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Monday, 10 August 2015
Page: 7780

Mr BALDWIN (PatersonParliamentary Secretary to the Minister for the Environment) (13:57): Don Randall and I were unique colleagues. We both came in as that famous class of '96. We both took the exit pass—or, as I call it, the sabbatical—in 1998. Then Don Randall and I were the only two of the class of '96 that lost in 1998 that came back together in 2001. From there, we shared a lot of experiences. Don Randall became Canberra family.

The one thing that people reflect on when they leave parliament is that perhaps they never said what was truly in their mind and in their heart. Can I say this of my friend Don Randall: that could never be said of Don. I remember sitting in this chamber, as Don stood up over there and gave those memorable comments reflecting on Cheryl Kernot. To which his quintessential reply years later was, 'Well, I was right, wasn't I?' That being said, perhaps some tact and decorum on the way through is perhaps a measurable thing.

Don, if nothing else, was perhaps one of the most loyal friends anyone could have. He was a fiercely proud Western Australian. He was, campaigning-wise, a member of the Liberal Party for five weeks each three-year term. That is because Don Randall, first and foremost, was the member for his constituency. Many people, as we found out in 1996, come into this House as members of parliament. Once you have lost your seat and you have come back, you come in with a very different perspective. You learn to be a true local member, representing your local constituency. Don did that and did it with great aplomb. In his maiden speech, he said of Paul Keating's comments, 'This is as good as it gets.' Don was determined to make life better for each and every Australian, regardless of their political affiliation—each and every Australian.

Perhaps that was born of the experience of having children. I know that, prior to having children myself, it was all about me. But, once you have children, it is about them; it is about their future. And think what you can do as an individual, particularly in this place, given the opportunities, to make a difference for each and every child. I remember one of the invitations, as a shadow minister, to come and visit him. I thought it would be a great experience. He said, 'By the way, I'm doing the Autism Walk. I'm a very strong supporter of people with autism.' I said, 'Okay, I'll join you for this walk.' We drove in the car and then we started walking. Don, never one to take the easy way, took us over the top of a hill and down through a rockery, along this old path. I said, 'Mate'—and he said, 'It's a short cut, Bobby.' I have to admit that he is one of the few people in my life that I have ever allowed to call me 'Bobby'. It shows the relationship. I was so shin sore for about three to four days after, it was amazing. I was there as he sat down and connected with the kids in a school. He explained to those children what autism was and that people with autism were normal people, just with some challenges, and should be accepted as normal people. He raised a lot of money and he did a lot of good. He raised great awareness. He gave it his all.

When we came back in 2001, I remember his speech, where Don had changed his focus a little more. He wanted to defend the working poor—families who were working, giving everything and trying to raise a family, because family was everything to Don. He was determined to advocate to give everyone a fair go.

Some of his speeches here will pass the test of time. To summarise some of the things that other colleagues in this House have said, I remember very fondly a time when I was sitting on the end of the bench there, during that Friday sitting. It was hard enough keeping the House down to a loud roar. Don was determined to get back every Thursday night to his family in Perth, and his constituency, too. His argument was probably that he would go home on a Thursday to spend the night with his family in Perth and then campaign out in his electorate on Friday and Saturday. He would often seek forgiveness for spending so much time with his constituents and perhaps not enough time with his family, but hearing Tess and Elliott's eloquent eulogy for their dad showed that he did balance, to some extent, family and constituency work. I remember sitting over in that corner and listening to the debate go on, and how Don thought it was important that we should be back in our electorates on Friday. There was Luke Hartsuyker demanding that Kevin Rudd as Prime Minister come and listen to the concerns, and in walked Don with 'Cardboard Kev'. The Speaker said that this was outrageous. I remember it so clearly because I was sitting there: Don stood up with such aplomb, such an innocent face, and said, 'How dare you call the Prime Minister outrageous.' That was the end of Friday sittings.

