If we are ever to restore trust and respect in politicians we need more like Kimberley Kitching.
Kimberley was a first term Labor Senator from Victoria. She made an enormous impact in not much time, and last week she sadly passed away from a heart attack at just 52 years old.
Most eulogies of politicians focus on their record and legacy, and Kimberley has lots of that. But her passing has extra sadness because of what she still had to do, and Australia needed her to do it in these uncertain times.
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 for 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 from within her party, Kimberley was successful in getting these laws passed. We are using her laws today to crackdown on Russian officials and oligarchs involved in the invasion of Ukraine.
While Kimberley bucked the historic pattern of a Labor politician, I predict that she will be a trailblazer. There is a hunger for authentic and honest politics. If we were to be honest, we know that when you put 50 or 60 or more 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.
You get the feeling sometimes that the most dangerous thing in Canberra is a difference of opinion. Our nation's Parliament should be a place of debate! We should celebrate different views especially when they are argued with the depth and consideration as Kimberley brought to every debate.
I don't think we as politicians can ignore the demand for more authenticity much longer. I believe that we will see more independence from within political parties. Parties will still exist but we will increasingly drop the outdated pretence that everyone with the same colour shirts, thinks exactly the same way.
We will move more towards 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 this 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 that 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.
Kimberley was a great friend and she will be sorely missed. My prayer are with her husband Andrew and family.