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Monday, 10 August 2015
Page: 7829


Ms HENDERSON (Corangamite) (17:50): It is with great sadness that I join my many parliamentary colleagues in this condolence motion for Don Randall. It is still hard to believe that Don Randall is no longer here with us. His death, of course, came as a terrible shock. A beautiful white rose sits in the place, just over here, of a great member of parliament, a fearless warrior and a wonderful family man. To Julie, Tess and Elliott, to other family members, to his friends, to his staff, to his Liberal and Canberra families and to the people of Canning, I offer my sincere condolences. You have lost a great husband, father, brother, friend and advocate.

To Julie, Tess and Elliott in particular, I too have sat in the gallery listening to a condolence motion—for my mother, Ann, a Victorian MP who, like Don, died far too young. As tough as it is, I know that, like for me, these tributes will give you great comfort in the days, months and years ahead. It was today a great pleasure to meet Julie, Tess and Elliott for the first time when we gathered for afternoon tea. It is very hard to imagine what they are enduring at the moment; but, as I say, I know that the incredible tributes we have heard in this place today will give them so much comfort at these very difficult times.

I regret that I did not get to know Don as well as others in this place, yet in a funny sort of way he became my spiritual guide during my 2013 election campaign. My campaign director was Jocelen Griffiths, who worked with Don and for Don for six years up until the end of 2010. The many lessons that Don taught Jocelen about winning a marginal seat from Labor Jocelen was able to pass on to me. This was underpinned by the philosophy that every community matters. In fact, at one stage before the 2013 election Don called me to wish me luck and to give me some advice. The most important message was, 'Doorknock your heart out,' and that I did.

We have heard about Don's legendary doorknocking efforts and suggestions that a restraining order would have to be taken out because he doorknocked so many homes over so many years and we heard earlier today in this condolence motion the Treasurer speaking about his times hitting the hustings with Don doorknocking. Before the election I took one of Don's great friends, the then shadow minister Julie Bishop, doorknocking in suburban Highton in Geelong with the media in tow, which is always a little daunting. I have to say for the record that I am pretty sure that the member for Curtin well and truly met Don Randall's expectations, unlike the Treasurer, who I feel had a bit of difficulty converting a few votes, from what we've heard today! Julie was able to convert more than a few swinging voters.

There was no better campaigner than Don Randal. Every single vote mattered. That is because every single person in Canning mattered. He put community first and politics second. Whether it be his tireless support for those with autism, his fight for young Indigenous men through the Clontarf Foundation or Australia's relationship with Cuba or Sri Lanka, Don Randall never did anything by halves. The Clontarf Foundation, for instance, started with 25 boys in the year 2000. It now looks after some 3,700 boys in 70 schools across Western Australia, the Northern Territory, Victoria, New South Wales and Queensland. This is a great testament to the man that Don was.

Don had great compassion, and I know Don shared the importance of speaking often about governing with compassion. As a special needs teacher for some 20 years, he had an extraordinary ability to empathise with the plight of others. In his first speech as the member for Canning he vowed to work for the most vulnerable. He said:

Nothing upsets me more than to see good, decent breadwinners working long and extensive hours to provide a better quality of life and opportunities for their children and to sadly observe that they are making little headway. For those who genuinely want to work to improve their lot, I support measures that will ensure that they get to keep more of the money that they earn.

We have heard many stories about Don today, and I certainly do agree that he was a lovable rogue, a scallywag, sometimes even a ratbag; but, even when he spoke out in his direct and often controversial way, he had a twinkle in his eye. He did like to make mischief, but this was also underpinned by a great conviction in what he believed to be right and just, fair and equitable.

He was also famous, as we heard at his funeral, for his one-liners, and one of my favourites went along these lines. Don said: 'I liken Mr Rudd to a sparkler: it's all glitz and it's fascinating everybody, but eventually it goes out and you've got a burnt stick in the end. But compare that with John Howard. He's like the eternal flame: steady, constant and always there doing the right job.'

I do regret not getting to know Don better than I did know him. He had many more lessons to share, many more stories to tell and more great advice to give. He was gutsy, and I really love that about Don. He was brave. He was courageous. It did get him into trouble, but I truly admired him for his courage. Canning and Corangamite are not dissimilar in their characteristics: large and diverse electorates made up of farming and coastal communities, sprawling suburbs and many country towns. If I can do half the job that Don did at consolidating a marginal seat, winning people's respect and fighting for his electorate, I will be very proud.

It has been very moving hearing the wonderful contributions of so many members in this place today—including some of Don's closest friends, particularly the foreign minister; the member for Paterson, who did an amazing job; the member for Hasluck; the member for Warringah; and the member for Swan.

Don reminds us once again that life is too short, and in Don's case it was way too short. In this place we will miss him dearly. Vale Don Randall.