Having shared the experience with Don, as indeed many colleagues do when they lose their seats in this place, I can say that time out of politics is very difficult—not only the adjustment but, in particular, the financial pressures. When you are in an environment where everyone is hostile and politically partisan, to try and scratch out a living can be very, very difficult. I know that those challenges, having to sell the house, make adjustments and make sure that he provided for his family at the same time, were a difficult personal journey. But he came back and made a great contribution.

Some of the things that were mentioned in the eulogy at the funeral I will leave to my colleague Andrew Southcott to reflect on, but one thing that I want to say about Don is that, for a person who was not a minister for foreign affairs, he made some of the most incredible contributions to the international stage of any backbencher I have ever seen. I know there are many colleagues in this place who stand up for individual countries' rights with absolute passion, but for Don it was multifaceted. His work with the Sri Lankans was second to none, as was indicated today in the comments by our foreign minister and by the now Minister for Human Services, reflecting on his time as immigration minister. Don saw the injustices that were occurring in Sri Lanka and was determined to address them—not picking a side but picking an outcome. That was always key and critical. He was so well respected that when he went to Sri Lanka he was treated more like a head of state than like a visitor to that country. As the Minister for Foreign Affairs said, he was addressed as 'Mr Sri Lanka'. In a letter from the Sri Lankan support group, they said this of Don:

Don was a very important person to Sri Lanka. From the mid 1990s up to his passing away, Don was undoubtedly the best friend of Sri Lanka in the Australian parliament. The untimely loss of Don is a great loss to Australia. It is also a great loss to the Sri Lankan community in Australia and for Sri Lanka at large.

Don was always a great organiser and planner. One of my fondest recollections of him is from a delegation trip to Taiwan. Don and Julie had boarded the plane in Perth to come across to Sydney and connect to Taiwan, and Don realised he had forgotten their passports. But he was such an organiser that, during the four-hour flight across to Sydney for the international flight, Don was able to organise passports so that they could join us on that trip. It was a great trip, and they have become great friends over time.

It was also great to see so many members of the diplomatic corps at Don's funeral. One person I saw there in particular was the Cuban Ambassador to Australia, Mr Jose Manuel Galego Montano—an interesting character. You could say about Don Randall that the only thing red about him was his passion for wine, but Don was ahead of the curve in recognising the opportunity and the contributions that could be made with Cuba. I would hate to think that President Obama had actually observed Don's international diplomacy and decided to lift the sanctions—

Ms Julie Bishop interjecting—

Mr BALDWIN: This may very well happen, Minister. He went on a trip over there. As the ambassador reflected during a lunch here in Parliament House, Don had a unique way of connecting with people and actually making it about the people more than the issue. His connection over there—his trip—did well. The Cuban ambassador spoke extremely highly of his work. As I say, what may have seemed a unique fit—a very conservative politician from Western Australia connecting with the Cubans—I'd hate to think it was actually about his love of Cuban cigars and Havana rum! I would not dare to say that. He was a man of courage and conviction.

My other fond recollection of Don was his ability to invite himself to and engage himself with what was going on. Those around here know I tend to like cooking. I have never been a great fan of some of the food upstairs but prefer my own cooking. I try to bring a sense of normality by home cooking. Don would be a regular guest at the table and had an unusual way of influencing what would actually be served. He had a particular love of chilli con carne to the extent where towards the end of the last session he said, 'Bobby, it'd be really nice on a Monday if you actually made me up a whole pot of chilli con carne so I could put it in the freezer and have it for lunch each day.' You would not believe it; I went out and bought all the tins of beans, tomatoes and all that sort of stuff. But I guess we will have to share it.

He also had a passion for tuna and, any time I would bring a fish down here and prepare sashimi, he would be sitting there waiting with his chopsticks and the wasabi. But his love of red wine—I did try to convince him over many times that the Hunter reds were exceptional reds. He would occasionally argue the Western Australia reds, but I think it was where his grandfather was brought up—in South Australia—that led him to a conviction that it was actually South Australian reds. It was always embarrassing going out to dinner with Don, because you would take a bottle of red, but it would never be quite good enough and you would have to drink his red with him. Great guy. Loved him dearly.

