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Monday, 10 August 2015
Page: 7770

Mr TRUSS (Wide BayDeputy Prime Minister and Minister for Infrastructure and Regional Development) (13:13): I join with others in the House in acknowledging the life of Don Randall, particularly recognising and paying sympathy to his family and friends and recognising his contribution to the parliament. He was genuinely one of the larger-than-life characters of this parliament. He was a formidable political advocate, but it is a good measure of the man that he was liked and respected by political allies and adversaries alike. I think all ministers in this place, frankly, those currently ministers and past ministers, can testify to the passion with which Don fought on behalf of his constituents. His tenacity, his unwillingness ever to let go on an issue that was important to his electorate made him a champion for his local communities.

In my own experience, his dogged determination to see the Perth to Bunbury highway, or, as it is now known, the Forrest Highway, built was unrivalled. Indeed, I found myself in the middle of some of those vigorous arguments, on the one hand, as minister, trying to work as cooperatively as I could with the Western Australian state minister, now the member for Perth, who had a different view on these issues from Don. Indeed, Don had some different views from his own parliamentary colleagues on this side; not about whether the road should be built but about how it should be built and in what order particular sections should be constructed. So it was a clash of really strong personalities. It was certainly an argument that gained a great deal of momentum. In the end, I guess the monument is a great road, but the way it was achieved certainly was very much the mark of the way in which Don was prepared to stand up for his electorate and the things that he believed in and make them happen.

He left us far too early, but he had already contributed a lifetime of dedicated public service—more than others who live much longer. As we have heard, he was a teacher for 20 years, including in schools dedicated to teaching students with intellectual disabilities, before becoming a councillor of the City of Belmont in Perth and, subsequently, a member of this House. He made marginal territory his own by being a strong and faithful local member. This is testimony to the respect in which Don was held in his electorate.

As the Prime Minister has said recently, Don was integral to the success of his party in Western Australia. With firsthand knowledge of the difficulties facing small business through his family-owned bakery, Don was a forceful champion of small business, which he recognised as the backbone of the Australian economy and of a strong and cohesive Australian community.

He was also a great proponent of genuine and practical environmental rehabilitation. His maiden speech highlighted the need to bring the black swan back to the Swan River, and he was very committed, as the Minister for the Environment has just said, to Green Army projects, particularly within the Canning area. He was a strong supporter of the Peel-Harvey Catchment Council's practical work to protect the Peel-Yalgorup Ramsar wetland.

Don was a fierce advocate for a number of perhaps lesser known but very important causes. He was a longstanding supporter of autism in Western Australia and, in 2012, walked more than 100 kilometres across his electorate to raise money to support families with an autistic child. Along the way he visited 43 schools to explain the disability to children, teachers and parents. He also sought to highlight the issues facing grandparents caring for their grandchildren. No issue was too big or too small or too complicated for Don to be involved.

Within the parliament, his great energy and concern for a whole range of Australia's national interests were applied to his work on many committees. During his term in parliament, Don served as the opposition parliamentary secretary for roads and transport and then local government while I was the shadow minister in that area. It was a pleasure to work with him. Again, his dogged determination was very apparent in that work.

A number of people on both sides have referred to the relationship that Don had with his staff and his willingness and encouragement for them to be able to progress, even if it meant that he lost the opportunity to work with them at the local level. The Minister for the Environment told a story of how he had inherited one of Don's staff, and I have a similar story. Jess Finlay, who is sitting in the advisers box, was recruited, I think, initially by Don. Don strongly recommended that Jess was the right person to be involved in my own work. Indeed, I got to know her when Don was the shadow parliamentary secretary. Her work in shipping and transport and aviation has been particularly important to me. I know from Jess's own personal testimony that she appreciated Don and, like all of his former staff, deeply felt the loss of her former boss and mentor.

Outside the parliament, Don had a real enthusiasm for his community—many have spoken today about what convivial company he could be—and—I suppose you would expect nothing less from a former horse trainer—for horses and the track. He was a dedicated family man and adored his wife, Julie, and was very proud of his two children, Tess and Elliot, as we have so often heard.

Don was never shy at advocating his causes. But I think the motto for Don's community reports and the slogan on his famous notepads that are spread from one end of Canning to the other best sum up the reasons for his electoral success. His slogan, 'You talk. I'll listen,' is not only, I think, a good political message; it is a good lesson for all of us in this place. It is a straightforward motto; a straightforward lifestyle. We will miss Don. May he rest in peace. Our condolences go to his family. I salute a great colleague—a man whose place in this chamber will always be difficult to replace.