AUSTRALIA TODAY WITH STEVE PRICE
FRIDAY, 11 MARCH 2022
SUBJECT: Remembering Kimberley Kitching.
STEVE PRICE, HOST: So, I couldn't I didn't think I could be shocked anymore after a week of shocks where this time last Friday on the program, we were speaking to Kimberley Kitching. Then at the end of the program, we heard the news that Rod Marsh had passed away, hadn't recovered from a heart attack in Queensland. He'd been taken back to South Australia in an induced coma. And then we woke up on Saturday morning and Shane Warne had gone. Victorian Senator Kimberley Kitching was 52 years old only, I knew her pretty well. I'd interviewed her numerous times and she had put her hand up to be part of our federal election campaign coverage. One of her very dear friends is Bill Shorten, the Shadow Minister for Government Services and the NDIS. He put out a very touching statement about his friend last night. He's been good enough to join us. 52 far too young and what a tragic loss, Bill.
BILL SHORTEN, MEMBER FOR MARIBYRNONG: It's terrible. And I'm not the first person to lose a close friend, and it's terrible whenever it happens to anyone. But in my case, she was my great friend. I supported her coming into politics. She was, for people who don't know who she was, she wasn't your standard politician. She probably turned her back on opportunities of promotion and advancement within the Parliament because she would rather be true to her own values. And, you know, Australians get frustrated with politicians because they know the politicians must think things to get where they're getting, but they don't say what they think and that drives people crazy. But Kimberley Kitching just had a spine. She had a spine, and ironically, I've been friends with for 25 years, her and her husband, Andrew, but when I started going out up my wife, Chloe in 2008, Kimberley met Chloe and it turns out they'd gone to primary school together and had been family friends. So, it was great for my wife to reconnect with her, especially when she moved from Brisbane to Melbourne, and Kimberley was a friend and also just a fierce person who would stand up for what she thought. And I think that came to a personal cost sometimes, people would give her a hard time in the Labor Party and in politics, but good person, great person.
PRICE: I can hear the emotion in your voice, and you are a tough bloke, but it's obviously knocked you around, in that statement you put out last night, which I thought was very well put. You talked about her serene intellect. What did you mean by that?
SHORTEN: She’s smart. No one's dumb who gets into politics, whatever you think of them. But she was actually really smart. She took an interest in world matters. She just received an international human rights award; it got no coverage in Australia or in the parliament. But she had led debate in Australia about introducing what's called the Magnitsky Laws. Now, Magnitsky was a Russian tax accountant who called out Putin's corruption a long time ago, and Putin did for him. And a number of people around the world said, Listen, this guy was right. We need to expose the human rights abusers who might be parking their billions of dollars in the banking systems of the West and hiding their money. And our laws in Australia don't allow - it's not as easy as you think to discover where the bad guys overseas are keeping their money in Australia, and we needed to change our laws. And she raised it when it wasn't sexy, when people didn't know who Putin was or where Kiev was, and because of her forethought to take an issue which wasn't popular, which was very hard and technical issue about human rights and faraway places, we are now able to do more against the Russian crooks and the gangsters running their government than if she hadn't made that contribution. And in life, let's be really honest, there's lots of things that we do every day that someone else could do, but occasionally, but for what you do, it wouldn't have happened. And Kimberley, on many occasions past that, but for test - but for what she did, something would not have happened at all. And that's the mark, I think, of a really, really good Australian leader.
PRICE: One of the things that I found fascinating about her was her ability to interact with commentators and politicians who would be described as conservative.
PRICE: She would appear regularly on Andrew Bolt's program, or she would come and talk to me, I can give a million other examples. I just want to play to you what Pauline Hanson, who you know, would not be seen as being friends to many people in Labor perhaps, here's what Pauline said today.
SENATOR PAULINE HANSON: She was a unique person. I had a lot of time for Kimberley. I'm very sad. I'm very shocked by her passing. We actually - sorry….
PRICE: No worries.
HANSON: We actually went to Afghanistan together. It was just the two of us. We ended up in Afghanistan, so we had a lot of fun together. She's the type of person, she always had a smile on the face. She was never nasty to anyone. You know, when I went into the parliament, a lot of the people on the on the Labor side wouldn't even say hello to me, wouldn't even spend the time. She was first one to come up and said, how are you going?
PRICE: Is that part of her intellect that she realised that she needed to interact with people who had a very different political perspective than she had?
SHORTEN: Yeah, exactly. I mean, it's interesting, I know Pauline doesn't agree with a lot of what I think, but Pauline and I had Kimberley in common, and I know that Kimberley got on with Pauline, and it didn't mean she agreed with all the Pauline's views but in politics, we waste a lot of time hating on people. And Kimberley knew not to waste time hating on people, and she could see the good in people. And also, when I mentioned about her intellect, she knows a lesson which gets forgotten by the media, gets forgotten by all of us, perhaps sometimes, that just because a person doesn't normally share your views doesn't mean that they haven't got a good point to make or an insight or an observation. And she was smart enough to know that good ideas come in all shapes and sizes. And, you know, it was terrible, we got the news - so I think Pauline's been 100 per cent genuine there, and Kimberley told me about her time in Afghanistan with Pauline. So, you know, I've been overwhelmed by some of the conservative commentators who have reached out. Kimberley is that rare - and I can't use the present tense anymore about her, can I? But she's that rare person who is what this country needed, which is people who could work with people no matter what their badge or their label.
PRICE: I think you're 100 per cent correct. And as I said, she was on this show at this very moment this time last week.
PRICE: So, I've had some arguments with her, but we were going to use her as part of our election coverage, and –
SHORTEN: She was looking forward to it, mate.
PRICE: How's Labor going to pay tribute to her? Do you think, Bill?
SHORTEN: I don't know. I’m first and foremost concerned for her husband and her parents and her family, her husband rang and let me know that she'd passed. I couldn't believe it. And she'd been driving between two places, and she pulled over on a side street and she died. And her husband had sort of come to her, and the ambos tried to revive her. Then Chloe and I drove over to where she was, and we waited with her and a couple of dear friends and Andrew for the undertakers’ van to come. It was - people doing it hard at the moment. I get that, you know, Shane Warne's gone, and you've got the people and the floods. And you know, someone passing is not unusual, but when you've got to sit with them and wait for the van to come, it's not the way you want to see one of your friends. You know, self-evidently, it's just too young…
PRICE: Yeah, it's a kick in the guts. It's awful. Awful. I appreciate you coming on. I know how tough it is
SHORTEN: No, good on you. It's a chance for me to talk about someone. Most listeners mightn’t know who she was, but you know, why do we leave it to when people pass to say good things? That's - you know, I guess we all think that at a funeral or when someone passes, but maybe we should take the time to tell them when they're with us because it's too late once they're gone, isn't it?
PRICE: It is. I think that's a fantastic message. Thanks for talking to us, Bill. Good on you.
SHORTEN: Good on you, mate. Thank you.
PRICE: Bill Shorten there, Shadow Minister for Government Services and the NDIS, in a very emotional tribute to his friend. I had no idea that that Mr Shorten and his wife, Chloe, were waiting beside her car for the undertaker's van to arrive. That must have been very difficult.