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Monday, 10 August 2015
Page: 7778


Mr PORTER (PearceParliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister) (13:52): There are a number of members here who have not yet spoken and who had deeper and longer relationships with Don Randall than I did and I do not want to unduly delay their contributions. I think particularly the member for Swan will have some things to say that will be important. I know that you have lost a terrific mate and I am very sorry for your loss. I wanted to put on record my condolences to Julie, Tess and Elliott.

I want offer two very brief observations, which I guess are more in the nature of lessons, that I learned from being around Don both when I was in state politics and also as a colleague in the federal parliament. The first of those lessons that I learned from Don is that there is a really important role for passion in politics. That is not just looking passionate but that sort of unbridled passion that makes you forget other stuff. For many people in this place who were legally trained, you have a drilled into you for 18, 20 or 25 years that the worst thing that you can possibly do when you are representing someone is to get too passionate about it. Don is the sort of person who can drill that out of you if you have had a legal career and you come into politics, because watching him firsthand showed to me the golden lesson about that importance of just sheer, unbridled passion.

Amongst the very lovely eulogies at his funeral, someone made the comment that Don was a sort of person who believed that all problems could be cured, or at least they should be amenable to being cured, by simply picking up the phone and speaking to someone. The other instinct, and certainly one that I own, is that the best way to pursue an issue is to write a letter, which is not a very glamorous approach I guess. When you think like a lawyer, you think that no problem is too small or too simple not to warrant a really long letter. But Don was the exact opposite of that approach. There is an enormous amount to learn from watching people like Don and Don particularly with respect to that approach. The lesson is that that Yin of the slower, detailed approach sometimes, maybe often or maybe always, is enhanced by the Yang of that Randall direct, frontal assault, which I have witnessed Don give to people on a number of occasions.

I worked really closely with Don on the APVMA's administrative decision to ban a pesticide called fenthion, which was very important to the growing of stone fruit in my electorate and in Don Randall's electorate. Don was very, very passionate about this issue. He enlisted my support, which I was very happy to provide. I wrote the letters and he did his thing. In fact, the letters would not have been read if it were not for the fact that Don was making that full blown, frontal, forceful, colourful, direct and passionate approach for which I think he has become famous amongst the members in this place. It just goes to show that that personal passion, as well as further and better particulars, reach the handmade into the other and that you cannot have one without the other in this place.

I would just say as a quick aside that Don had no great love for lawyers. Indeed, he had no great love for state government ministers, particularly from our own side of politics, who he found particularly vexing on times. If you were a former state government minister and a lawyer, you were often seen as very bureaucratic to Don; but he was very happy to enlist assistance if he thought it could produce a result. In fact, at the last WA senators and members' meeting he was complaining vigorously about a decision by a state government minister on a planning matter which was played out in the courts. A cost order was given against his constituent. The entire 10 minutes of it was directed straight at me, because at some point of time I had been a WA minister and I had been a lawyer. I had to explain to him that I was neither at the moment and I had nothing to do whatsoever with the situation, but his passion was just absolutely unbridled.

The second and final lesson, and the end of my contribution, is the importance of apologies in this place and particularly apologies that are genuinely driven by that desire not to have any unnecessary bad blood or, indeed, not have any bad blood or hold any grudges whatsoever. It was very interesting hearing one of the members opposite talk about time that they witnessed Don give someone a real serve in the airport lounge. I was on the receiving end of one of those serves earlier this year when there was some issues surrounding the leadership. I thought Don had done something passionate, but procedurally ill-advised and I put that view to him in the Perth airport lounge. He put a very forceful alternative view to me. It was not about the issue itself but about me providing him with my view. I will say that it was probably, after seven years in politics, one of the more tense, forceful and unpleasant exchanges that I can recall.

But the end note to that exchange is that the week after that, as we were both again in the airport lounge, I saw Don and I thought about, for my part, apologising. I did not do it, because the exchange was ferocious that I thought it would be better left another week or two. But Don came up to me and he apologised for his part, which of course elicited an ensuing apology for my part. Looking back on it now, I am so very glad that he did that and that it was him and not me. I guess it goes to that point that in this place you are much better off apologising and taking that opportunity as early as it arises, because you never know that it might not come your way a second time.