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Monday, 10 August 2015
Page: 7750


Mr SHORTEN (MaribyrnongLeader of the Opposition) (11:39): On behalf of the opposition, I join the Prime Minister in offering our condolences to Don's family and friends, following his sudden passing. Perhaps the hardest part of grieving an early death and a sudden loss is a sense of unfinished conversations, of words left unsaid, of contemplating the children who may one day now have to explain to their own children about their grandfather and his achievements. So our sympathies are to all who loved Don Randall. All members were shocked by Don's passing. Those most affected will doubtless be feeling a fresh wave of loss today on returning to this place and seeing his seat empty marked by a white rose. You have my sympathies.

In his first speech in this place, Don Randall paid tribute to his grandparents, who, in his words:

… came to a block of uncleared land with a tent, an axe and a toddler. Like other Australians at this time, they survived the rigours of drought, recession, depression and war. In the face of adversity and difficult times, it was these types of Australians who helped form this great nation.

These were the qualities that Don admired: resilience, individual enterprise and family loyalty, self-reliance in hard times and fair reward for hard work.

There was, of course, much on which Don Randall and the Labor Party disagreed, often very deeply. But, personally, not for one moment did I doubt the strength of his convictions or his advocacy. He was, as the Prime Minister says, his own man and acted in line with his own views. I note from my personal conversations with Don Randall that he had many sides—some are well known, such as his fierce love of family; some less well known, such as his abiding interest in special education. I regret now that I never followed up his invitation for Gary Gray and I to have lunch with him and his great mate Steve Irons. Perhaps there is a lesson for all of us not to always waste so much energy upon our disagreements.

So often in this place when we pause to pay respects to the life of a former member, we quote from their valedictory speech. Normally, we look to the valedictory for a sense of the achievements in which the member took most pride, the fierce battles they fought and won, the opponents they respected and the people to whom they owed the deepest debt of gratitude—families, friends, mentors. Don Randall has left us without a valedictory. His final speech in this place was a 90-second statement delivered before question time on the Tuesday of our last sitting week. Yet this brief minute and a half tells us much about Don Randall. It contained a fierce attack on the former Labor government and the current Labor opposition. The member for Perth, Don's long-time sparring partner, was the beneficiary of free advice, but most of all and, indeed, best of all it is a speech focused positively on the citizens of Canning, the community that Don Randall put ahead of party and personal advancement. Don Randall was always 'Canning ahead of Canberra'. He was a local member first, last and always.

We should take note that a man with such a strong sense of local identity and pride still believed the best way to serve his community was in this place. He believed to his final day that our democracy mattered, that parliament counted for something, that the measure of political life was the difference you made to the lives of the people you served. Politics is a calling to which many are drawn but few ever know the privilege of standing in this chamber. Fewer still represent their communities for as long as Don Randall did with such distinction. We honour his memory today. We pay tribute to his service. And we offer our heartfelt condolences to the people he loved and the people who loved him. May he rest in peace.