that gave the Labor Party a good name. Senator Kitching's beguiling smile and the odd cup of coffee for the chair at estimates hearings ensured we ran a pretty good ship. It was just others, from our own sides, that let us down on the odd occasion.
Much has been said today—all deserved, all appropriate and all insightful—in celebrating a wonderful contributor whose contribution has been cruelly cut short for reasons we struggle to fathom and to understand. To Labor: well done on selecting Kimberley Kitching as a senator. Who ever would have thought I would be saying that, after my 'welcome' to her to the Senate? Labor did itself proud. To future Labor senators: you could do worse than style yourself on Senator Kitching. To her staff: you've lost a great boss in your life. If you ever become a boss, be like her. To her parents: thanks for giving Australia such a wonderful individual. Kimberley has done you proud. The devastation of personally having to farewell a child must be excruciatingly painful. To husband Andrew: thank you for lending Kimberley to our nation, to the world stage and to the cause of freedom, democracy and liberty. Not only did you lend her to the service of such great causes but you also gave her 100 per cent support, which I know she personally cherished and which empowered her. As you mourn the loss of your beloved, be assured of my personal empathy and sympathy. It was a privilege and an enriching experience to have known her. It is a personal and sad blow to have to farewell her—a colleague and friend, and a patriot to boot—far, far too early. May Kimberley Jane Elizabeth Kitching rest in eternal peace.
I want to begin by expressing my condolences to Kimberley's husband, Andrew. What a lucky man, to be married to a person such as Kimberley. And, after hearing that loving eulogy just so recently: what a lucky woman she was to have you, Andrew. I'd also like to send my condolences to her parents, Bill and Leigh; her brother, Ben; and all of her very loyal staff and friends.
I want to echo the kind and true words that have been spoken by others about Kimberley. Kimberley will be greatly missed by everyone who had the good fortune to work with her. As everyone speaking to this motion will attest, her sudden passing at the young age of 52 was a shock to us all. There are very few people in the Senate, or in the House, who possess her energy and drive to make a difference on the issues she held so dear.
When I first came to the Senate, in 2019, I discovered that there was a steep learning curve around Senate procedures and committee processes. It can be a little bit of a lonely place. My first committee assignment was to join the Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade References Committee. Kimberley was, of course, the chair of the references committee. Kimberley and her very able team—Jordan and Maree—went above and beyond in helping me and my staff get up to speed on how things work. That's not a common thing in this place; people sometimes hold a lot of knowledge to themselves. But Kimberley was always very open, which I always very much appreciated. The thought that she will not be joining us at Senate estimates later this week is hard to get my head around. It may not be until I'm sitting in Foreign Affairs and Trade estimates on Friday afternoon and she isn't sitting there next to me, Senator Wong and Senator Ayres that it truly sinks in. And I'm sure a few ministers and senior bureaucrats are quietly relieved that they'll be spared her forensic questioning.
When I was in hearings with Kimberley, I was glad to be on the same side as her. Kimberley held strong beliefs, like many of us in this place, and she went in to bat for those strong beliefs at every opportunity. Most notably, Kimberley was a fierce advocate for human rights and for freedom from authoritarianism and oppression. Her methods were not always conventional, but it's hard to argue with her effectiveness. A powerful symbol of that is the Magnitsky law which was passed through parliament late last year—in large part, due to her relentless campaigning. Thanks to Kimberley's tireless efforts, the Australian government can now target individuals with sanctions where they are responsible for, or complicit in, human rights violations or corruption. Speaking on the Magnitsky bill in this place in December, Kimberley said:
A strong and clear message will be sent to lower-ranking officials and criminal thugs that their crimes, whether on behalf of or protected by their superiors, will not be immune from international consequences. This legislation says to them: 'Your stolen money is no good here. No matter how you steal from your people, there will be no shopping trips to Paris, no harbourfront mansions in Sydney, no skiing in Aspen and no nest egg in a Western bank.' Like King Midas, they will have lots of gold but no way to enjoy it.
