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Monday, 10 August 2015
Page: 7766

Mr ROBB (GoldsteinMinister for Trade and Investment) (12:51): As everyone who has spoken here has said, and so many other people, it was a great shock, a great source of sadness, to learn of Don's death. Along with my colleagues, I would like to convey my condolences and deepest sympathies to Don's wife, Julie, and their two children, Tess and Elliott. It is still hard to accept in so many ways that such a strong voice for Western Australia has left us so early—far too early.

I had the good fortune to be heavily involved in the beginning of Don's parliamentary career—before he got to this place, actually. Don was one of my team of marginal-seat candidates in the 1996 election, when we won back government after 13 years. He and others in WA were very much celebrated for their contribution to that. He won the seat of Swan, as we have heard. I got to know him in that campaign because I visited Western Australia many times. Swan was a seat that was going to be very difficult to win at any time; but, with a swing on and a good candidate, we thought we had good prospects. The party provided a lot of support because the swing was on and we did judge that we had a very good candidate.

I got to know him as a door-knocker extraordinaire; a man with a very authentic personality; a character, as so many others have attested to; and a man of wide interests. Like the member for Perth, I have been surprised to hear about some of the interests he had. He was a horse trainer and a rodeo rider. I wish I had known that, because I have had an involvement with horses all my life and I used to go to the occasional rodeo, and Don and I were much the same age. Unfortunately, I never ran across him when he was riding. I did not run across the member for Perth either!

Ms MacTiernan interjecting

Mr ROBB: I am sorry! I also had a good introduction to his irreverent streak when, from time to time, he disagreed with instructions from campaign headquarters. As others will attest to, when Don exposed something stupid that you might have done, he did not miss. You remembered it, not in a vindictive way but in order to avoid that treatment again!

When I saw Don in action, especially in those few months before he won that first campaign, I learnt a lot about the importance of genuinely listening to people. He demonstrated that great capacity. You could see that he was really absorbing what people were saying, no matter what it was. You do get the odd eccentric thing said to you as a politician, especially when you are in campaign mode, but Don never failed to absorb what he was being told. As someone else said, he may not have agreed with it—and I am sure he did not, half the time. But he had that capacity that I saw in John Howard. That is a fairly significant figure to align him with, but he had that capacity to identify with people, and they knew that there was an authenticity associated with that.

Many have spoken of his irreverence. Despite that, or maybe because of it, he took his responsibilities very seriously, from my observation. Over the 11 years that I have been in the House, he introduced me to many local mayors, which I have been very grateful for, and many domestic and international issues. Irrespective of the different responsibilities I have had, I was exposed to Don's sheer persistence—'the squeaky wheel par excellence', I used to think. I think the member for Dickson called it 'relentless'. I would call it dog-with-a-bone syndrome. He understood that, if he kept at people who had the opportunity to do something that would benefit his constituency, maybe that issue would get to the top of their list. You would think, 'Invariably, I'm going to run into Don in the corridor. I'd better make that phone call,' or do whatever. The important thing is that he had a lot of success because of that tenacity with which he went about his task. And I always found with Don that, whether or not an issue had been resolved, even if it had been unsuccessful, Don would make the effort to thank you for doing some representation on behalf of someone from his electorate. He always showed gratitude to those who responded to his requests. That does not always happen in life. But he did mark himself as a person of great character, I think.

Don's life was far too short, but it was a life, as I think we have heard today, rich in achievement. It was the life of a good man, a man loved by his family and extended family, and a man loved by so many others. He will be sorely missed.