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Monday, 10 August 2015
Page: 7748

Mr ABBOTT (WarringahPrime Minister) (11:30): I move:

That the House record its deep regret at the death, on 21 July 2015, of Donald James Randall, a Member of this House for the Division of Swan from 1996 to 1998 and for the Division of Canning since 2001, place on record its appreciation of his long and meritorious public service, and tender its profound sympathy to his family in their bereavement.

This House quite frequently notes the passing of the great, the good and the famous, but there is a shock and a poignancy when we remember someone who was actually sitting amongst us just six weeks ago. Six weeks ago he was a part of our deliberations. Six weeks ago we could talk with him, joke with him, dine with him and on occasion be chided by him, and now he has gone.

Don Randall was a man who had kept bees, tended roses, caught rabbits, played the violin and trained horses. He had more than a passing interest in footy, golf and good wine. Along the way he had been a jackaroo, a rodeo rider and a local government councillor. For 20 years he was a teacher; his work included helping children with intellectual disabilities. All of this reflected a natural inquisitiveness and an interest in people that made him well suited to public life.

Don was elected the member for Swan in the Howard landslide of 1996. He lost in 1998, but he came back in 2001 in the seat of Canning. In fact, John Howard named Don, and Bob Baldwin, 'the MacArthurs' because they did return. In 2001 his margin in Canning was just 530 votes, but by 2013 his margin was 20,900 votes and he won every single booth. 2013 was his biggest victory, but 2010 was his most satisfying. In that year Labor had chosen Alannah MacTiernan as its candidate, known throughout the state as an effective minister. In the end though, Don won by over 3,500 votes. Three years later, when Alannah was elected member for Perth and took her first trip across the continent, she found Don Randall in the seat next to her. I am sure we will hear from the member for Perth, because a friendship developed between these two fierce political warriors.

Don's motto in the electorate was, 'You talk, I listen.' Over here, especially in the party room, it was sometimes a case of, 'I'll talk, you listen'—at least to leaders. He was fearless, absolutely fearless, and utterly impervious to political correctness, but he did have a natural affinity with people. He put that gift to work by doorknocking week in, week out. More than a decade and a half of doorknocking created its own legends. His car was known as a mobile maintenance unit; in the back of his car were the tools to fix everything from phones to sewers. On one occasion, Don doorknocked a house to discover a constituent in deep distress—the family's pet rabbit had died. Without missing a beat, Don went to his car, took out a shovel and gave the rabbit the burial it deserved. On another occasion he visited an elderly lady's home and noticed that the roses needed some tending. So out came the secateurs and the roses were pruned, and in the years that followed Don returned to prune those roses again and again. Of course, he was chased and bitten by dogs, and on occasions, as we learned at his funeral, he was met by all sorts of people—once, by a lady just out of the shower, who was wearing little more than a bath mat.

He was one of those MPs who preferred to make a phone call than to write a letter, because he knew that personal engagement was the way to get things done. In many respects he was the classic Australian male, yet he had a deep inquisitiveness of other cultures. He was the chair of the parliamentary friendship groups for Japan, Cuba and Sri Lanka, and the relationships formed through these friendship groups were real and sustaining. To give one example, he quietly made small payments to a family in Sri Lanka to help them buy a sewing machine, which they turned into a family business. That was always his approach—to build relationships, one person and one household at a time.

The anchor of Don's own life was his family. He was married to Julie for 31 years. His love for Julie, and for his children Tess and Elliott, was abundantly reciprocated, and we welcome them to the parliament today.

Early in this parliament Don said:

The next member for Canning—may that be well into the future—will probably win his seat by being on social media. But the old-fashioned way of getting out there, shaking hands, putting up a placard and telling people who you are, and listening to them, still works … I am interested in what my people have to say. I do not always agree with them and I cannot always deliver for them, but I am interested in listening to what they have to say.

He went on:

That is why we come to this place: to represent the people in our electorates. There is a pretty cynical view about politics in this country—that is, politicians are here just for themselves. If we are here for the people, they will continue to give us the benefit of the doubt …

Don was not one of those MPs who set out ostentatiously to change the world, but he did change people's lives. Thanks to Don, the Perth to Bunbury Highway became an expressway. Chiefly thanks to Don, there are now special Commonwealth programs for children with autism. Thanks in part to Don, the Clontarf program for Indigenous footballers now attracts public and private support. And thanks to Don, this parliament does not sit on Fridays. A few years back, when a certain Prime Minister decided that MPs would be in parliament on Fridays but not the Prime Minister, it was Don who brought 'cardboard Kev' into the chamber, firmly establishing the principle that, if it was important enough for the parliament to sit, it was important enough for the Prime Minister to be here too.

Every one of us here is striving to make a difference. We all so want our lives to be worthwhile. Don, yours was. Farewell, Don, you will live on in the hearts of your friends and your family to whom we extend our deepest condolences.