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Thursday, 30 November 2017
Page: 9391

Senator SCULLION (Northern TerritoryMinister for Indigenous Affairs and Leader of The Nationals in the Senate) (16:42): I rise on behalf of the National Party to express our condolences to the family and friends of the late Stephen Patrick Hutchins—'Hutchy' to me and our mates. He was a senator for New South Wales and an all-round decent bloke. He was born in Sydney on 22 April 1956, barely a fortnight before I was born.

Steve was a man who never shied away from hard work, and a battle if necessary, to look out for a fellow mate. He was a man in tune with the everyday Aussie. Steve Hutchins prided himself on representing his constituents and fighting with all he had to better their individual circumstances. Steve knew all too well the conditions of transport workers, having worked as a forklift driver and garbage-truck driver early on in his career prior to joining the union movement in 1980. His interest in the conditions of transport workers and his graduate skills from the University of Sydney unsurprisingly saw Steve make his way swiftly through the union ranks. Eighteen years of hard work in the unions led to a legacy of fighting for what he believed in. He was most renowned for leading a group of six New South Wales unions to defy ACTU policy and pursue a 15 per cent state wage case, resulting in the TWU's split from the ACTU, the union peak body. That battle was won, and on 20 December 1996 the New South Wales Industrial Relations Commission awarded what Steve considered a huge Christmas present for the award system, a 15 per cent wage rise to 30,000 transport industry workers.

Steve, if you knew him, didn't mind a bit of Christmas cheer. It is very likely that he celebrated that day with a beer at the local tavern. Where better to hear firsthand the views and experiences of everyday workers? Steve enjoyed sinking a few drinks at the end of the week, as many in this place do, whether it was at the Blue Cattle Dog at St Clair, with his old union mates, or settling in at the Holy Grail in Kingston on a Tuesday or Wednesday night, a place I have spent a fair bit of time in with Sterlo or Bish. It was always a very hard place to walk past: 'Just one more for the road, Nige.'

Described as a 'stalwart of the Labor movement', Steve's talent was recognised, and he was chosen by New South Wales to represent the state in the Senate in 1998. Whilst he sat opposite myself in this chamber, I hold Steve and his never-give-up approach in the highest regard—a man who never backed down from a fight. In his time in this place Steve prided himself on serving the battler. He did not consider himself a bleeding heart, and trumpeted the ethos of 'a hand up, not a handout', making him a right-wing advocate of his political party. I can't say I agreed with everything he had to say—I can recall particularly him referring to my delightful Northern Territory as a tin-pot operation, when there were moves for self-government, as being one of them—but I knew the man for the great bloke that he was. Steve could be hard-headed in the battles as needed, but I knew him as more jovial in other times, always known for his jokes with colleagues and staff. We've already heard from 'Senator Juanita' about the playing of pranks, amongst them things like giving his staffers, when they joined his office, coupons for the parliamentary cafe. Of course, he'd just made them up, and they were actually appearing—he was just a shocker! He didn't actually take politics or himself particularly seriously. He lived every day with an absolutely unfeigned determination to represent his constituency.

Steve fought a long battle with cancer. All the while he was concerned for others, fighting till the very end, passing too soon, too young. 61-year-old Steve was farewelled by more than 400 this week at St Finbar's Catholic Church in the Blue Mountains. He received a plaque from St Vincent de Paul honouring his commitment to the poor and the successes he achieved for everyday battlers. Australia is better for his contributions. He stands in memory as a courageous, tough and generous man, much loved as a husband to Victorian minister Natalie Hutchins, a colleague in the Aboriginal affairs portfolio to whom I pass on my most sincere of condolences. Natalie, the work of you and your husband is something that your family can be proud of. I am sure he would be so proud of what you have achieved during your time in parliament. He was a great man, and I'm sure your partnership has been a key factor in both your successes. I'm sorry for your loss, and I look forward to our next meeting, when I can convey my personal condolences to you. Steve was a great father to Lauren, Julia, Michael, Georgia, Madeleine and Xavier, as well as grandfather to Jacob, William, Edie, Nathaniel, Rorie and Audrey. I convey the Nationals' sincerest condolences on his passing, forever in our memory and the political narrative of our nation. Let us later, perhaps, toast to his time in this place and his life of service to others: a mate to many. Cheers, Hutchy. Vale Stephen Patrick Hutchins.