Victorian Labor senator Linda White dies following health battle

Courtney GouldNCA NewsWire
Victorian Labor senator Linda White has died following a health battle. Picture NCA NewsWire / Aaron Francis
Camera IconVictorian Labor senator Linda White has died following a health battle. Picture NCA NewsWire / Aaron Francis Credit: News Corp Australia

Labor is mourning the death of “formidable” Victorian senator Linda White following a health battle.

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese confirmed the death of his long-time friend and former union colleague on Friday morning.

“All of our hearts in the Labor family have broken at the passing of senator Linda White last evening,” he said.

“A beloved friend, a valued colleague, a dedicated parliamentarian and through all her efforts in the wider Labor movement, a devout supporter of working Australians.”

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Speaking later on ABC Radio Melbourne, Mr Albanese said Senator White had been battling cancer.

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Camera IconSenator White has been in the parliament after winning a Senate seat at the 2022 election. Picture NCA NewsWire / Aaron Francis Credit: News Corp Australia

“It is just tragic news that Linda White has been taken from us, from the Labor family, taken from the people of Victoria, far too soon due to cancer,” he said.

Senator White announced in February she would take leave from parliament due to health issues but never publicly confirmed her diagnosis.

The Senate standing committee on Foreign Affairs Defence and Trade, which Senator White had contributed to since her election, stood for a minute’s silence on Friday morning.

“A formidable senator, I know that her loss will be mourned by many in this place,” a visibly emotional Raff Ciccone said, as he paid tribute to his Labor colleague.

Senate committee holds a minute of silence to mark the loss of Linda White.
Camera IconSenate committee held a minute’s silence to mark the loss of Linda White. Credit: Supplied

The Prime Minister made a private visit to Senator White in hospital in recent weeks.

He said she was “doing it tough” but she “did not complain” and asked about the upcoming by-election in Dunkley.

Mr Albanese said her passing would be “particularly tough” for the Victorian Labor family, who are still grieving the recent loss of Dunkley MP Peta Murphy.

“To lose two women in their prime within three months of each other is beyond belief. It’s just so sad because Linda White had so much more to give,” he said.

“She was so enthusiastic about her position in the Senate and making the difference.”

He said Senator White had “never been interested” in a frontbencher role and instead wanted to be active in senate committees.

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

Senator White had a long career as “an invisible servant” of the Labor Party before being elected to represent Victoria at the 2022 federal election.

Before entering politics, Senator White worked as a solicitor and served as the assistant national secretary of the Australian Services Union from 1995 to 2020.

Victorian Senator Linda White with Prime Minister Anthony Albanese. Picture: X
Camera IconMr Albanese said Senator White was a ‘formidable’ person X Credit: Supplied

She was also the longest ever serving female member of the ALP national executive and was central to establishing quotas for female representation within the party.

Assistant national secretary Emeline Gaske said the ASU was grieving the loss of one of their “great warriors” and a “torch bearer for equality, justice and a fairer society.

“She was relentless, passionate, highly skilled and determined to win, not for herself but for others who deserved fairness and justice,” Ms Gaske said in a statement.

The union said Senator White led the fight for Ansett workers when the airline collapsed and was instrumental in the fight for equal pay for social services workers.

“Most recently, Linda took her values to the Australian Senate. We are so proud of the changes she made to our country while she was there – unsurprisingly, so much of this was focused on improving the lives of working women,” Ms Gaske said.

“She told us ‘the commitment of this government to address the gender pay gap and the value of women’s work is something I want to be a part of. Australian women deserve no less.’

“We wish Linda could have taken up this fight for longer.”

The ACTU, where Senator White served as an executive member for more than a decade and as vice president, described her as a “fierce advocate for working people”.

Senator Linda White has died. Picture: X
Camera IconSenator White had a long career as an ‘an invisible servant’s of the Labor Party before entering parliament. X Credit: Supplied

Labor senator leader Penny Wong said she valued the Victorian’s “wise counsel” and friendship and she had fought her illness with “all the tenacity and determination” that marked her career.

“I was always in awe of her fearlessness and forensic analytical skills, which she applied in pursuit of strong convictions all the while charming people with her quick, sharp wit,” she said.

Coalition senate leader Simon Birmingham said the Victorian had made her “presence felt as a champion of social and economic justice” during her short time in the chamber.

“Linda was never one to take a backwards step and was a determined advocate for her beliefs,” 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.”

Greens senator David Shoebridge said the Senate had lost “fundamentally decent, honest, empathetic and intelligent force for good”.

Senator White is survived by her brother Michael.

Another Labor senator, Kimberley Kitching, died in February last year after a suspected heart attack.

Originally published as Victorian Labor senator Linda White dies following health battle

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