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Thursday, 30 November 2017
Page: 9395


Senator MOORE (Queensland) (17:00): One of the first people I met when I came into this place was Steve Hutchins. He came up to me and stuck his hand out and said, 'I suppose you're the new Lefty from Queensland,' followed up very soon after that by, 'And why are you wearing that cross?' And I said, 'Hello?' I found out later that my friend Hughie Williams, about whom I spoke in this place quite recently, had called Steve and basically asked him to look after me. I'm not quite sure who looked after whom, and I'm not sure why these two blokes felt that I needed to be looked after, but it was the start of a really special friendship with Steve Hutchins that I treasured.

I'm not going to go on about being the victim of his various pranks. Not only would he steal your question at question time, as we've heard, but he'd actually make loud comments, while you were preparing to ask it, about the quality of the question and some policy issues you could throw into the question to make it stronger. And when you're first here, as we all know, that can be quite nerve-racking. And we are all laughing. You know that special photograph you get when you make your first speech, of you standing and looking noble? My first photograph is a great photograph of Steve Hutchins. He's sitting beside me, looking as though he is vaguely interested—that shows what a splendid actor he was! The photograph is dominated by Steve's face, and he thought that was a really good result.

But the reason I particularly wanted to make a comment this afternoon is the inspirational and engaging work Steve did on the Community Affairs Committee. We've heard how he treasured his work. But I just want to put some comments on the record, actually stimulated by some people I still keep in contact with who were involved in these inquiries and who wanted their expressions put on the record in this place. Whilst Steve was the chair of many inquiries, the three I want to mention in particular this afternoon include the poverty inquiry, which was the first major inquiry in which I was involved. It went on for a significant period of time and came up with some very important threshold comments about the state of poverty in our nation. But what I remember most about it is the personal way in which Steve talked with the people who had come to us, many of whom were very vulnerable and some of whom had never given evidence to a Senate inquiry before but, because of the nature of this topic, felt that they wanted to come and talk about what their lives were like, suffering incredible poverty and pressure in their communities. And Steve, as the chair, took so much personal time to make them feel valuable, to make them feel important and to get them to share their stories. I watched him with admiration as he spent time before and after they gave evidence, worked with them and made them feel that they were important and thanked them for their time.

That effort resulted in getting evidence on the record that is invaluable and timeless. Anyone who has the opportunity to have a look at the report from that particular inquiry will see that we found out about things that were happening in our community that I don't think many people really know about, and about the pain and the vulnerability that existed then and still exists now. So, that came to be known amongst us as the Hutchins inquiry. I think it should be renamed that into the future! But his work was so valuable at that time, and, as you would remember, the shadow minister at the time was Wayne Swan, and they worked very closely together during that process. And I think that document stands the test of time.

The second inquiry is one that Steve actually drove. It was one that was very important to him, and it was on hepatitis C in our community—again, an issue that not many people know about. But Steve met some people in his electorate who had contracted hepatitis C through blood transfusions, and it angered him that in the 20th century, when this occurred, and the 21st century, when we were having the inquiry, in Australia, people would be able to contract such a horrific condition, with all the pain and the stigma around it. He was determined that their voices would be heard and that the process would be addressed so that not only in Australia, but across the world there'd be two results: first, that our blood transfusion service would ensure that such a problem would not occur again, and, second, that the terrible stigma around hepatitis B and C in our community would be identified and addressed. He saved a very special anger for people within the medical profession who were not treating people with respect, and he took this not only through the Senate process, but into the wider community. I remember when that report came down, there was a large number of people who were gathered and Steve was in tears as he was delivering his report. He made a commitment that the knowledge that came out of that inquiry would not be lost.

The third inquiry is the one which Senator Brandis so beautifully addressed: the inquiry into institutional care. We worked really closely on that particular committee, and it did have an impact. But Steve did not just leave it at having hearings and coming up with a very strong series of recommendations in that report, which we all know about; he then became patron of the CLAN network—the Care Leavers Australia Network. He didn't talk to many people about that decision, but I can assure you that the people in CLAN respect and love Steve Hutchins. They love him because he cared about them. They love him because they know that he cared so sincerely about their needs and he was always available to talk to. So the inquiry engagement did not end when the report was presented in this place. Steve engaged with the people who were in fact survivors of this horrible time in our history, and they felt that he was there for them from then on. When we heard that Steve—I don't like using that term 'battle with cancer'; it has almost become meaningless—had been ill a long time and was often quite ill here, but he just kept on doing his job. When the CLAN heard that we'd lost him, they particularly wanted his family and also the wider community to know about the respect and the importance that Steve Hutchins had for them.

I know that Natalie and the family are grieving greatly. I want them to know that there are many people sharing their grief and their love for Steve. With Steve, as we've heard before, when it came to issues around his family, he lit up. That term is used a lot, but he actually lit up when he was talking about Natalie and his family—all of them. He was so proud of them. When that little boy was born, which was while we were in this place, I have never seen a prouder, happier man. One of the joys is that he was able to be with his son for such a long time, which at the time was something he didn't know. Natalie, to you and your family: know that your man was loved by many others.