Tributes for ‘beloved, formidable’ Labor senator

Andrew Brown |

Labor Senator Linda White has died after a health battle.
Labor Senator Linda White has died after a health battle.

Tributes are flowing for Labor senator Linda White as a beloved friend and formidable colleague following her death from cancer.

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese led praise of the former lawyer and union official, who spent her working life fighting for gender pay equity and improved workplace rights, including for aviation workers during the Ansett collapse and COVID-19 pandemic.

Senator White, who was elected to federal parliament at the 2022 election, took leave in February to concentrate on her health.

Senator White was elected to federal parliament at the 2022 election. (Mick Tsikas/AAP PHOTOS)

Mr Albanese said the hearts of the Labor Party had broken following news of her death.

“Linda was formidable, 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,” he said.

“As it has sadly turned out, Linda was not in the Senate for long, but she made powerful use of the brief time she had.”

Before entering federal politics, she worked for 10 years as a solicitor, while also serving as the assistant national secretary of the Australian Services Union from 1995 to 2020.

She also spent a 10-year period as the vice president of the ACTU.

Mr Albanese said Senator White left a proud legacy.

“Linda’s legacy is everywhere – from protecting workers’ entitlements in the Ansett collapse, to leading the campaign for equal pay for social and community services workers, to fighting for the right to income for members feeling the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic,” he said.

“Linda believed in a better, fairer and more compassionate Australia, a belief that was always backed by her energy and action.”

Foreign Minister and government Senate leader Penny Wong said her life had been defined by integrity, persistence and skill.

“Linda fought the illness that has now claimed her life privately, but with all the tenacity and determination that has marked not just her short time in the Senate, but her decades of commitment to the labour movement and Australian workers,” she said.

Senator White was a tireless advocate for workers, including those in the aviation industry. (Dan Himbrechts/AAP PHOTOS)

Fellow Victorian Labor senator Raff Ciccone gave an emotional tribute to his colleague at the start of a parliamentary hearing.

“A formidable senator, I know that her loss will be mourned by many in this place,” he said.

The committee also rose for a moment of silence before the start of proceedings.

Opposition leader in the Senate Simon Birmingham said the coalition extended sympathies following Senator White’s death.

“In her first speech, Senator White made a promise that no one in the Senate would be left wondering what she thought; that people will always know where she stands and know that she is not afraid of saying what’s on her mind,” he said.

“Senator White lived up to that promise.”

The Australian Services Union said it was grieving the loss of one of the movement’s greatest warriors.

“Linda’s influence extends to thousands, if not millions of Australians who never had the privilege of knowing her,” the union said.

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

Workplace Minister Tony Burke said Senator White had left an extraordinary legacy.

Senator White was warmly embraced by Labor’s Tanya Plibersek after championing affirmative action. (Tracey Nearmy/AAP PHOTOS)

“Linda campaigned for years in the union movement for paid family and domestic violence leave,” he posted to X, formerly Twitter.

“As a senator, she helped make it law so no one would have to choose between safety and pay.”

Greens senator David Shoebridge also paid tribute, saying the upper house had lost a “fundamentally decent, honest, empathetic and intelligent force for good”.

“Right now, I’m remembering all the good she did, the principles she held and thinking of her family, friends and colleagues,” he said.

Senator White is survived by her brother Michael.