People would say,' How should Don be remembered?' Perhaps one of his most passionate advocacies. You would get these phone calls: 'Bobby, I've got someone I want you to meet.' We have all had those. He brought in a gentleman called Gerard Neesham from the Clontarf Foundation who is actually in the parliament today seeking more support for some of the work that they want to roll out. Brendan Nelson was the Minister for Education, Science and Training at the time, and Don just went full bottle. He was convinced as a teacher, as a person who understood the disadvantaged in community, what was needed was a pathway, and the Clontarf Foundation was a pathway, a way to connect young Indigenous kids who perhaps did not care too much about education, to get them engaged in football and then lead them onto a pathway of outcomes. We heard the Minister for Human Services talk about children in his electorate being engaged. They are about to start rolling out a program in my electorate. Can I say to you it was Don Randall who single-handedly lobbied to get the funding for the Clontarf Foundation, through his friend Gerard Neesham, that actually started the whole process. An argument was put to me in some stupid comments on Twitter that Don was one of those people that was not here for the apology and was against Indigenous people. Can I tell you Don Randall at a grassroots level did more for Indigenous kids and their future than perhaps most would ever care to realise.

He was a great campaigner. He was an outstanding local man. He was a great mentor to many people. To his staff he took great pride in growing, developing and mentoring young people to achieve their maximum potential in life. That is what the Liberal philosophy is: give everyone the opportunity to achieve their maximum potential. He has raised a wonderful family with two fantastic kids, developed some great staff and will be sorely missed.

I remember recording a video for his 60th birthday, that I could not be over in Perth on. I summed it up with my favourite expression about Don Randall. It goes from the small goods manufacturer. It goes; 'Is Don? Is good.'

I would like to finish with an important, outstanding eulogy that was delivered by his staff team at his funeral at the Pinnaroo Valley Memorial on 31 July. It was delivered by Chloe Lawler, but they had the whole of Team Randall here. It goes like this:

'My name is Chloe Lawler, and I had the honour and privilege of working with Don as his media officer for some time. It's with a heavy heart that I stand here today to talk to you about a man who was many things to many people. Of course he was a loving husband to Julie, an incredible father to Tess and Elliott and a man that boasts many profound achievements, but what you might not know is that he still used a fax machine, couldn't work an iPhone and referred to his email address as his "internet phone number". And, while he was not cunning with technology, he still had plenty of tricks up his sleeves. I'd like to take this opportunity to share with you some of the lasting lessons he brought Team Randall.

'Lesson 1: the speed limit is just a suggestion! Now, for any critics out there that think politicians and public figures are above the law, I can tell you now I have a plethora of speeding fines at the back of the office to prove otherwise. Don was a complete leadfoot. More often than not I would watch MPs turn up to events in their stately SUVs only to see Don come tearing around the corner in his XR6 Turbo, Johnny Cash blasting through the speakers.

'Ironically enough, one of the ongoing issues that we face in the south of Canning is hooning. To combat this, Don embarked on a wildly successful campaign in which he encouraged his constituents to dob in a hoon, using the specially designed Don Randall DL card. Given Don's penchant for speeding and being the paranoid publicist that I am, I tried to talk him out of it. After hours of trying to come up with a suitable reason why, I finally had to admit to Don that I was convinced he would be the hoon his constituents would dob in most.

'Don loved his car. He relished any opportunity to drive it. On one particular occasion after a long day in Waroona he foolishly surrendered the keys to me so that he could take a much-needed nap, only having flown into Perth from Canberra on the red eye the night before. As he settled into the passenger seat and closed his eyes, I frantically adjusted the rear-view mirror and took a deep breath. I'll never be sure if it was my nerves or the sensitive accelerator I've since come to blame; but, as we pulled away from Waroona, I ended up doing the world's biggest accidental burnout, smoke and all. Refusing to make eye contact with Don, all I could muster were the words, "Please don't sack me." Needless to say, Don never let me drive his car again!

