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Wednesday, 8 February 2017
Page: 442


Mrs PRENTICE (RyanAssistant Minister for Social Services and Disability Services) (18:42): It is with great sadness that I rise today to speak on this condolence motion for the former senator, Emeritus Professor Russell Trood.

Russell died shortly after his 68th birthday on 9 January this year—much too young, and with so much more to contribute. His passing came as a shock for so many friends and colleagues. Russell's family held a small, private funeral service at the time, but I was pleased to be able to join with them and other friends, including the former speaker, the member for Rankin, at a memorial service hosted last Friday in Brisbane by Griffith University.

The parliament was well represented, particularly by the moving tributes paid by the Leader of the Government in the Senate and Attorney-General, Senator the Hon. George Brandis; the President of the Senate, Senator the Hon. Stephen Parry; and former senator, the Hon. Michael Ronaldson. Of course, we were joined by many of Russell's colleagues and friends, including the member for Wright, who is going to speak later today.

A few years my senior, Russell grew up, as I did, in Sydney, where he joined the Pymble Young Liberals and I the Bradleys Head branch and the Mosman Young Liberals. However, after completing his law degree at the University of Sydney, Russell went to Canada and the United Kingdom where he undertook further studies and returned as a scholar and lecturer at the Australian National University. Then in 1989 he was recruited by Griffith University and became Director of the Centre for the Study of Australia-Asian Relations from 1990 until shortly before his election to the Senate. Our paths crossed again when he became involved in the Sherwood branch of the Liberal Party in the 1990s.

In 2004 Russell won preselection for the third position on the Liberal Party Senate ticket. Now, in those days the Liberal Party and the National Party ran separate tickets, so the No. 3 candidate was considered very unlikely to win. However, in that election the National Party also had a newcomer on their ticket—a bloke by the name of Barnaby Joyce. So the Liberal ticket comprised Brett Mason, George Brandis and Russell Trood. In his tribute to Russell, Senator Brandis regaled us with a very colourful recollection of that campaign, with three quite different candidates with quite different tastes and habits becoming very close friends and, as history records, Senate colleagues together. That was the election in which the voters of Queensland delivered four coalition senators out of six positions and gave Prime Minister John Howard a majority in the Senate.

Russell's gentle, polite, hardworking and knowledgeable contribution to parliament earned him the respect of his colleagues across all political lines. Former Leader of the Government in the Senate, Chris Evans, said of him at the time of his leaving the Senate:

I think it was good for the Liberal Party and for the Senate that you were elected … You also behave much more like people's image of a traditional senator.

…   …   …

Rather than being a grubby party politician, he brings free thought, an interest in ideas and a style that reflects that sort of approach. I say that very genuinely. I think the parliament and the Senate have benefited from his academic background and expertise …

I also want to refer again to the thoughtful recollections of Senator George Brandis, who reflected on Russell that:

As a scholar and in particular as a scholar of history, Russell was interested in the long run. He could see the course of events not over hours, days or weeks but over years and decades. He was one of the only voices in the coalition party room to oppose the invasion of Iraq. He said, 'Loathsome as Saddam Hussein is, if we displace the regional strongman, that will destabilise Iraq with unpredictable consequences not only for Iraq but for the rest of the Middle East. In years to come, we will still not know how unstable we will have made that region.'

As Senator Brandis said:

With the learning of history, who can say that he was wrong?'

I will continue to quote from Senator George Brandis:

In 2008 he—

Russell—

was a vigorous opponent of the amalgamation of the Liberal and National parties in Queensland. He said, 'If you fuse the parties, you will create a political space on the right, particularly in regional Queensland, that may well be filled by either the One Nation party or other more right-wing parties.' Who can say that he was wrong? So Russell had a wisdom born both of experience and of deep learning.

In the Senate this week, Senator Penny Wong also spoke about Russell and reflected on Russell's own comments. She said that he noted the importance of education and that he said:

Ideas and education matter, not just for the prosperity they promise but because free and open societies depend on them.

