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Tuesday, 11 August 2015
Page: 5009

Senator BACK (Western Australia) (19:25): On the evening of Tuesday, 21 July, I was at RAAF Base Amberley on a parliamentary visit, and I received a phone call from a commercial radio station in Perth. The caller asked me if I would make some comments about Don Randall. I have to admit to you that my first reaction when I was asked whether I would make a comment about Don Randall was, 'What's Don done this time?' because we know that Don was an incredibly colourful character. This evening I just want to pay my respects to the family of Don Randall, but also I want to make some comments about another great stalwart of our party, the past member for Hume, because Alby also passed away recently. By coincidence, his funeral was on the same day that Don Randall died.

We know the stresses on people who undertake the work that we do. It was in the late 1990s that our then colleague Senator John Panizza passed away. He was in Cairns on a Senate hearing. He did not appear in the morning. They opened his hotel room up and, of course, John had passed away. John came from Marvel Loch, which is some 300 kilometres east of Perth, and it was only then that someone started to consider what sorts of pressures there are on people who have got to travel in from Marvel Loch or Southern Cross to Perth and then get their way across here to the eastern states.

Don Randall was only 62 years of age. He was, for many of us, a mentor. He was a scallywag. He was the quintessential Australian person. I suppose he probably mirrored Alby Schultz in some ways as well, and I will come to that in a few moments. Don originally stood for and won the seat of Swan and then lost it, and then of course he won the seat of Canning, which he not only held but was able to get to an 11 per cent margin, in a seat which is not naturally—as Senator Cash would well know—a seat which would be pro our side of politics.

Don was born in Merredin in the eastern wheat belt, a town where I spent a good number of years. In fact, I met my wife, Linda, in Merredin. We reflected often on that town and the influence the wheat belt had on him. He became a teacher at training college. Don had a most unusual attitude to the workplace. He had a very keen interest in horseracing. He was a very good teacher. He was a teacher who was loved by his students, mainly because of his unusual teaching style. But also it was seen to be quite remarkable: if Don had a horse running in Northam or York or Beverley or Toodyay on a Wednesday, it was amazing how often he was not able to get to work on a Wednesday afternoon! At one stage in his career he became a racehorse trainer. I once told him he probably could not have trained a vine up a toilet wall. He took umbrage at that!

Don needs to be remembered from the federal parliament for his fearless defence of the little man. Those of us from Western Australia know that, when Don picked up a cause, it did not matter who he took issue with. If the minister of the Crown was a Labor Party person, be they state or federal, or if they were a Liberal Party person, be they state or federal, they incurred Don's wrath if he felt that one of his constituents was being harshly dealt with. As recently as a month ago, he had gone in to bat for somebody who had bought some land. For whatever reason, the department of the environment had decided to take this person through the courts. Don fearlessly defended that person through to our Attorney General, Michael Mischin, publicly, in a Liberal Party monthly meeting, and of course he very, very strongly represented the case of the little person.

Don loved a red. Here in this place, if you caught up with him at an event, he would always give you good counsel as to what reds you should and should not try. I would say to him, 'Don, are you directing me'—you will be interested in this, Acting Deputy President Whish-Wilson—'towards Western Australian reds?' and he would say, 'No, no, no, because that Yarra Valley red, that shiraz, is the one you've got to try.' I do not know if he ever got much of a taste for your Tasmanian wines.

But most of all Don loved and was proud of his family: his wife, Julie, and their two children, Elliott and Tess. He would always speak about their achievements, about how well they were going. Of course, Tess worked originally for him and then for our Minister for Foreign Affairs, Julie Bishop.

I guess the last memory that I have of Don was a call that he made to me. He would appear to have had a very, very rough exterior, but in fact he was a person with a deep concern for his colleagues. It was about a matter which I will not discuss, but it was one in which he had concern for my wellbeing. He was at some pains on a Saturday afternoon to call me to see whether or not there was anything he could do to assist me in what he saw as being an assault.

I speak too of Alby Schultz. Alby was very, very ill prior to the 2013 election. Alby was the member for Hume, and of course Angus Taylor now is the member for Hume. It is fair to say, I think, that Alby's cancer had so consumed him that none of us thought he was going to survive through to the end of the parliamentary session in the last parliament. He was a person who was vehemently concerned particularly by industrial wind turbines. He was a person who spoke eloquently on those issues on which he had concerns, and that was one on which I had much to do with Alby Schultz.

Alby's was also an interesting story in contrast to that of Don. Alby came up through the hard school. He was a slaughterman, and he ended up as a member of parliament for the seat of Hume in the Parliament of Australia. I do not know how he lost his eye. I think it in fact may have been in an industrial accident. I am sure that from where he is today he will not mind me saying that I always had great difficulty when I was engaging in conversation with Alby because I did not actually know which eye to concentrate on.

But I can certainly tell you that Alby Schultz represented his electorate. He represented his constituents. Indeed, it would be fair to say that the views he held he held strongly. In the party room, he was a fierce advocate, but at the same time Alby was a person who would listen to the views of the other person.

In the few moments I have left to me, I just want to reflect on the fact that we in this place, be we in the Senate or in the House of Representatives, are privileged—I accept that—but the wider community also needs to know that we work very, very hard on behalf of our constituents. In the time I have been here, I have yet to meet the first person of whichever political persuasion who has not had the genuine desire and the genuine objective of doing the best that they can for their constituents, for their state or territory and for the country.

As I reflect on the life of Don Randall, 62 years of age, still a member, and that of Alby Schultz, a retired member, I guess the message that I just want to put out there to the wider community is that, however critical the wider community might be of what they see as being entitlements—which I would say are conditions of employment, but that is a discussion for another time—I think the wider community need to be somewhat respectful of the geographic distances in this country and the difficulties associated with getting here and being here. I heard Senator Siewert being criticised the other day on Perth radio. Those who criticised her and us in that context—it was a disgrace.