'Lesson No. 2: tea bags are made from the stuff they scraped up off the floor. When it comes to beverages, we all know that wine was Don's first love. What you might not know is he was also partial to a strong cup of tea. If you are sitting there thinking that making a cup of tea is a fairly straight-forward process then you have never, obviously, worked the Don Randall. Don's favoured Sri Lankan tea leaves—I knew there was a reason he so engaged with the Sri Lankans—had to be brewed in the Don Randall certified teapot for exactly 4½ minutes and not a second longer.

'He had an unwavering commitment to his tea, something that was seriously tested during a recent trip to Canberra. I had been called away from the office, leaving the newest member of team Randall to make Don a cuppa. Upon my return I was promptly summoned to the boss's office, where he announced we needed to have a serious conversation about tea duties. With a look of grave concern, Don passed me his favourite blue mug and whispered, 'This tastes like lukewarm cat's …'. I will leave the last word out of it. Don never had the heart to admit to Callan, his staffer, why he was never allowed to make tea again.

'Lesson No. 3 is the one I really loved: you cannot avoid the Chief Government Whip but you can bloody well try! First of all, I should probably acknowledge our Chief Government Whip, who was there today, Scotty—and I would really like to stay employed, so please accept this as my sincere apology in advance. (1) All of the times I told you Don was on the way to the chamber, he was not; (2) All of the times I told you I could not find him, I could; (3) All of the times I rescheduled his duty roster due to important commitments—yeah, I lied about that one too.

'Like any good political staffer, I always had Don's back. In fact, the only reason I am admitting to any of this is that Don would never forgive me if I threw away the opportunity to hang some of the Randall rat pack out to dry. Scott, (1) If Don did not turn up to the chamber, he was with Bob Baldwin; (2) If you could not find him, he was at Santa Lucia with Andrew Southcott; (3) If we rescheduled his duty roster, Warren Entsch and David Johnston probably had something to do with it. But don't worry, they are not the only ones I lied to.

'During our last trip to Canberra, Don was in his office with the usual suspects enjoying some of the Cuba's fine produce when a member of the opposition knocked on the door. The member, who is now sitting at the table, demanded to know if Don was once again smoking cigars in his office, a claim I adamantly denied, through a cloud of smoke, going as far as to offer my services in tracking the perpetrator down. Just as I thought I had the member convinced, in typical Randall style Don swanned into the foyer and said, "Ah, Alannah, would you like a Cuban?"

'That brings me to lesson No. 4: Canning over Canberra. In 2010 Labor naively thought they had Canning won by virtue of their high-profile candidate, Alannah MacTiernan. More fool them. Ms MacTiernan, a senior former minister from the Gallop state government was certainly a formidable opponent but she was no match for the straight-shooting maverick from country WA. Don was a superhuman advocate for the people of Canning and undisputed king of doorknocking.

'I admit, some of the lengths he went to were extreme but, in Don's eyes, it was all part of the job. On one occasion he found himself on the doorstep of a family whose pet rabbit had just died. Rather than turning a blind eye he not only offered to bury the rabbit but also offered to give it the send-off the owners felt it deserved. He doorknocked in that 40 degree heat—in the rain—and was not deterred by dog attacks. If you were a journalist wanting a scoop on the Canning campaign it was expected you would be on the pavement alongside Don. After all, he could not waste precious door-knocking time on the fourth estate. One newspaper even went so far as to suggest that Don had door knocked so many of his constituents that they had actually taken out restraining orders against him.'

In conclusion, there was not much that could stand in the way of Don representing his constituents, and the ministers here today can attest to the fact that Don knew no boundaries when it came to making sure the concerns of his constituents were addressed. Don's life's work was not to champion those with wealth or power or special connections, it was to give a voice to those who were not heard. He was more than a boss, more than just a mentor, he welcomed his staff and his family. In the end, Don never lost Canning—but Canning lost Don.

I regret we have lost a member of the Canberra family, an important member, a great member—a person who left this parliament, not a person who was disposed of by this parliament. To Tess, Julie, Elliott, his sisters and his staff: he was a great man who will be sorely missed.