At the time that law was passed, we could not have known how urgently it would be required—to sanction Russian oligarchs who continue to prop up a corrupt and murderous regime that is now committing war crimes in Ukraine. Thanks to Kimberley's campaigning for the passage of the Magnitsky bill, Australia is able to pull its weight in international efforts to sanction those profiteering from human misery. For her efforts, she deservingly received the Sergei Magnitsky Human Rights Award in London last year. And Anthony Albanese has proposed that a Kimberley Kitching human rights award be awarded at a future ALP conference. I can't think of a more fitting way to immortalise her lifelong contribution to human rights and the Labor Party than a human rights award in her name.
Of course, there was another human right that Kimberley dedicated much of her life to defending: the right of association, the right of collective struggle, the right of trade unions to go about their work without fear, intimidation or harassment. There's been much written and said about Kimberley's legacy in the weeks since her tragic passing; but, in my view, Kimberley was truly a fierce advocate for the rights of workers and trade unions. She was a fierce opponent of those who sought to attack and undermine the ability of unions to do their essential work. I will remember Kimberley first and foremost as a trade unionist, as an official of the Health Services Union Victoria No. 1 Branch.
One of the many things Kimberley and I had in common was that we were both among the hundreds of unionists hauled before the now completely discredited trade union royal commission. I think the experience of feeling the full force of a politicised royal commission reinforced Kimberley's commitment to fighting for working Australians. The fact that both she and I were Senate colleagues a few years later, while Commissioner Heydon has been consigned to a legacy of shame and scorn, sums up that sorry saga well. To quote from Kimberley's first speech:
While … Turnbull now finds himself pretending that the Heydon royal commission was a credible process just to score some cheap political points, on this side of the chamber we know the truth about the Australian union movement. We know the truth, because we have lived it. We have been there and seen it for ourselves.
Those truths are spoken by someone who persevered through the shame and toll of a politicised and weaponised royal commission. Those who established that discredited inquiry have never apologised.
Senator Kitching took that experience with her to this place when, in 2016, she strongly opposed the creation of another politicised and discredited entity, the Australian Building and Construction Commission. I could read from her fantastic speech on that piece of legislation all day. Reading the Hansard, you can tell she was striking some nerves that afternoon from the constant objections by members of the government, but she was unflappable. It's truly a shame that Kimberley will not be here to speak, vote and rejoice on the future dissolution of the politicised ABCC, but I'll be thinking of Kimberley when that day comes.
Kimberley truly had a way with words, as many of us have said through this day. I'd like to quote from one other speech she delivered in this place. It is her speech on the Fair Work (Registered Organisations) Amendment (Ensuring Integrity) Bill 2019, a bill that Kimberley, the rest of Labor and the crossbench were successful in defeating. Kimberley made a few choice remarks about yet another discredited entity, the Registered Organisations Commission, and the ROC's director, Chris Enright. She said:
… some people do not realise the lived experience of those in registered organisations in dealing with the Registered Organisations Commission. They lose documents. They are incompetent as well as malevolent … Mr Enright, in particular, favours some unions over others and plays politics with them in some sort of bizarre power exercise … Mr Enright is as corrupt—and I use that word again deliberately—a public official as I have ever encountered in all of my dealings with government. I'm not suggesting he takes bribes but I certainly suggest that he is drunk on power. He is an abuser of power. He is a thug in a suit.
Just in case there was anyone who had any remaining doubts about Kimberley's way with words, her ability to skewer her opponents or her inner fire and passion to fight for what she believed in, that should settle those doubts.
I'll say this about Kimberley. She dedicated much of her life, in this place, in the Health Services Union and elsewhere, to fighting for people's rights, whether it was the rights of people in Hong Kong and Xinjiang or the rights of people and trade unions in Australia. That was her lasting legacy, to me. To have made such a strong and lasting impression in a relatively short time in this place is a testament to her hard work and dedication. It is something for all who are fortunate enough to come to the Senate to aspire to. Thank you very much, Kimberley. You'll be missed.
