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Monday, 10 August 2015
Page: 7838


Mr HOWARTH (Petrie) (18:37): I rise to talk on the motion of condolence moved by the Prime Minister in relation to the death of Donald James Randall. Don Randall's death came as a shock to me. He was such a sharp and strong personality; he filled this place with wit and with passion. The hole his death has left in many of our hearts, particularly on this side of the House, will be there for quite a long time.

As a new member, elected in 2013, I got to know Don through him reaching out to me. I sat near him in the coalition party room and he invited me out to a few functions. I went out to dinner with him a couple of times in Kingston. In the last sitting week before the winter break I was supposed to catch up with him for dinner, but the backbench committee on small business had something else on with the Prime Minister. We said to each other, 'Well, we'll catch up next time we're down here after the winter break.' I think that is why, when his death occurred on 21 July, it was such a shock. I had thought, 'We'll get to catch up next time,' but it was not to be. It was a terrible shock at the time.

In the first six months of my being here, he invited me along to the Sri Lankan High Commission to have dinner with the high commissioner. I like to have the chance to go out with different people; I did not know Don so well. I thought, 'That would be great. I'll come along to dinner with him.' I and a couple of other members got to the high commissioner's residence early and we had the chance to sit down and chat before Don arrived. Don turned up and came into the room and said, 'Right, let's get moving. We're hungry; we want to eat. We haven't got long.' We sat down to dinner; the conversation was great. I learnt that night that he was very frank. The Sri Lankan High Commissioner would raise something and Don would raise something—he would say it directly how he saw it. As a new member who had only been here a few months, I was slowly sinking under the table and thinking, 'Gee, this guy's pretty direct. He's pretty straight.' We all had a great night and I learnt a bit about Sri Lanka. We all left on great terms; the high commissioner and the staff were on great terms with Don. I appreciate that he invited me along.

I say quite often, and I said in my maiden speech, that life is about relationships; Don was certainly someone who valued relationships. He was ruthlessly honest, as I learnt that night at dinner, and just as ruthlessly determined to serve his electorate and the Australian people. I want to thank his family—his wife Julie, his children Tess and Elliott—for sharing Don with us here in the parliament and with his constituents throughout Canning. We all know as members of parliament that we cannot be effective here without the strong support of our families. Obviously, Don's family supported him over the 17 or so years he was a member of this place and before that as a councillor. So, to his family: thank you for sharing him with us and my heart is full of sympathy for you at this time. It is devastating to see someone so young go so suddenly. When you work with colleagues, you expect them to turn up for work next day or to be here the next time we sit.

As the member for Wentworth was saying, we expect our parents—our fathers—to die when they are very old, and so 62 is very young. It reminds us all that death is inevitable and that life is always too short. We come into this world with nothing and we cannot take anything with us when we go, but we can leave things behind. Don has left many things behind—incredible relationships and experiences—not just for his family but also for those people within his electorate. Other members today, from the Prime Minister onwards, spoke about some of the different services Don provided to people in his electorate—whether it was trimming someone's roses or fixing someone's taps when he was out doorknocking. I am sure he enjoyed those experiences very much, not as part of his campaigning but just chatting to people as he did his rounds. Those experiences and memories will be left with people in his electorate as well. There are fond memories for all of us in this place to look back on.

He was outstanding; he will be missed. May Donald James Randall rest in peace.