The Albanese Government has confirmed the shock death of a sitting Labor Senator.

Victorian Labor senator Linda White has died following a health battle. understands that Senator White was battling cancer.

Speaking this morning on ABC Melbourne, Prime Minister Anthony Albanese confirmed that Senator White had been battling cancer.

“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.

“I visited Linda just a few weeks ago in hospital.She was very much like (the late member for Dunkley) Peta Murphy.

“Someone who never thought of herself. She was asking me about the Dunkley byelection was her focus,’’ he said.

“But he was such a champion she was someone who was a major contributor to the union movement.”

She was elected to the Senate at the 2022 federal election after she was preselected following the retirement of Labor Senator Kim Carr.

Senator White took leave due to health issues just last month but never publicly confirmed her diagnosis.

“As the Prime Minister advised yesterday I will be taking leave from the Senate while I deal with health issues,’’ she said

“For the next while I will be focusing on getting well again so I can return to my full duties representing the people of Victoria.”

Workplace Minister Tony Burke said she left an extraordinary legacy.

“Linda campaigned for years in the union movement for paid family and domestic violence leave,’’ he said.

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

Greens Senator David Shoebridge paid tribute to her “fundamentally decent, honest, empathetic and intelligent force for good.”

“Right now, I am remembering all the good that she did, the principles that she held and thinking about her friends, family and colleagues.”

The Senate defence committee stood in silence on Friday to mark her passing after Labor colleague Raff Ciccone paid tribute to her contribution.

She was a powerful union figure in Victoria and held leadership positions in the Australian Services Union, the biggest Socialist Left union in Victoria.

She was also a former vice president of the ACTU.

During her preselection, it emerged that leading workplace lawyer Josh Bornstein had expressed regret for attacking Ms White on Twitter, having accused her of behaving like a “poodle snapping at my heels”.

“Linda White is a much admired figure within the wider labour movement, and I’ve always respected her as a strong and formidable advocate for working people and as a progressive and highly principled union leader,” Mr Bornstein said.

“Linda and I have had many discussions over the years, but in a Twitter exchange with Linda some years ago I used a poor choice of words. I regret doing so.’’

During the 2016 social media spray, Mr Bornstein said unions faced a crisis over the lack of membership and declared Ms White should “take the blinkers off”.

Ms White replied: “Thanks for the gratuitous advice.”

Mr Bornstein fired back: “Have you misplaced your chew toy?”

Another senior ASU woman, Emeline Gaske, then intervened, saying: “may I recommend refraining from suggesting a woman is a dog?”

Mr Bornstein replied: “yes u may. It was a reference to being harassed by an annoying pain in the arse. Reminded me of a poodle snapping at my heels.”

The Australian Services Union paid tribute to the late Senator White as “one of our great warriors, a torch bearer for equality, justice and a fairer society.”

“Linda White is an irreplaceable part of our union family. We will deeply miss our friend and comrade,’’ Tim O’Halloran said.

“Linda’s influence extends to thousands, if not millions of Australians who never had the privilege of knowing her. She led the fight for Ansett workers. In the wake of the airline’s collapse, she worked tirelessly to get justice for workers forgotten by the Liberal Government.

“Against the odds, Linda and the union movement won back almost all of the $160 million owed to Ansett workers in a decade-long fight for justice – one of the great union victories.

“Linda fought to address unequal retirement outcomes for women. It is Linda White who, with her comrades at the ASU, put that issue firmly on the national agenda and kept it there for the past decade.

“Prior to her time at the ASU, Linda fought for victims of sexual harassment at the hands of the clergy. She listened to their stories, one by one. She never forgot and eagerly anticipated the National Redress Scheme in action.

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

“We wish Linda could have taken up this fight for longer. However, we are so fortunate to have had Linda in our lives for as long as we did, and that she dedicated so much of her life to building up the next generation of activists and change makers.”

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By Rahul

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