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Kitching seems a union stitch up: Turnbull

AAP logoAAP 13/10/2016 Liza Kappelle

Bill Shorten thinks it is great idea his controversial mate Kimberley Kitching is joining Labor's senate team, but Malcolm Turnbull believes it might be a union stitch up.

Ms Kitching, a lawyer and former Health Services Union official, will fill the Victorian Senate seat left empty by Labor powerbroker Stephen Conroy after his shock resignation in September.

The former Melbourne city councillor can head to Canberra after the formality of a joint sitting next week in Victorian parliament.

She and her husband Andrew Landeryou - who ran an often-defamatory blog until 2013 - have long been friends with Mr Shorten, who congratulated her on Friday.

"Kimberley brings to the position experience in local government, the legal profession and she's been fighting for the rights of workers for a long time," Mr Shorten says in a statement.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull says the appointment shows Labor is beholden to unions.

"It looks to me like yet another union stitch up," he told reporters in Canberra.

It is not her first tilt at federal politics.

Ms Kitching nominated, then withdrew, for the safe Labor seat of Lalor in 2013 when former prime minister Julia Gillard retired.

She was backed by Mr Shorten at the time and there were suggestions he backed her to replace Mr Conroy.

Mr Shorten says he did not have a favourite but was keen for a woman to take the seat.

Ms Kitching will be a hardworking advocate for workers, and women in particular, he says.

Her endorsement has reportedly sparked unease among Labor members and affords the Liberal government a wealth of opportunities for union jibes.

Liberal senator Eric Abetz was quick to point out Ms Kitching had been hauled before the Royal Commission into Trade Union Governance and Corruption over official workplace tests.

Senator Abetz says Ms Kitching was found by one of the vice presidents of the Fair Work Commission to have illegally completed testing on behalf of other union officials to gain right of entry permits.

"The serious findings against Ms Kitching by one of the most respected members of the Fair Work Commission makes her unfit for public office," the senator said in a statement.

Senator Abetz didn't forget to mention that the now disgraced former Labor MP Craig Thomson had also come from the HSU.

Seven other women were in the contest for the senate spot, including Geelong-based businesswoman Diana Taylor.

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