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Thursday, 30 November 2017
Page: 9390

Senator BARTLETT (Queensland) (16:37): I'd like to make a few brief comments on behalf of the Australian Greens on this condolence motion. Steve Hutchins came into this chamber not long after I first came here, and he was here throughout all my time previously in this chamber. Others have reflected on the events that led to him finally departing in 2011. On behalf of all of the Greens, I want to put on the record our appreciation for former Senator Hutchins' work in this place. As a few people have already said, there is that caricature of hard-nosed machine people from the New South Wales Labor Party in particular. I think it is a general caricature of party apparatchiks, which sometimes has some truth to it, but, occasionally, it unfairly narrows people down to a single description and ignores the wider aspects and contributions they can make—and understanding the operations of your own party is often quite a helpful thing.

On top of that, I think Senator Hutchins' work, within this chamber and particularly within the committees, is something that does need recognition. Through that he demonstrated not only his capacity and ability to do the job well but also his ability to recognise, appreciate and get in touch with the human side of an issue and the human impact of policies and legislation. I served with him on a number of committees in that community affairs area. It was clear that he did have a genuine concern for the wellbeing of people, and he demonstrated that in a lot of the additional comments he made in committee reports—often thoughtful and often just extra reflections beyond the position of the party on a particular issue or bill. It is that aspect of this chamber that is often forgotten, because the focus is on the conflicts, the big personalities, the stoushes, the insults et cetera. Often it's the constructive contributions that can make the most long-term impact, even though they get little attention in the short term. Certainly, Steve Hutchins in his time in this place deserves to be recognised for his contribution to that.

I very rarely pass on private side comments that people make to me in the course of my activities around this place—which people might be relieved to know—but in this context there is probably a reasonable one to mention. It goes back to the caricature of the hard man. Some of you who have been around a while may recall that former senator Bob Brown often used to stand up and make points of order about things that he had absolutely zero support on and would get howled down from all around the chamber, including from some of the people in the Democrats seats in those days, most likely. After a few of those experiences, I remember Steve Hutchins saying to me: 'I think I'm pretty tough, but that guy's got seven hides of rhinoceroses on him.' It was a comment of admiration, I might say. I'm certainly not suggesting he was a softy, but as people have said, and I would reflect, his contribution to this place showed that he did have the ability to recognise—that soft side—and people noted that in his valedictory speech in this place. It is an important contribution to have that aspect of your character inform your judgements, your comments and your work in this place.

My condolences to his family, his friends and his colleagues—in particular, in the Labor Party and the labour movement, which he was so active in for so long. I recognise and respect his contribution to this chamber.