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Friday, December 02, 2022

Bill Shorten weeps live on air over Kimberley Kitching’s death

Just one day before Labor Senator Kimberley Kitching died of a suspected heart attack, she was “publicly humiliated” in a meeting that sealed her fate in politics.

The “faceless men” of the Labor Party are being blamed for contributing to the stress of Senator Kimberley Kitching in the days before her shock death with supporters now vowing to take their fight to restore democracy in the ALP to the High Court.

Union boss Earl Setches, who attended the Wednesday morning Zoom meeting of the Victorian Right which declined to endorse her preselection said that he believed the Labor Party’s brutal preselection process had “killed her.”

Senator Kitching died just over 24 hours later of a suspected heart attack after learning her preselection was under threat.

“I think it did kill her,” Mr Setches told news.com.au

“You’ve lost your job, publicly humiliated going through that whole process. Of course there were other health issues but Christ, it would have been enormous stress and strain on her.

The Victorian Labor Party has been entangled in legal action to overturn Labor leader Anthony Albanese’s decision to intervene in the Victorian ALP amid the damaging fallout of the Adem Somyurek branch-stacking scandal.

The extraordinary federal intervention suspended all voting rights in the Victorian branch until at least 2023, allowing preselections for the next state and federal elections will be conducted by the ALP national executive.

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“There’s absolutely no democracy looking at these faceless men. So we are now going to the High Court over the madness of the national executive running Victoria,” Mr Setches said.

“I told Bill Shorten, I told him and I told them all. I said, “They are not endorsing Kimberley. I said, “You are not going to believe this.”

“I absolutely knew she was (going to lose her preselection). I moved that motion at that conveners meeting at 8am on Wednesday morning, that the Victorian Right supported Kimberley because we pick our senators. Diana seconded that.

“Me and Diana Asmar needed to report to her that the powers that be had just said ‘no’. That’s the truth. I will tell it anywhere. They said it would go to the national executive. All they had to do was to support the resolution to support her.”

Former Labor leader Bill Shorten wept live on air over the death of Senator Kitching, blaming the stress of her preselection battle as a contributing factor in her death and wondering if she would have been better off if “she never went near politics.”

Mr Shorten was moved to tears on ABC radio this morning after his long-time friend and ally Senator Kitching died from a suspected heart attack in Melbourne.

“I am not a coroner. I can’t tell you why this woman of 52 was taken from us. But I have no doubt that the stress of politics in the machinations in the back rooms had its toll,” Mr Shorten said.

“She’s a very strong person. She could give as good as she could get. But you take it away, you take it all home with you don’t you? And that’s not just a politician. It doesn’t matter what line of work politics isn’t special in that way, but it’s not different either. Stress is like invisible coats of paint. It’s got to be having its impact and she was greatly stressed.

“Yeah, there were machinations and arguments going on. That does happen. That’s not unique. But we have a woman who’s 52, who’s pulled over by the side of the road and died unexpectedly. It’s shocking. It’s terrible.”

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Senator Kitching was driving her car in the Melbourne suburb of Strathmore when she pulled over feeling unwell. She called her husband Andrew from the scene and an ambulance was called but they were unable to save her.

Mr Setches said he believed Senator Kitching was being bullied and ostracised in Parliament by his own colleagues.

“She’s absolutely been bullied. She was just alone,” he said.

“There’s been no democracy in the party for the last few years. It’s just mad. It’s just insane.”

Mr Setches said it was “a tragedy” that belied Senator Kitching’s “natural ability” and talent.

Senator Kitching’s legacy includes the passage of the Magnitsky laws that are now being used by Australia to impose sanctions on Russian oligarchs to punish President Vladimir Putin’s grotesque invasion of Ukraine.

Labor sources said Senator Kitching had been kicked off the tactics committee of the Labor Party for spurious reasons and had been denied a question in the Senate for the past 12 months.

She had also had to intervene to send it to her via backchannels.

When she won a major human rights award for her campaign to introduce a Magnitsky Act so that Australia could join its allies – the United Kingdom, United States and Canada – in imposing sanctions on human rights violators, the Labor Party had declined her funding for an economy class ticket to London. As a result, she agreed to pay for the flight herself.

Melbourne-based academic Kylie Moore-Gilbert, who was detained for 800 days in Iran said she was shocked and devastated by Senator Kitching’s death.

“Unlike many politicians, Kitching made a very real contribution to something bigger than herself,” she said.

“She leaves behind a meaningful legacy, which would have undoubtedly been more impressive, inspirational had her life not been tragically brought to an end all too soon. Rest in peace.”

