Speech to Parliament - Honouring Mr Neville Betts
22 June 2021
The labour movement in Canberra lost one of its real champions with the passing of Neville Betts in early June. Neville was an organiser, the New South Wales-ACT Assistant Secretary and life member of the Electrical Trades Union with service that spanned three decades.
I first met Nev back in the 1990s, when I was a young whippersnapper. At a Keating Press Club lunch in 1993. I had different coloured hair. Even in that company Nev could imbue a state-of-origin atmosphere. While at times suspicious of Labor Party whippersnappers, Nev worked tirelessly across marginal seat campaigns across the region, understanding the needs of working families beyond the workplace and that there was only one party, despite its imperfections, that could deliver for working people.
For a decade I had the honour of working with him and learning from him with bargaining, organising and joint cases in the commission, across workplaces as diverse as ActewAGL, Ecowise, Snowy Hydro, the ACT government and the Canberra Deep Space Communication Complex. Neville was the ETU organiser on the Parliament House site during its construction. He was loved by delegates, members and officials across the labour movement.
He could talk. For good reason his nickname was Jaws. Many a time I had a phone conversation with Neville where he spoke for the first 30 minutes without drawing a breath. After some experience of this I realised it was generally time to make a cup of tea or coffee while involved in such a conversation.
Nonetheless, the position he was advocating for was invariably right. He had extraordinarily detailed knowledge of the industries he represented. It was certainly beyond that of most of the other people he bargained with around the table.
He cared deeply about the families of the members he represented. As his great friend and ETU comrade Matt McCann put it, Nev fought the toughest battle of all, against cancer, over the last three years. Unfortunately, his body could not sustain the fight any longer.
He never gave up. Anyone who knew Nev would know that was in his DNA. Nev spent 32 years fighting for ETU members and his beloved power-industry comrades. He never backed off or backed down from a blue.
He liked a beer. He liked a good time. He loved to fish. Shooting clay targets was his obsession.
But, most importantly, Neville loved his family with a passion. He's survived by his wife, Cheryl, his son, Jake, his daughter, Kate, and her husband, Mark. Neville was a doting grandfather to Hudson and twins Madeline and Abigaile.
I extend deepest condolences to the family, friends and workmates of Neville Betts, a man you don't meet every day.