As I rise today, as so many of our colleagues have, I express my condolence to Kimberley's husband, Andrew, and Kimberley's family, as well as to Jordan, Maree and all her loyal staff, who should take great heart in Kimberley's achievements.
Kimberley will be missed by me for many reasons but especially for her capacity for human conversation. Kimberley had a way of reflecting on the human condition, at both a personal and a political level, that was warm and engaging. I know that her personal warmth was increased by the deep love for her husband, Andrew, and her family. I spent many occasions in the chamber talking to Kimberley, and you could see how her worldliness and curiosity stemmed from her childhood experiences with her family, which laid the groundwork for what was her very sophisticated and warm world view. She had in that sense a great capacity to make those things real and deliver on that world view, as shown by her pursuit of the Magnitsky law.
Kimberley's happiness, satisfaction and joy in her family—that is, her parents; her brother; her grandmother, who we would often talk about in the chamber; and her husband, Andrew—were always apparent to me in the way she spoke about you all. She would smile in that really delightful cat-that-got-the-cream kind of way that only Kimberley could. I always took great pleasure in that broad smile and the warm tone of her voice.
I have to say that I know personally, from my own experiences, that a tough preselection can take a significant toll on your own personal and mental health. I can't speculate as to the impact that might have had on Kimberley other than to say that, from my own experience, I know that it is significant but also that such stress is the inevitable price of the competition to bring your world views and your values to this place. I understand at a very deep level, as many others also do, the fight to do that when facing a tough preselection or an election, as we're about to go into. So I'm reminded that this is a stressful time for many.
I express my deep gratitude to Kimberley for her passionate desire to be here and her enormous contribution. I was saddened not to be able to attend Kimberley's funeral because of COVID in my household, and I'm very sorry for that. It's a strange thing for all of us to be here in the chamber and not to see her smile and determined face looking back at us. It will be a less interesting and, perhaps at times, less passionate place without her. Australia has indeed lost a great advocate and patriot.
I reflect on the causes that Kimberley held dear and on the irony in the way that these debates—the debate of her condolence and the discussion since her untimely passing—have given further momentum to the causes that she held dear. I hope very much that that continues to be the case. They are, of course, all causes that would do better from her actually being here, and we are all saddened that that is not the case.
I reflect on her first speech, where she said:
In this parliament, we must proudly make the case for Australian exceptionalism. Australia is not exceptional because we have been divinely mandated, or because of some inherent quality unasked and unearned; Australia is exceptional precisely because generations of Australians have made hard choices and hard sacrifices.
In that context, personally, I reflect on the fact she is someone who believed wholeheartedly in the Australian people and our potential for greatness. Kimberley certainly made her own hard choices and sacrifices in order to be here.
She fought for democratic rights and purposeful reforms and believed in making a difference to Australians at home and abroad. When she spoke on the Magnitsky bill—of course she was fluent in languages in which I can barely pronounce a simple name—she always spoke with such eloquence and passion. I was fond of listening to her quote others who she deeply respected, embedding their words into her own speeches in order to add gravitas and conviction to her own words. I think that came from her capacity to access in that very worldly way all of the thought and intellectual engagement of others.
She was someone, in that context, who was well spoken and direct in her convictions and therefore very quotable in her own right. In a speech which I think has already been quoted today, she said:
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.
I know that, in the context of world history at this point in time, it is timely for us to reflect on Kimberley's words. I also want to acknowledge the asset that Kimberley brought to Labor in her capacity to form friendships across the chamber. I daresay that you cannot exist as a councillor in the City of Melbourne without the capacity to befriend a Tory and not just fight them, which she certainly knew how to do, and I deeply respect her for that. It helps get good things done in this place.
