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Thursday, 27 March 2014
Page: 3447


Mr NEUMANN (Blair) (09:30): Last Friday, I attended the funeral of the Queensland state secretary of the Australian Services Union, Kath Nelson, a friend of mine, a fierce advocate for workers and a Labor loyalist. At just 43 years of age, Kath left us too soon. Kath was a vibrant, earthy, smart, strong woman who dedicated her working life to working people. Survived by her loving partner, Brett, and her devoted son, Spencer, Kath's beautiful smile, infectious laughter and generous nature will be sadly missed by many, including the broader labour movement and the Labor Party, especially in Queensland.

Born and raised in Brisbane, Kath's working life commenced when she was behind the bar at the Embassy Hotel in Brisbane. Regular customer and local unionist John Forrester saw the potential in Kath and encouraged her to get involved with the union movement. Kath started working in administration with the union which later was to become the Australian Services Union. She worked her way up through the ranks and was appointed to the top job, Queensland secretary, in April 2011. She was the first woman to ever hold this position, and around that time she was elected the national vice-president of the ASU. Kath was a member of the Administrative Committee of the Australian Labor Party Queensland branch and a member of the National Executive of the Australian Labor Party.

Sitting beside Kath at Queensland state conferences of the Labor Party was entertaining and informative. She was acerbic in her wit, down to earth in her manner and politically intuitive. But not even Kath was tough enough to conquer leukaemia. Kath was an accomplished industrial relations professional. She was respected by employers and by government for her toughness, her fairness and her integrity. She was respected not just for her intellect and her tenacity but for her compassion.

Kath had superb negotiating skills. She was a strong lobbyist and an inspiring leader. These skills led to some major wins for Queensland workers, including the development of the Queensland Local Government (Workforce Transition Code of Practice) Notice in 2007 and the South-East Queensland Distribution and Retail Water Reform Workforce Framework in 2009. Kath played a pivotal role in the historic social and community services pay equity case in Queensland in 2008. You may recall this case. It was historic because it proved that Queensland workers in the social and community sector were underpaid solely as a result of their gender. The case laid the foundation for the federal pay equity case, which was completed in 2012.

Kath upheld the philosophy of the Australian Labor Party in every sense of the word. She believed in a fair go for all and she lived those values each and every day of her life. Kath's moving and emotional funeral service, held at St John's Cathedral in Brisbane, was attended by many hundreds. She will be mourned for many years to come and I extend my sincere condolence to her union mates and her family. She was beloved and we will miss her terribly. Vale, Kath Nelson.