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Monday, 10 August 2015
Page: 7757

Mr GRAY (Brand) (12:09): Thank you, Mr Speaker, and congratulations on your elevation. And to the member for Mackellar: thank you for your service in this position, too.

In giving a eulogy for Don Randall, it gives me no pleasure at all to be speaking of a bloke who had become a mate, and whose death genuinely surprised me, as it surprised all of us. He was a bloke who built a political platform in the suburbs—and he stood for those suburbs. He is a bloke who held his seat, originally, by the thinnest of margins, but behaved in this place with the greatest of courage. And when he lost his first seat, he went back and he thought seriously about his role—and when he then came back to win the seat of Canning, he won it by a hair's-breadth. He won it by the Halls Head booth in the middle of Mandurah, and he knew he had won it by the Halls Head booth. By the time Don was taken from us, he won in every booth in that electorate—simply astonishing.

Julie, Tess and Elliott: Don was a mate. He was a good man and a good participant in this place. He was the son of a family shaped by the Great Depression. He was the son of battlers. He grew up in the WA wheat belt town of Merredin, where he attended primary school and high school. Merredin is an extraordinary place; simply extraordinary. It has produced liberal 'dries' like John Hyde; the region has produced National Party populists. It produced Peter Walsh, and it produced the secretary of the Treasury, John Stone. It has produced local West Australian Greens. And it produced Don. There is no similarity between the political characters that I have just mentioned and Don, because Don was just Don. He was a baby boomer in postwar WA's education system. He was in a class of nearly 50 students in his school, and he learned how to draw attention to himself through his cheekiness, stirring up teachers in class and soon being kicked out of class by his teacher. It was a skill that Don deployed to great effect in this place.

In a life that Don himself would frequently describe as 'a lucky life'—'a Lotto life'—he was a horse trainer, a radio writer, a rabbit trapper, an apiarist, an accomplished gardener, and a teacher with real affinity for kids with learning difficulties. He was a local councillor, a Liberal loyalist, an MP, and an advocate for the people. He enjoyed good red wine—not West Australian wine, in general; usually South Australia wine. But there is a reason for that. He enjoyed good food and a cigar. He loved his family—Tess, Elliott, and, of course, Julie. He enjoyed time on the beach at Binningup. He spoke Italian and he played the violin. In Merredin, the Randalls grew up with flowers in the front yard and roses in the back. The garden was prolific, and Don learnt how to grow vegies at a very young age. Don was recognised for his green thumb. Constituents could attest to this, as Don would frequently take secateurs with him on his doorknocking, assisting older residents by doing a little pruning of their roses. He even had a select group of regulars—as the Prime Minister has referred to—for whom he pruned roses or dispensed gardening advice. Don cared about people. He cared about the little people, the small people, the small businesses—the truckies, the tomato growers, the earth movers, the teachers, the cheesemakers, the citrus growers, the butchers, the bakers, the hairdressers, and the cafe owners. And they all knew him. If you looked at the funeral notices, the obituaries in The West Australian or in his local newspaper over the course of the last few weeks, there were days when they ran for pages and pages and pages: a grade 5 class from Armadale acknowledging Don's efforts and help; hairdressers—I often wondered about the hairdressers, because you would not have noted Don as being a person who went to the hairdresser's very often!

Don enjoyed music. The Merredin brass band—we learned—practised in Don's home. His mum made their uniforms. But Don, ever being eclectic, took to the violin with enthusiasm and skill. Rabbit tracking, beekeeping and lawn mowing were good earners for young Don around Merredin. On leaving home, Don played football, went to teachers college, and learned to appreciate his family heritage in South Australia—a family of battlers with good bush skills; horse riders, grape growers, and workers of the land. In his younger years, Don spent time on a station north of Meekatharra as a roustabout. Horse riding led to Don's enduring interest—and, I suspect, Julie's enduring frustration—in specialising in slow horses. Don even tried his hand at breaking horses. He enjoyed riding in bush races and in rodeos as far and as wide as Carnarvon and Meekatharra.

He was a bloke who enjoyed people, and people were at ease with Don. When Don made friends, they were for life. Don stood up for battlers; he always did. His family remembered that at his funeral. And Don was so proud of his kids—his daughter, Tess, and her violin skills and also his son, Elliott, and his footy skills.

But Don was a man of habit. Seat 1D on the Qantas aeroplane home was seat 1Don, and I would sit next to him. On our travels back to Perth, Don would always pick up a packet of hot chocolate from the Chairman's Lounge because on some occasion, once upon a time, Tess had said she liked it. He would also pick up some licorice allsorts for Julie because on one occasion, I suspect, Julie, you had said you liked them too. He made it a simple habit. When Tess was in Canberra with Don, he was proud. In this business, our kids do not get to see what we do. Tess and Elliott saw what Don did, and they were rightly proud of him. Tess worked for Don, and she was good at her job. They made a good team, both in the Canning office and in the garden. Tess, we liked your dad. At the funeral, Elliott told us that they had shared footy skills—Don mainly collecting footballs from the roof where Elliott had kicked them, and Don getting to know the people by climbing on their roofs and retrieving them. Elliott talked of Don's enjoyment working as a goal umpire while Elliott played footy. Elliott and Don played golf together; Don would talk about that on the plane ride home. Don enjoyed the country shows: Waroona was his favourite, and he was its patron. The Waroona show society, of course, were prolific in their funeral notice in mentioning Don. Elliott told us at the funeral of how Don went to the rescue of a constituent after a swarm of bees had taken up residence in her garden. Elliott held a torch, with no bee protection, while Don smoked the bees, removing the queen. Don still has those bees, which are making honey even now. At his funeral, Elliott told of him working on a kibbutz, racing horses, playing golf, smoking a Cuban cigar—not all at the same time but in a colourful and entertaining life.

