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Why I have long admired Senator Kimberley Kitching

Malcolm Mackerras
21 March 2022

Since I became the Politics Expert for Switzer Daily in 2013 it has been my practice to name my favourite federal politician of the parliament soon to be dissolved.

Thus, in Switzer Daily on Monday 11 April 2016 I had posted an article titled “Why I admire Bob the Builder”. I explained this at the beginning of the article: “Towards the tail end of each federal parliamentary term I work out my favourite politician of that term.” My favourite federal politician of the 44th Parliament (2013-16) was South Australian Family First Senator Bob Day, otherwise known as “Bob the Builder”.

For the 45th Parliament (2016-19) my favourite was recorded in Switzer Daily on Monday 8 April 2019. He was the Liberal member for the West Gippsland area continuously since 2004, Russell Broadbent. The area he has long represented is now known as the federal “Electoral Division of Monash.” In that article, I quoted his most famous line in relation to his controversial stance on the Migration Amendment (Designated Unauthorised Arrivals) Bill 2006 as this: “If I am to die politically because of my stance on this bill, it is better to die on my feet than live on my knees.” His continued healthy political life proved to me that “a principled position on a controversial subject is often actually good politics”.

In the two male cases mentioned above, I was able to have another lengthy conversation with the politician just before I wrote my article. That is what I wanted for the 46th Parliament (2019-22) but, alas, it was not to be. I say that because I decided long ago that Senator Kimberley Kitching (Labor, Victoria) would be named my favourite and I was scheduled soon to have another conversation with her which would justify my selection of her as my favourite for the term just ended.

My reason for wishing to meet Kitching in the first place was that I became friendly with her predecessor Stephen Conroy who was a Labor senator for Victoria from April 1996 to September 2016 when he resigned his Senate seat. As a result of a “captain’s pick” by then leader Bill Shorten Kitching filled the vacancy. In the official wording, she was “chosen by the Parliament of Victoria on 25 October 2016 under section 15 of the Constitution to represent that State in the Senate vice the Hon. S. Conroy, resigned.”

Having largely succeeded with Conroy I met Kitching and explained to her my electoral reform proposals. Immediately upon meeting her I could see why her colleagues called her “a force of nature”. I also learnt that she fully supported my reforms, not only for the Senate but also for the Victorian Legislative Council. As a result of that, I drew up a model reformed Senate ballot paper in which I predicted a half-Senate election in November 2021. To show my support for her I placed her at the top of the Labor ticket as shown below. That model ballot paper was dated 14 November 2017.

Having satisfied myself that she fully deserved the “promotion” I was giving to her I then followed her career closely. At this stage, the main thing I can do is endorse the words of others in their obituaries. Every serious obituary has referred to the warmth of her personality, her friendliness and her patriotism. She spoke six languages, so her patriotism was not the mean nationalism of so many people who describe themselves as patriots. She was a caring, happy, highly intelligent woman who made up her mind independently. She never claimed to stand upon the moral high ground because she did not need to. Everyone could see that in all her thoughts and dealings she stood upon the moral high ground. She was very personable which meant she was great company and had many friends.

Her patriotism led her to display an exceptional interest in defence and foreign affairs and she chaired the Senate Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade References Committee. Her commitment to human rights was what enabled her to convince her colleagues of the merits of the Magnitsky Act which allows the government to sanction individuals linked to human rights abusing regimes around the world.

This brings me to the ugly side of party politics. Over the last year, Kitching was bullied by the “mean girls” of the Senate, Labor leader Senator Penny Wong, her deputy Senator Kristina Keneally and Labor’s ACT representative in the upper house Senator Katy Gallagher. Wong especially comes out of it looking bad.

Not being a South Australian, nor living in Sydney’s south-west suburbs there is nothing I can do about Wong or Keneally. On the other hand, Gallagher will appear on the ACT Senate ballot paper handed to me at the May election. For years I have railed against the Senate voting system which leads me to cast informal votes that I advertise on my website. They are my protest against the system. Yet people ask me to state my objections to the two current senators for the ACT, Gallagher (Labor) and Zed Seselja (Liberal). The system is rigged to re-elect them and exclude others.

Neither Gallagher nor Seselja is worth a vote but I now have a comment about Gallagher that I can write on my informal Senate ballot paper. I shall write next to her name. “She was one of the mean girls who bullied Kimberley Kitching.” As polling day draws near, I plan to write another article for Switzer Daily on this subject in which I’ll give readers all the details of my comments on my informal Senate ballot paper.

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