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Monday, 10 August 2015
Page: 7768

Mr HUNT (FlindersMinister for the Environment) (13:02): There is much sadness and much to be sad about in this House today, but there is also much to remember and to celebrate in a great life. In terms of the sadness, this parliament has lost a true representative in the terms intended in the heart of the Constitution. Our party has lost a wondrous campaigner and Canning has lost its voice. But his family—Julie, Tess and Elliott—have lost something immeasurably more valuable, as have his wondrous staff.

At the same time, there is much to celebrate. Don was not a secret environmentalist; he was an open local environmental champion. He was a boy from the wheatbelt and a beekeeper. In that context, during the debate about the Green Army in this place, he said, 'You know, I could speak for an hour on this topic.' And, knowing Don, if the standing orders were different, he would have. Only a week before he passed, he visited the Bridging the Gap Green Army team in his electorate. There was a beautiful photo of Don and all of these young people in the local Mandurah Coastal Times after his passing, and it was a wonderful way for him to be recorded. As Don's great friend and my great friend Bob Baldwin just reminded me, that same Green Army team of young people formed an honour guard in their uniforms at his funeral. They did not have to do that; they chose to do that.

He loved his local environmental projects. I remember he took me to a local composting plant right next to a pig farm, and whilst we were there he said, 'I want you to roll up your sleeves and feel the heat in this compost right next to the pig farm.' I dug my hands in and he said, 'I want you to get down to your elbows.' He rolled up the sleeves for me and he said, 'I want you to get down to just above your armpits,' and so I did. He said, 'I have got a towel in the car,' and he cleaned it all off. As we were leaving, I said, 'Did we really have to do that?' He said: 'I wanted you to feel the microbial activity—and I just won a bottle of Margaret River red from the owner. I told him I would have you up to your armpits in pig manure before you left the place.' He never let me forget that!

He also fought passionately for a Peel-Harvey Catchment Council. He was tenacious, unrelenting, passionate and good humoured about it, and not long ago we stood and announced, with all of the local community who had fought for it, that the Peel-Harvey Catchment Council was Australia's first new catchment council on land. That is his testament, and that is his living memory, in terms of his area in the environment.

Beyond the environment, we talked a lot about autism. We shared a lot of time planning his Walk for Autism. He was many things, but perhaps most of all in his professional life he was a teacher of kids with disabilities. He did that work for many long years, and he was quiet but intensely proud of his Walk for Autism. As others have recorded, the way the community responded represented the way he had dealt with them. The funds he raised, the awareness he raised and, most importantly, the fact that he contributed to autism being at the heart of the NDIS will perhaps be his most important professional legacy. Beyond those matters, he was a great friend, mentor, husband and father.

He loved his staff—he really loved his staff. He said to me one day: 'I've got a fantastic girl, Nicole Green. She deserves to be on ministerial staff. I don't want to lose her but I don't want to hold her back.' He introduced me to her and we recruited her, with his consent and blessing. Not long after she arrived at the front desk, she was promoted. Don took that approach to all of his staff. On the night I received the news about Don, I felt it was my duty to call Nicole, but she had just found out and she was in floods of tears. She loved her old boss and she loved her friend Tess. On behalf of Nicole and all of us here in the parliament, I say to Don's family: he was a wonderful husband and a wonderful father, and he left the world a better place.