The political Don that we all know had a win in 1996. He was proud of John Howard, and he felt personal loss and accountability for the defeat in 1998. I first met Don in early 2001, at about the time that he had decided to run for Canning. At the time that he had decided to run for Canning, the Howard government trailed in the opinion polls. The government of Richard Court had just lost the WA election, and the Liberals had just lost the Ryan by-election. Canning, with the Liberals, was trailing, and Kim Beazley, who held the adjoining seat, was riding high. But Don's instincts were strong. When he won the seat, Don likened himself to a racehorse—as Keating would say, running one out and one back, an unlikely winner. As I said, Don won because of tenacity and the Halls Head booth. Soon he ended up winning all of the booths in Canning.

Don made a substantial contribution in this place—not only by saving us from Friday sittings, which is a blessing which all of us from Western Australia were greatly indebted to Don for. Don built lasting personal friendships with the Sri Lankan community, the Japanese, the Taiwanese and, lately, the Cubans. Don was an eclectic man. He enjoyed good food—fish, beef and Italian—and red wine. When he died, it was to be my shout for the next one of our lunches. It was actually very hard to shout Don for lunch or for a drink. You would find that he had already got up and talked to Nunzio and dealt with the bill. You would find that he would turn up and we would drink his bottles of wine first, on account of he would bring four and that meant that you would not get to the wine that anyone else might have brought. He liked Canberra's Italian restaurants—La Capanna, La Cantina, Italian and Sons, Santa Lucia—and he enjoyed, in Fremantle, Villa Roma, where he was a close friend to Nunzio. Lunch with Don at Villa Roma was simply lovely, and I miss that.

Many of his staff went on to work for state and federal ministers. They were good staffers who made their mark, and Don was proud of them. Don was not simply proud of them as graduates from his stable; he was proud of them for what they would contribute to Western Australia and to our nation. He was not simply proud because one was his daughter. He was proud because he gave to his party and to his community by developing a skill pool on his staff that has been greatly deployed to the advantage of the Liberal Party in Western Australia.

Don championed Gerard Neesham's Clontarf Foundation. Don could speak Italian, and Western Australian Italians liked him. The Borrello cheese family were so strongly supportive of Don that, although they occupied a street which is partly in my electorate, when I went to call on them to say, 'Hi,' they simply did not respond. We emailed them; they did not respond. Eventually, they contacted me and said Don had said it was okay. I mentioned to you the page upon page of funeral notices: 'Sincere sympathies to the Randall family, a respected friend and customer. You were always willing to give a helping hand. Signed, Vince and Theresa Borrello and family and staff at the Borrello cheese factory.' There were so many of those businesses that Don knew literally inside out.

Don made Canning safe for his party by standing up for locals, and he mentored a generation of Liberal activists. He strove for excellence in his electorate operation. When he said he would help, he did. Don stood up against political bureaucracy; he got stuff done. Chris Evans told me that. Chris Evans was the immigration minister when Don was dealing with immigration issues for his constituents, and Chris reported that Don was simply relentless.

He raised money for autism in Western Australia. Again, a funeral note from the Autism Association: 'Don touched so many lives with his memorable Walk for Autism,' they say, 'where he walked around his electorate to raise funds and awareness for autism. His warmth in the way in which he was received by the hundreds of people that he met along the way, the schools he visited and the places he dropped in was a reflection of the respect that Don enjoyed in his community.' That is from the Autism Association of Western Australia.

He raised money for the Liberals in massive fundraising events. I was so jealous of Don. I wish I could have run a fundraising event just half as good as his. Don was also proud of his government car; it was a Ford XR6. I know that he was proud of it because I was the minister when Don told me he wanted that car, and I put it on the government list as an approved car. It was Australian made and it was within the right price band and the right cost. At his funeral, Don's staff told the story of why he did not have magnetic stickers on his car doors. He did many thousands of kilometres of driving each week in Canning and it would seem, so thought his staff, to be a good idea to have magnetic door stickers. But Don was also an old teacher. One day while driving home after heavy winter rainfall, where water was pooling in great reservoirs on the road, Don spotted some boys wagging school. Don swerved his XR6 through the water, spraying them completely wet. Don had reasons for not wanting magnetic stickers on his car!

That car was Don's pride and joy—driving fast, listening to and loving Johnny Cash. While driving to an electorate event in Boddington a few weeks ago, Don died in his car. He died at work, he died doing what he enjoyed and he died doing what he was good at. He would say, 'You talk; I listen.' And he did listen. I will miss you, Don, my friend. I offer my heartfelt condolences to Julie, Tess, Elliott and Don's terrific staff and to you, Prime Minister, and the Liberal Party. Don served the people through politics. He won and lost Swan; he won and never lost Canning. As Don's staffer said in beautifully chosen words, 'Don never lost Canning. Canning lost Don.' Vale, Don.