So it's shocking to me that Kimberley is gone, as I know it is to us all. In closing off Kimberley's many contributions, I want to recognise her work on marriage equality. In this respect, I want to recognise her consistency in being a strong Catholic, a woman of faith, and a strong supporter of human rights and equality. For me, this took some getting used to, as someone who has traditionally had to do battle with church dogma in order to see justice. Kimberley helped me see past this. I could see how, for her, her faith came without discrimination, and that meant a great deal to me. I close by quoting Kimberley's contribution to the marriage amendment bill when she spoke of the kind of leadership Australia needs. She said:
We want and need leaders who are true to themselves, comfortable in their own skin, honest about what they believe and strong enough to have the courage to implement it.
Kimberley, you had this in spades.
I also rise to pay my tributes to Senator Kimberley Kitching and associate myself with the remarks of other senators, but particularly, coincidentally, with those comments of Senator Louise Pratt.
'Patient persistence' is how I would describe Kimberley Kitching's style; a consistent observer of those courtesies to other senators that allow this place, at most times, to be a demonstration of our political civility—someone who knew and practised the power of scrutiny over just politics and, importantly, understood the effort that's required in one and less so in the other; a person who loved this institution and all that it offers and worked its levers to achieve real outcomes that have had, and will have, a lasting legacy on the life of so many senators. 'A senator's senator,' I remarked after her untimely and sudden death, knowing the tremendous admiration of her work was felt by so many in this chamber.
In such a short period in the Senate she achieved much. Her pursuit of human rights for people at home through the Senate select committee on marriage equality, which was the precursor to the marriage equality bill, should not be overlooked. Indeed, as Senator Pratt just remarked, her faith came without discrimination. And her achievement in legislating Magnitsky-type laws became the nation's success. These two achievements demonstrate to me that the dignity of all people, whether they be at home or abroad, was Kimberley Kitching's core pursuit. In our country she has been a champion of human rights and justice without peer.
When I met Kimberley Kitching, when she arrived in the Senate, I also approached her with care and caution. But through the work on the Senate select committee I gained a much deeper appreciation of her values, her priorities and her view of the world, and how, curiously, despite the media reports and the scuttlebutt, they aligned with mine. She thought deeply about how we reconcile the principle of equality before the law with the protection of people's religious liberties. She brought a deep philosophical view, one that she chose not to hide behind, and instead put her mind to committing to finding practical ways that these matters could be resolved for the benefit of all.
The LGBTI community in our country owes Kimberley Kitching a huge debt of gratitude. Curiously, we had both been invited to co-host a program on JOY radio, Australia's largest broadcaster to LGBTI communities across our country. During divisions in this place we speculated—when restrictions were lifted in Western Australia and I was free to travel—about the sorts of things we might talk about when we were co-hosting the Saturday Magazine morning program. We talked about the songs we might like to play. We talked about the stories we might like to tell. I speculated, to create a little bit of colour, that I might invite former Prime Minister Julia Gillard to join us. She cheekily responded that she thought she might invite Malcolm Turnbull. I said that I thought the theatre of that would be better suited to television than to radio.
I also was deeply disappointed that I could not attend the funeral. But having to choose between two things that mattered very, very deeply to me, I am confident that Kimberley would have understood the decision I took. Of course, we'll never now know what that radio broadcast would have looked like.
Kimberley talked about what type of parliament we should want. I think her legacy is more about what type of parliamentarian we should want. What value do we put on working across the aisles, what value do we put on bringing a bigger and more ambitious view to our national politics and what value do we put on restoring courtesy to the way that we all work together? Gone but never forgotten, Kimberley Kitching's achievements are now carved in our national story.
I'm someone who believes that people never actually leave us, that their presence can always be felt and that all that is required is for us to live consciously and to pay close attention to those things that are happening around us. Kimberley Kitching's legacy will be easy to see for so many and for so long. To Kimberley's family, to Andrew, her parents and brother, I extend my deepest condolences.
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.
I rise to share some reflections on Senator Kimberley Kitching, who passed way too young and with so much more to do, and to share my condolences with her family—Andrew; her parents; her brother, Ben—her friends and her staff, and also her union comrades, many of whom are here today. I'd known Kimberley for just the most recent years of her life, the years since I joined her when I arrived here as a fellow Victorian Labor senator in 2019. Although our paths hadn't previously crossed inside the same mighty institutions that we both come from, the Victorian trade union movement and the Australian Labor Party, they did pass regularly on the Senate ground floor corridor where our parliament offices were both located.
