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Monday, 10 August 2015
Page: 7762


Ms MacTIERNAN (Perth) (12:32): Thank you, Mr Speaker, and congratulations to you on your ascendancy. To the family, staff and colleagues of Don, I can only imagine the pain that you have experienced with Don's sudden and unexpected passing. I recall how I felt when I heard about it, and I can imagine for those of you who were so close to Don how incredibly difficult this time has been.

I have to say that the farewell that was held in Perth a week and a half ago was a tremendously moving event. It was attended by many, many hundreds of people—family, friends, constituents and colleagues from both sides of politics. This turnout alone was a testament to the enormous regard that Don was held in and to the strength of the bonds that he held with his family, and the friendships and the connection—the deep connection—that he had made with so many within his electorate.

It is a tragedy that so often you go to a memorial event and you learn so much more about a person. We have reflected on this: Don playing the violin—it is something that I never thought of Don!—and Don having a 100-year-old violin that he lovingly passed on to his daughter, Tess. There is the fact that he was also a bronco rider. In my teens I was a great lover of rodeos and cowboys, and I never realised that Don and I shared that interest. We also learned a lot about Don's youthful escapades, including his adventures working on a kibbutz—but it was made very clear to us that this was not due to any hidden socialist tendency on Don's part but the fact that he was a cash-strapped backpacker caught in Israel. And Don was into roses and beekeeping—this was an absolute revelation to me. I have to say that I think it is one of the unfortunate effects of the adversarial nature of our political model that you do not always see the lovely soft side of your opponents.

Don and I had been sparring partners for many years and we both represented the Armadale and Kelmscott areas. But it was not just a clash of personalities; we did have, both of us, very sincerely held differences of opinion about the best way to take our community forward. And this is part of politics: it is about the contest of ideas and it is an important part of our political process. This, of course, reached its height with the well-known battle that has been mentioned a couple of times today and got a few mentions at Don's memorial. It was obviously something that was a pretty significant event for both of us in 2010, when I was asked to stand for the seat of Canning. Don held the seat at that time by a 4.5 per cent margin. I had figured that Labor was doing well. We were travelling on a swing in WA of about two to three per cent. I thought, 'Okay, I reckon I can add about two per cent to that swing, and that would get us up to about 4.5. This could be a good and interesting battle,' so I agreed. I certainly never had any illusion that it would be anything other than hand-to-hand combat in the suburbs, as it indeed turned out to be as both of us campaigned like mad in that very complex electorate.

In the intervening time between my optimistic acceptance of the offer and the announcement of the election, we had Labor's leadership travails and we had the mining tax, and the landscape changed. I feel I should defend my honour here, after a number of references, to say that I did actually manage to get a 2.6 per cent swing to me, which was not bad when the state swing against us was 3.3 per cent. I feel, though, that both Don and I can take pride in that result. I am even prepared here today to acknowledge the role played by Don in bringing a reluctant Howard government on board in funding WA Labor's Perth Bunbury Highway. Good on you, Don—we worked well together on that one.

Partly perhaps because we had both mellowed and partly because we were not cohabiting, shall we say, an electorate, once I came into federal parliament, Don and I became really quite good friends on those trips to and from. We would have a bit of biffo in the parliament about the NBN et cetera, but basically we were on very good terms—so much so that Don invited me to deputy chair his beloved Cuba Friendship Group, which I was more than happy to do. I must also take this opportunity to correct a story that was told by one of his staffers at the funeral: I am not an anti-smoking Nazi. On that evening, having smelt cigar smoke for about the 10th time coming from Don's rooms, I knocked on the door to ask about the cigar smoke. What we were actually trying to do was to get an entry into Don's rooms so we could join the party. It was not because we were about to dob him in to the Speaker for smoking. His very devoted staff fended our party off and a few moments later, when Don worked out what was going on, he asked us to come and join in smoking cigars, but the moment had passed.

I just want to say this: of all the incredible stories that we have been hearing about Don and his skill as a representative of his community, for me the most powerful addresses at that memorial service were those from Tess and Elliott—not only were these very articulate, intelligent young people, but they were clearly devoted to and loved their father—and the revelation of Don as an engaged, exciting and loving father are the greatest testimony to him. To Julie, Tess and Elliott, and to all the staff, our very sincerest condolences. Vale, Don.