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Wednesday, 29 November 2017
Page: 9194

Senator SESELJA (Australian Capital TerritoryAssistant Minister for Social Services and Multicultural Affairs) (13:36): I rise today to pay tribute to my great friend and colleague Steve Doszpot. Steve—or Dozzy, as he will forever be known—died last week after a battle with liver cancer at the age of 69. Steve was a remarkable servant to Canberra and Australia, and I'm proud to have worked with him in the ACT Legislative Assembly.

Steve's story begins when he was born in 1948 in Hungary—then a communist puppet of the Soviet Union. In October 1956, what began as a student protest against the Soviet occupation of Hungary became a popular armed revolution. The revolution deposed the communist government, disbanded the state police and formed a temporary Soviet withdrawal from the country. These few precious days of freedom were a struggle for faith, freedom and democracy, and these values guided Steve throughout his life.

Steve's father was a young Catholic activist at the time and had previously been interned by the communist government for speaking out in defence of his faith and his heritage. His family was forced to flee their home country at the end of 1956, and Steve would often recount their journey through the snow covered mountains to Yugoslavia. This is something that Steve and I shared as part of our family histories, as my uncle Stipan had experienced similar treatment in the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia.

Steve's family arrived in Sydney in 1957, and Steve brought with him a Hungarian accent, little English and a love of soccer. It was this love of soccer that first demonstrated Steve's love for and commitment to serve our community. Over the 40 years Steve and his wife Maureen lived in Canberra, Steve served as a player, coach, administrator and commentator and, from 1995 to 2002, as president of Soccer Canberra. Steve was a regular fixture at soccer matches in Canberra at all levels, from the juniors to the A-League. Steve designed the club logo of the Canberra City Football Club and served as the club patron in countless clubs and across many codes.

It was this dedication to the community that led Steve to pursue public life. He first ran in the 2001 territory election but was unsuccessful. He ran again in the 2004 territory election but again was unsuccessful. For most people, those two setbacks would be enough to turn them off—but not Steve. If anything, it redoubled his resolve. He ran again as part of my team in the 2008 territory election and he was elected as the member for Brindabella. As a member of the class of 2008, Steve was joined by Jeremy Hanson and Alistair Coe—both of whom would go on to become leaders of the Canberra Liberals in the ACT Legislative Assembly.

The tenacity and perseverance Steve showed on his path to public life he continued throughout it. No issue was too big or too small to catch Steve's attention and make him ask how he could help achieve a better outcome for his constituents, whether that was as a shadow minister pursuing justice for the family of an autistic child who was put in a cage at his school, or securing continued funding of disability services in the ACT, or being a strong local member ensuring that footpaths were maintained and adequate parking was available at local shops. I remember well his support for The Shepherd Centre. As a shadow minister, Steve fought hard to make sure the Shaddock review into ACT students with complex needs and challenging behaviours covered independent schools, to get justice for victims of bullying at CIT and to get nurses into the ACT's four special schools. As a local member, Steve was a strong advocate for better planning in his electorate. He continued his strong support for local sporting clubs to alleviate parking woes at Manuka Oval and Yarralumla shops.

Steve would go on to be re-elected at the 2012 territory election, this time in the seat of Molonglo, and again at the 2016 territory election, this time for a third seat, Kurrajong. This gives Steve the distinction of being the only member of the Legislative Assembly to have represented three different seats in three different assemblies—a record that will probably never be beaten. In the assembly, Steve earned a reputation as a ruthless inquisitor in the committee system. He served as chair of the Standing Committee on Justice and Community Safety and the Standing Committee on Health, Community and Social Services and as deputy chair of the Standing Committee on Environment and Transport and City Services and the Standing Committee on Education, Training and Youth Affairs. Steve's committee work was not defined by party political pointscoring, but by a desire to work on real community issues. He held many shadow portfolios and, from 2012 to 2014, served as the Deputy Speaker of the assembly.

Outside of the assembly, the Steve Doszpot trivia night was an annual fixture on the Canberra social calendar. What started out as one of Steve's harebrained schemes became an event with hundreds of people coming together to dig deep for a good cause. Steve would call in favours, hit the phones, do deals and even convince local Labor and Greens members to attend as well. This work raised thousands and thousands of dollars for charities. As Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said just last week in relation to Steve: 'There has been no greater champion of our party here in Canberra and no greater servant to the community in his work for our party than Steve Doszpot. I know Steve is unable to be with us tonight, but let us take a moment to reflect on his extraordinary contribution.' Steve died just a couple of days later.

The greatest testament to who Steve was came in this valedictory speech in the ACT Legislative Assembly. Steve could be forgiven for using that opportunity to settle old scores or reminisce on times gone by, but instead he chose to remain a strong advocate to the end, this time for early diagnosis and prevention of liver cancer. Primary liver cancer is the most rapidly rising cause of cancer death in Australia, with death rates almost doubling in the last two decades. Treatments for liver cancer are dependent on the stage of cancer at diagnosis, and early diagnosis can lead to improved survival rates. It was Steve's sincere hope that research would develop new diagnostic and treatment strategies so that fewer and fewer people would have to go through what Steve and his family have been through in recent times.

Steve Doszpot is survived by his wife, Maureen, their children, Adam and Amy, and their five grandchildren. It was a privilege to have worked with Steve. I want to salute his service to our party, our city and our nation. It was an honour to have known him. May God bless Steve and his family. May Steve be welcomed into his eternal home.