Kimberley and I often shared walks to and from the chamber, and I wrote on the day after her sudden passing that Kimberley was always hard to keep up with on those walks. She whirled her way around the parliament, smiling and chatting to all, transacting much mischievous business wherever she went. I noted that, without any doubt at all, she absolutely loved her job—just loved it. This place throws people together within and between political parties. Interspersed with so many incredible moments, great contests of ideas, great debates on the floor and astonishing achievements, there are also many quiet moments of very ordinary life that we inevitably share together. These are moments that can illuminate a person for us—ordinary moments that the public don't see but which can tell us just as much about a person, a senator, as any great contest, great debate or achievement.
My reflections on my interactions with Kimberley are less about her public life, her profile or her persona and more about what I saw in those smaller moments that we shared. On those walks to and from the chamber, I saw a person who was literally always smiling and always genuinely delighted to be a senator in this place. I saw a person who was extraordinarily proud to be here and a person who always exuded energy and enthusiasm.
I recall an exchange late last year in which that real pride and enthusiasm were reflected. A few senators were texting about who was going to attend an economics committee hearing that week on shipbuilding. It was the run-of-the-mill type of exchange that we all have every week. Senator Carr was first out of the gates, saying that he was planning to attend, as one might expect given the topic. Kimberley was next on the exchange, explaining that she was an apology because she would be in London receiving a human rights award at a ceremony in Westminster. I was next on the SMS, noting that I was also an apology, adding that my reasons were somewhat more mundane than Kimberley's, to which Kimberley replied, without skipping a beat or a second on the text exchange, 'LOLs' and that she was also off to Paris to do a function with French politicians and an interview on French TV. I can't remember exactly what I was doing that week, but I know that it didn't involve Europe, an international accolade or addressing French politicians in French!
I say again that Kimberley absolutely loved her job as she excelled at it. The eulogies at Kimberley's funeral service in Melbourne gave all of us greater insight into who Kimberley truly was, particularly those of us who knew her only in recent years. In particular, I want to note again the comments of her dear best friend, Bill Shorten, who said at the service that Kimberley knew how to live and that she lived, as urged by the Irish balladeer Liam Clancy, without fear, malice or jealousy, a recipe, Bill said, for a good life and also a recipe for a courageous senator.
Kimberley had truly dedicated and loyal staff. In particular, I've been thinking today, and for the last several days, of the loyal and wonderful Maree. I bumped into Kimberley and Maree on another walk one weekend at the Kingston shops. Both of them were laden with shopping bags, brimming with new purchases, and Kimberley was brimming with excitement about a referral she wanted to make to the Senate Economics References Committee on the future of Australian manufacturing. For her, a strong manufacturing sector meant a strong economy and it meant pride in being a nation that can be more self-sufficient, more resourceful, more economically diverse. I'm really proud to have participated on that inquiry with Senator Kitching and with Senator Pratt, and the report of the inquiry is yet another important part of Kimberley's contribution.
It was truly devastating to learn and then to realise over and again as the days passed that someone so full of life, so full of zeal and so full of ideas will not be here to pursue them. At just 52, Kimberley passed way too soon with so much more to offer this country. My thoughts are with her loved ones, her comrades and colleagues and her dedicated team. Vale Senator Kimberley Kitching.
There are many others in this place—and I commend many of the contributions that have been made to date—who are able to speak in significantly more detail about the life of Kimberley Kitching. I want to briefly pay tribute to someone who I came to see as a friend and someone who I came to have a deep respect for the more that I knew her. In these last few years we've had the opportunity to work together in this chamber and to know one another. My interactions with Kimberley involved friendly words in the chamber, a chat in the corridor, a shared drink or the occasional shared prayer.
