1 March 2024

Vale Linda White: 'Formidable' Victorian Labor senator honoured by colleagues

| Andrew McLaughlin
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Senator Linda White

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese: “I will miss her enormously. As a colleague and source of advice, but most importantly as a dear friend.” Photo: Anthony Albanese X/Twitter.

First-term Victorian Senator Linda White has died. She took leave from the Senate in February due to health issues.

Before entering politics at the 2022 federal election following the retirement of long-time senator Kim Carr, Senator White had a long career in the union movement.

She attained a law degree and Bachelor of Communications from the University of Melbourne, served as an industrial officer in the Australian Services Union (ASU), was a senior associate at Maurice Blackburn & Co., and was a solicitor and barrister in the Supreme Court of Victoria.

She was most recently the assistant national secretary of the Australian Services Union (ASU) and became the longest-serving woman on Labor’s national executive, where she helped to institute quotas for female representation in parliament.

She had been a member of the Australian Labor Party National Executive since 2004, the Australian Labor Party National Executive Committee since 2015, and the Australian Labor Party Federal Election Review Panel in 2019 and 2022.

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In a statement this morning, Prime Minister Anthony Albanese described Senator White as formidable.

“On behalf of the Australian Government and the Labor family, I offer my deepest condolences to Linda’s family and loved ones,” the PM said.

“She was a beloved friend, a valued colleague, a dedicated parliamentarian and, through all her efforts in the wider labour movement, a devout supporter of working Australians,” he said.

“It was a good day for the Australian Labor Party when Linda entered the Senate,” he added.

“As she put in her first speech, ‘For some people, their pathway in life is determined by the circumstances of their birth. Government, however, has the power to open up new choices and opportunities that would otherwise remain out of reach. The power we have in this place to change lives is significant’.

“As it turns out, Linda was not in the Senate for long, but she made powerful use of the brief time she had, making a profound impact on matters as varied as the National Anti-Corruption Commission and better access to superannuation for women,” the Prime Minister said.

“People joked that she may have been the most senior backbencher to have ever existed.”

“I personally had the privilege to witness so much of Linda’s contribution over three years of friendship. I will miss her enormously. As a colleague and source of advice, but most importantly as a dear friend.”

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In a tweet on Friday morning, the Australian Services Union (ASU) described her as a legend of the ASU.

“One of our great warriors, a torch bearer for equality, justice and a fairer society,” it reads.

“She was relentless, passionate, highly skilled and determined to win, not for herself but for others who deserved fairness and justice.

“Linda White is an irreplaceable part of our union family. We will deeply miss our friend and comrade.”

Opposition senate leader Simon Birmingham extended the Coalition’s sympathy, saying she was never one to take a step backwards and was a determined advocate for her beliefs.

“She campaigned across a wide range of areas reflecting her deep life-long commitment to social justice, especially for women,” he said.

“The Senate has lost a determined and passionate sitting senator far too soon. A senator who clearly had much more to contribute but who will be remembered with respect by those who had the privilege to serve with her.”

Senator White’s death creates a casual vacancy in the Senate, which will be filled by a nominee of the Labor Party.

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