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Thursday, 30 November 2017
Page: 9398

Senator STERLE (Western Australia) (17:14): I would like to add a few words about our mate Hutcho—not Hutcho the former senator but Hutcho the lion of the TWU and the union movement. My association with Hutcho goes back to the nineties, when I was a bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, know-everything young truckie with a potty mouth who thought he could sort out every problem in the world once—

Senator Canavan: It's changed!

Senator STERLE: I'll take that interjection. Things have changed—I'm not young anymore! I thought I could solve the problems of the world from a truckie's perspective and I had a great distaste for people who'd never come through our side—Senator Gallacher's and mine—as former transport workers, truckies or baggage handlers. I just didn't think they really could be tuned in with truckies and transport workers. How wrong I was about Hutcho! No-one is going to fill those shoes of Hutcho.

I just want to put a bit of frivolity into it. In the good old days in the Transport Workers Union, when Ivan Hodgson ruled with an iron fist—and I mean an iron fist; the transport industry was a tough industry, and it was instilled in us that you could lose a fight but if you didn't have one then look out because you'd get one when you got back to the TWU family—the rules were set out: you couldn't become a TWU organiser or an official until you'd spent at least 12 months in the industry. Hutcho worked his way around those rules but he went off, as we know, as a forklift driver, and then, as Senator Brandis said, Hutcho did some time as a garbo. What Senator Brandis didn't say is that Hutcho fell off the back of the bloody truck in the first couple of days on the job and then was on compo for months with a broken arm. But, anyway, Hutcho got round the rules, and what a dynamo that man was for our movement and for our union!

Another thing I want to say is that Hutcho was a few things that I wasn't. One is that he was a state secretary. I never rose to the dizzy heights of state secretary. I was always the baggy pants organiser in the yards at five in the morning getting told what to do by the state secretary—which I enjoyed immensely! Hutcho was our federal president—as was Senator Gallacher, who is in the chamber. I think you were federal president twice, Senator Gallacher—weren't you, mate? I was never a federal president. And Hutcho was a fair dinkum social conservative, which I'm not and never will be. I remember one day getting a phone call. We were having a debate in this building at the time over RU486, which was very topical at the time. There were some very firm views about who should get RU486. Hutcho rang me and said, 'Sterley, we're going for a walk tomorrow morning.' Hutcho never walked, let alone got up in the morning, so I thought: 'Oh God, I'm going to cop the New South Wales Right. I'll have a blue here with the staunch Catholic argument.' So we walked around the block. But at the end of the day the one word you could use to sum up Hutcho was loyalty. You could have a difference of opinion with Hutcho and he would argue to the nth degree. He had a brilliant ability to put the argument forth. He couldn't win me on the RU486. I voted with the socially democratic view that a woman should have full control over what she puts in her body—what she takes or whatever. I went with the other side—

Opposition senators interjecting

Senator STERLE: I meant the pill thing—much to Hutcho's disgust, but at the end of the day we were still union comrades and he was still my mate. He's been my mate to this very day and he always will be.

I want to share another couple of things. To Natalie and the family: deepest condolences. It was a huge turnout yesterday—500-odd people, I'm led to believe. It was packed chock-a-block. To the TWU family and Ritchie Olsen, the New South Wales State Secretary—we're all part of Hutcho, we've all come through the Hutcho school of the TWU and unionism—and to his officials, his branch committee of management, staff and members it's a very, very sad loss. From the national office of Tony Sheldon and Michael Kaine—Tony is, once again, a product of Hutcho and his great leadership—through to the whole TWU family we're going to miss you, mate; we really are.

I want to add a couple of light notes to see Hutcho off. Senator Gallacher, Fiona and I had a couple of bevvies for him last night and we could feel him in the room. We couldn't join the proceedings at the Lappo. We had to get back to Canberra and we were driving. But we certainly had a few—didn't we, mate? You're still crook, aren't you? You're still looking a bit crook.

Senator Gallacher interjecting

Senator STERLE: I've recovered all right. But Hutcho wouldn't have had it any other way.

A couple of other things just quickly. I remember sitting here in the good old days when the old Right was as close as anything. We were a close family of the Right, there's no doubt about that, under the leadership of Hutcho and others—Hoggy. We were sitting here through one of those mind-numbingly boring nights when there were 20-minute speeches going on about a bill that really didn't matter. It didn't matter but someone wanted to filibuster to keep it going because they needed some crossbench numbers or some damn thing. After a bottle of white, Hutcho got up and said, 'I might go do 20 minutes. Watch this.' Hutcho walked into the chamber—it was one of those boring things, a taxation bill or something; I don't know what it was—and said, 'I want to talk about this taxation bill,' and spent the other 19 minutes and 56 seconds talking about the Battle of Waterloo and Nelson, and no-one challenged him. And he came back, sat down and drank another bottle of wine. That was Hutcho.

There's another one I want to share. I wasn't here in the chamber when Hutcho first got his illness, but—by crikey!—I was on the receiving end when Hutcho fought it off. What I mean by 'the receiving end', and Senator Gallacher can remember this vividly, is that we were at a TWU national council in Melbourne, I think it was. Hutcho had been cleared and Hutcho was on the way back. Somehow we all ended up, as we truckies do—we like a beer, you know: a beer or 15 or whatever—in a night club at two in the morning. I've got to tell you: Hutcho was still bopping. I remember saying to Alex and, a great mate, Western Australian branch secretary Jimmy McGivern: 'God almighty! He's come back with a vengeance. How are we gonna keep up with him?' Hutcho lived life, every single second. When young Xavier was born I was here: to reiterate what Senator Moore said, nothing was greater to Hutcho than his family.

We're going to miss you, cobber. There aren't too many people like Hutcho. When he had a vision or a view he stuck to it. You knew, if you were with Hutcho in a blue, you had one of the best mates you could ever have. He never wimped. He never took a backward step. He was an absolutely passionate supporter and promoter of workers rights. I'll get in trouble for this, but I really don't care, because this is about my mate Hutcho: if we could turn out union leaders and union officials and turn them into senators with the values that Hutcho carried, we'd be in a damn great place. To those young ones coming through: don't worry about what you see from some of the batches that are coming through here nowadays. Go back and read some history books. Read about Hutcho.

Hutcho: rest in peace, mate. We're so glad you're not in pain.

The DEPUTY PRESIDENT: I ask honourable senators to stand in silence to signify their assent to the motion.

Honourable senators having stood in their places—

The DEPUTY PRESIDENT: The motion is carried.