News.com.au understands a meeting of the Labor Right just 24 hours earlier had declined to re-endorse her preselection, despite the fact there seemed to be no alternative candidate. During the meeting, attendees who declined to endorse her candidacy said it was a matter for the national executive.

Senator Kitching had lost weight in recent years and was suffering from a thyroid condition as she battled to resolve her preselection.

Mr Shorten’s wife Chloe was a childhood friend of Senator Kitching, 52, said he was devastated for her “soulmate” and husband Andrew Landeryou.

“Her husband has lost soulmate, his soulmate, they were two sides of the same coin. So that’s very hard to imagine,” he said.

Mr Shorten again became anguished and tearful when discussing how he had supported Senator Kitching’s elevation to the Senate against a bitter backlash from critics. She had also experienced difficulties in the Senate.

“You can never dial forward and predict what’s going to happen,” he said.

“But you do wonder if she would have been better off never going near politics.”

Senator Kitching’s legacy includes the passage of the Magnitsky laws that are now being used by Australia to impose sanctions on Russian oligarchs to punish President Vladimir Putin’s grotesque invasion of Ukraine.

Melbourne-based academic Kylie Moore-Gilbert, who was detained for 800 days in Iran said she was shocked and devastated by Senator Kitching’s death.

“Unlike many politicians, Kitching made a very real contribution to something bigger than herself,” she said.

“She leaves behind a meaningful legacy, which would have undoubtedly been more impressive, inspirational had her life not been tragically brought to an end all too soon. Rest in peace.”

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As Labor Senator Penny Wong acknowledged on Thursday night, it was Senator Kitching who led the change for an Australian Magnitsky Sanctions Act, a landmark achievement that saw her awarded the prestigious Magnitsky Human Rights Award last year.

Forensic, tenacious, tough and unrelenting in her Senate estimates performances, her pursuits ruffled feathers.

It was her questioning that exposed the fact that Australia Post CEO Christine Holgate had purchased Cartier watches for executives, prompting the Prime Minister’s over-reaction on the floor of Parliament.

As Victorian MP Martin Pakula recalled on Thursday night, Senator Kitching later ran into the former CEO at a Melbourne restaurant, Becco for lunch.

“Don’t look now Kimba. Christine Holgate’s on the next table,” he whispered.

“Oh I’m not worried about that,” she replied.

“And she marched right over & started a conversation. Like nothing,” Pakula recalled.

“That was KK. Smart, tough, unapologetic. Vale Kimba x.”

She was also resilient, facing the spears and arrows of political life with a mischievous outlook and a predisposition towards doing her detractors slowly by simply being good at her job.

“Few in politics really, deep down have a spine and fight for what they believe in. We lost one today,” Labor strategist Kos Samaras said.

“You can’t make these people, or train someone to be like this. They are born like this.

“They are rare. Trust me. Shattered.”

Born in Brisbane, Kimberley Kitching was the daughter of Bill and Leigh Kitching and a childhood friend of Bill Shorten’s wife, Chloe Shorten.

She arrived in Parliament just five years ago to tsunami of ‘hit jobs’ in newspapers that her elevation was a big mistake and a “political suicide note” for Bill Shorten.

Anthony Albanese pointedly declined to endorse her preselection at the time, after she was parachuted into the seat by Bill Shorten simply suggesting it was “a matter for the Victorian branch.”

Labor frontbencher Mark Dreyfus threatened to resign from his position in the shadow cabinet, although failed to ever carry out the threat.

“Some senators arrive to this chamber with great fanfare, some with universal praise, some with stringent criticism from the political commentariat and some are barely noticed at all,” Senator Kitching said in her maiden speech.

“I want to record here that I embrace all of it — the good, the bad and the ugly.

“History tells us that if our elected officials are held to account by a rigorous, vigorous media, it is as strong a defense against government failure and neglect as exists in our democracy. Australians, especially those on the progressive side, should be very proud that Australian-style aggressive, punchy, passionate journalism is one of our great exports.”

She also found time to mention her beloved dogs, Ronnie and Nancy-Jane

“This is a particular passion of mine. I have two dogs, Ronnie and Nancy-Jane, named by my husband after the late American President Ronald Reagan and his two wives,” she said.

“Community standards have rightly shifted on cruelty to animals, and I think it is high time the laws of the land and, most importantly, the enforcement of them shifts with community expectations and basic standards of decency. Federal leadership in this area is clearly necessary.”

In that speech, she also paid tribute to her husband Andrew Landeryou and their ending marriage.

“We have lived an adventurous life together — that much is certain,” Senator Kitching said.

“Equally certain has been his support and belief in me, his love, his loyalty, his resilience and his remarkable intellect.”

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