She said:

Professor Trood also acknowledged the role of the Senate as a means of 'ensuring the accountability of the executive arm of government' whilst, in the context of a governing party majority of which he was part, noting that an enduring source of the Senate's political legitimacy is that it was properly elected.

Other tributes also came from many other colleagues and I would like to reflect on those, particularly those from the class of 2004. Barnaby Joyce said:

Russell was a gentle man. Smart, kind and wanting this empathy to be part of the tapestry of the political purpose of our nation. For our nation to advance by being smart, not boorish. Russell was taken long before his time was due, but he left a great legacy far beyond the length of his tenure in politics.

Senator Fiona Nash, also from the class of 2004, said:

Russell Trood was one of life's absolute gentlemen. It was an honour to have known him. He was intelligent, gracious, charming and had a beautiful sense of humour. He understood politics well, and one of his many, many good traits was that he always looked to the positive. There is no one like in the parliament. He will be very much missed, but the enormous contribution he made to the lives of so many Australians will live on.

Senator Concetta Fierravanti-Wells, yet another from the class of 2004, said:

Doctor Trood definitely was the intellect of the class of 2004!

These comments came not just from the conservative side. Senator Rachel Siewert, the longest serving Greens senator and whip said:

I respected his work and depth of understanding of foreign policy and welcomed his contribution to Parliamentary debates.

Senator Helen Polley said:

Russell was an articulate and considered contributor to any debate he participated in.

As I noted previously, Russell was held in high regard by all parts of the political spectrum. When I came to federal parliament in 2010, I considered myself fortunate to be able to sit with Russell and Senator Judith Troeth in the party room, where I benefited from their many years of experience and knowledge. One of the best pieces of advice Russell gave me in those days was to participate in the ADF parliamentary program. I naturally followed his advice and now pass it on to all new MPs. It is indeed one of the best interactions members of parliament can have with our Defence Force men and women and provides an invaluable insight that cannot be gained in other ways.

Even after leaving the Senate and returning to academia, Russell continued to make a significant political contribution. Notably, the Prime Minister of the day, Kevin Rudd, appointed him special envoy for the Prime Minister to Eastern Europe in 2011-12. In doing so, Prime Minister Rudd stated Russell 'will bring his strong background in international relations to help strengthen Australia's relations with countries in Eastern Europe, the Balkans and the Caucuses, and will build on our considerable people-to-people links with these regions.' Of course, as we know, he also went on to make a wonderful contribution to the success of the G20 in Brisbane.

Whilst I was familiar with Russell's political life, unlike the member for Rankin I did not appreciate the extent of his academic contribution until we heard some of the eulogies from his academic colleagues last Friday, and I realised that I had very little knowledge of his extensive academic contribution. However, the high respect and esteem in which he was held by his parliamentary colleagues clearly extended to his academic life as well. Professor Andrew O'Neil commented:

During his distinguished career at Griffith University, Professor Emeritus Russell Trood personified the spirit of collegiality; he was balanced, compassionate, honest, and cosmopolitan in outlook.

But above all, he possessed a basic humanity that inspired his academic peers and the legions of students he taught—

clearly including the member for Rankin. Professor O'Neil also noted that Russell loved quotes, and he told him that the following from John Adams, the second President of the United States, was one of Russell's favourites:

Let us tenderly and kindly cherish, therefore, the means of knowledge. Let us dare to read, think, speak, and write.

I would like to finish with a poem that was actually read at his memorial and which was sent to his family at the time of his death by one of his academic colleagues. It is the 'Epitaph on a Friend', by Robbie Burns:

An honest man here lies at rest,

The friend of man, the friend of truth,

The friend of age, the guide of youth;

Few hearts like his, with virtue warm'd,

Few heads with knowledge so inform'd;

If there's another world, he lives in bliss;

If there is none, he made the best of this.

A very fitting tribute to Russell Trood, and I extend my deepest sympathy to Dale; his son, James; daughter, Phoebe; and his brother, Arty.