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Thursday, 30 November 2017
Page: 9392

Senator KITCHING (Victoria) (16:47): I rise to offer a contribution to this condolence motion on Steve Hutchins. I met Steve with the then Natalie Sykes in the early 2000s, when Natalie brought him along, as is often the case for first dates in the ALP, to an ALP function.

Senator Bilyk: It's the test.

Senator KITCHING: It is the test, Senator Bilyk. Immediately his warmth, his larrikinism and his laconic sense of humour was evident—also his ability to deflate pomposity. He was the epitome of the lines from Rudyard Kipling's 'If—':

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,

Or walk with Kings—nor lose the common touch,

…   …   …

Yours is the Earth and everything that's in it,

And—which is more—you'll be a Man, my son!

And that was Steve.

As Senator Bartlett said, it is often the good and quiet contributions that might make the most lasting impact in politics, and I want to detail one such contribution from Steve Hutchins. As has been noted, he was a New South Wales state secretary of Transport Workers Union between 1993 and 1998, and he was always willing to use his great experience and expertise in union affairs to give good advice to those of us working in the union movement. As many senators know, I was involved in the long campaign to rescue the Health Services Union from the corrupt and incompetent regime which over many years destroyed the reputation and effectiveness of that union and damaged the union movement in general. During that campaign Steve Hutchins was always ready to place his expertise at the service of those of us who were campaigning to clean up that union. I don't think it's too much to say that, without his sage advice, the narrow victory that we eventually achieved over the previous regime would not have been achieved. So not only am I in his debt but so are all of the members of the HSU, including the many low-paid members working in hospitals and other health services who have benefited from the effective representation they now have from their reformed union. He managed, in his calm and laid-back way, to unite many disparate personalities so that a united campaign was able to form. Without him, there would have been a multiplicity of tickets, and with that the incumbent ticket would have won. The wisdom involved in being able to see a way forward, to understand human nature, will be very much missed. I am so sad for Nat and for all of Steve's children. He is too soon gone.