One of the things that have been most commented on about Kimberley's life and legacy has been her commitment to human rights, and rightly so. Together, we co-chaired the Parliamentary Friends of Adoption, and this was because of a shared passion for ensuring that all children are able to be given the best possible start in life, the best possible opportunity for a stable and loving home. That was a passion we shared, and it was perhaps a less known aspect of the character of Kimberley Kitching in relation to her commitment to human rights.
When I think about the character who I knew, there are a number of words to express it—and words don't do it justice—and many of those were put on the record earlier today. The things that come to mind are kindness, intelligence, decency, great compassion, a great sense of humour and absolutely fantastic company. She was often the best person to have a chat with and share a drink with.
At the funeral last week and after the funeral, I had the opportunity to pay my respects to Kimberley's parents, Bill and Leigh, and to her brother, Ben. I want to just make a comment about the great courage that Bill showed in the way that he delivered that eulogy, and I made that point to him at the time. It's impossible to imagine what it would be like to bury a daughter, and so I will just, in expressing my condolences to her family, pay tribute to the great composure and the way that Bill and the family were able to hold themselves together and to really give a fitting tribute, which was quite extraordinary. Likewise, to Andrew, who I think gave extraordinary and fitting words as the person who knew her best, I want to pay my respects and to express again my condolences. As we know, 52 is far too young to leave this earth, but one of the things that is worth reflecting on is that 52 years lived in the way that Senator Kimberley Kitching did is an extraordinary life. It's an extraordinary life, with so much that was packed in.
One of the final reflections I would have is that, in having the opportunity to hear about the family upbringing, to talk to some of the family members, including cousins, about just the idyllic childhood that Kimberley Kitching had, I think it's a reminder to me of just what an extraordinary legacy there is when we see strong families and we see extraordinary human beings growing up as a result. Can I again, to all of the family and those here present and those unable to be with us today, express my sincere condolences. Rest in peace, dear Kimberley.
I rise today to speak about our colleague Senator Kimberley Kitching. Others have detailed her achievements and outstanding contributions. I will not reiterate those, but I wholeheartedly support what others here today have said.
Kimba was, from the other side of the chamber, one of the people that I was probably closer to, and that was due to a combination of her own outgoing and vivacious personality and the fact of our mutual passion for the Joint Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade, on which we both served. She was dedicated, passionate and extremely knowledgeable about many things, as we have heard today, and that certainly included the ADF. I enjoyed immensely our inspection tours, the last of which was last month, just two weeks and one day before she passed away, and I am incredibly glad to have had those two days to enjoy with her. It was a fantastic inspection tour. She had this ability to ask questions on our inspection visits and in our committee that were not just appropriate but insightful and showed her great knowledge of and interest in the subject at hand. She would ask questions that the rest of us hadn't thought to ask, but I was always enthralled by the information that she uncovered in asking her questions.
On a personal note: no matter what sort of day I was having, running into Kimba would always brighten it. She was vivacious, her smile infectious and, as Senator McKenzie covered, she could be somewhat mischievous and irreverent. I will miss her, and this place is poorer without her presence.
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.
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.
Before we finish, I will add a few remarks of my own. First of all, my sincere condolences to Andrew and to Kimberley's family and friends. I formally note the presence in the gallery of former senator Jacinta Collins. It's wonderful to see you, Jacinta, but on a very sad occasion. As has been noted by many in this place, my condolences also go to Kimberley's staff. It was an honour to be able to provide a statement on behalf of the Senate to the service in memory of Kimberley, and I thank Senator Farrell for reading that statement.
As has been noted by many, Kimberley had the ability to treat us all as individuals—not as cardboard cut-outs and not as political straw men. She cared, and she showed that she cared, not just about issues but also about people. We will remember her intellect and her wit, but we will miss her smile and her laugh. I ask senators to join in a moment's silence to acknowledge the passing of Senator Kitching, remembering the contribution which she made to the Senate, and to signify assent to the motion.
Question agreed to, honourable senators joining in a moment of silence.