Vale Senator Kimberley Kitching

Federation Chamber 30/03/2022

Mr KHALIL (Wills) (11:25): It’s been a few weeks now that have passed and I’m still in a kind of state of shock about the death of my colleague and, more importantly, my friend Kimberley Kitching. It hasn’t really sunk in, in many respects, because Kimba was so full of life—so full of it that I still expect her to walk around the corner or to see her in the corridors here in parliament. She was so full of life. She was so full of ideas, of insights, of laughter, of fun—in some respects, a rarity not just in politics but in life. She was mischievous, vivacious and charming, and she was such great company.

When my wife and I returned to Melbourne in 2010, after spending many years away—partly overseas and interstate—we met up with Kimberley and Andrew. Our first dinner together was all very interesting. There was discussion about Latin and discussions about the Roman Senate. I said, ‘This won’t do.’ I said to Kimberley and Andrew, ‘Have you seen The Big Lebowski, the movie?’ and they hadn’t. So she was lacking a little bit of that popular culture. I said, ‘That’s it. We’re going to take you—

An honourable senator interjecting—

Mr KHALIL: Exactly! I said, ‘Enough of talking about the Roman Senate and Cicero. We’re going to watch The Big Lebowski.’ So we took Andrew and Kimba to the very famous Astor Theatre. I don’t know if you’ve been there. It’s a beautiful Art Deco theatre. I knew Kimberley would love it because of the architectural design and aesthetic beauty of that theatre, and its age and history. It just so happened that, on the night we went to The Big Lebowski at the Astor Theatre, it was one of those specials where everybody got dressed up as the characters. There were a lot of people there, either dressed up as German nihilists in black or like Jeff Bridges’ character, Lebowski, in the poncho. And she had the most wonderful time. I think Andrew was a bit bemused by the whole thing but Kimba just loved it. I think she was secretly hoping that if she’d known she would have worn the poncho herself. She would have looked great in that, given her fashion sense. She would have made it work.

Over the years, in a friendship over a decade since that time, I knew someone who was intellectually formidable, courageous and strident in articulating her views, and so generous with her friends. Kimba would have been more than aware of the Keatingesque axiom that if you don’t make enemies in politics you’re not doing it right. She would have known that.

On the day that she passed I was actually scheduled to give her a call, to chat to her about my recent trip to the US with the PJCIS security and intelligence and security committee delegation that I was on with her friend Senator James Paterson. I never had the opportunity to have that conversation with her. She would have been so interested in all of the foreign policy and national security issues that we discussed over there on the trip, what was happening in Washington and all the inside information on what’s going on in the Biden administration. She would have been revelling in it. I was really looking forward to that conversation with Kimberley about that trip, over a coffee or maybe a glass of champagne if it was later in the day. These are issues that we’ve discussed together over many, many years, over the decade and a bit that I’ve known her. And I still can’t believe I won’t have those conversations with her again. I can’t believe I won’t hear her laughter; I can’t believe that I won’t see her friendly smile again, or even have the opportunity just to get stuck into those policy issues that we both cared so much about.

A lot of us as politicians in this place talk about legacy, or even the lack of legacy, in governing, in our decision-making and in our careers. I tell you what: while Kimba never got to serve—will never have the chance to serve—in a federal Labor government that she so wanted to be a part of, she nonetheless leaves a remarkable legacy. It is all the more outstanding and remarkable for the fact that she delivered a legacy from opposition, from her role as an opposition senator. Her commitment and persistence in pushing the Magnitsky-style laws that we’ve talked about in these condolences through our parliament, as we’ve heard, won her international recognition and human rights awards. But I think, for her, more important than any award in London—although she would have loved the party—would have been the fact that she has made a real difference to our democracy, in the sense of the contest that democracies around the world are having with authoritarian states. That is a legacy. That is of substance. I think she would be so proud of that—and it is of the time, given the inflection point we’re in, in global affairs, that she had, as an individual, this kind of impact. It includes the sanctions that we’ve just now imposed on individuals, through Magnitsky legislation, across the world, in so many different instances. The swifter and better-targeted response from the Australian government to international crimes and human rights abuses is in no small measure because of Senator Kimberley Kitching’s work and effort to get those laws passed.

She will be missed, as we’ve said, both as a friend and, for us, as a colleague, across the aisle and in all parts of this parliament. It didn’t matter which party you were from; she had friends. It didn’t matter whether you were an independent or a Green or a Liberal or a National. She’s going to be missed by all of us, but she’s also going to be missed by this parliament because of her work and her substance, and she’s going to be missed by this country. I think of all of the opportunities missed that she would have contributed to, in what are very uncertain times that we face. We mourn her loss as a friend, but we mourn her loss to the country as well, in the contribution that she would have made. But we’ll keep and hold on tight to her legacy, and I think it’s incumbent upon all of us to continue that work in her memory so that it’s not in vain.

My heart and my deepest condolences go out to her husband, Andrew Landeryou, and to all of her family. Andrew’s life was completely wrapped around Kimberley. It was a real love story. They were inseparable; they were part of each other; they circled each other like two suns in a dual solar system, and he’s lost his sunshine, in many respects. So my heart goes out to Andrew, and I think he needs a lot of love and care around him as well after losing a lifelong partner.

Vale, Kimberley. You were a warrior and a champion for just causes, for freedom, for democracy and for human rights, and we will not forget you, and we will carry on your legacy.