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Monday, 10 August 2015
Page: 7803

Mr SIMPKINS (Cowan) (15:47): It is an honour to speak on the life of Don Randall, a friend, a great colleague and a real leader in so many ways in this place. It is an honour that I welcome but it is not something I ever wanted. I would not want any of our colleagues on either side of the House to depart early. To depart in such a way is an absolute tragedy.

I guess when these things come upon us and these tragedies occur, it is a moment to think about the impact someone has had on us. This is a moment to think about the impact Don had on us. I have heard lots of great stories this morning and this afternoon about some of Don's great moments. They were, indeed, great moments. He was certainly fearless in the way he approached his duties and his work for the people of Canning. He was an absolute role model for so many of us. He really wrote the book not on the politics of being a member but on being an authentic local representative. These things are hard to emulate. We have heard stories today, and we heard stories on the day of the funeral from Chloe, Tess, Elliott, Andrew Southcott, Bob Baldwin and others. When you hear those stories on the background of Don that was not immediately apparent to most of us here, you start to put that in the context of your own interactions with the man. You start to think, 'Oh, so that is where that advice came from' or 'That's where that action came from.' I always considered the advice that Don gave me as extremely good. Now when I hear these great stories it really does make sense. That is the sort of guy he was. There was a consistency across his whole life that he brought into this place. In the interactions that he had with all of us, we saw those things play out.

He was a great friend. He was a very reliable guy. When Chloe mentioned those times she slightly misled the whip's office about Don's progress on his movement to the House to relieve somebody else, that put something in perspective as well. When the whip's office would assure me, 'Don't worry; you'll only be there for a minute or so. Don's on his way,' I would rule out the next five minutes. I knew I would still be here for that time.

The guy was something special. He was an excellent colleague and a very entertaining guy. There were a number of times that I walked down the corridor past his office and, if I showed even a hint of wanting to see him, he always said, 'Come in, come in.' It was never a problem. He was always there for us. He always made time for us. I really did appreciate it.

The first time I met Don was back in 2004, just after I had been endorsed for Cowan for the first time. He said, 'Come and see me.' I went down to his office and he gave me some great advice. It was not so much what he talked about as the things he actually did. I got a bit of a hint of the interactions he had with the people in his electorate. I do not think I got the detail of pruning roses and all that sort of stuff, but he always impressed upon me the importance of interacting very closely with people and of being genuinely interested in their lives and their challenges, because that was always the sort of guy he was. And again, it was not about the politics, it was not about the numbers game—moving people from one side of the ledger to the other—or anything like that; it was about the authenticity of purpose that Don Randall was a great exponent of. He lived it, he breathed it. He talked the talk and he walked the walk. And that was the charm, and that was the reason why he was so well regarded in his electorate—that is very hard to beat. There were other moments, where he entertained us: the action he used to do when he was sometimes called to account for what he did—where he throws his arms out like this—in my view, it was not like, 'it was not me'; it was more like, 'well, that is the truth, isn't it?' He really was a special guy, and very entertaining for us.

When I was unsuccessful at the 2004 election, he called me again and said, 'Come and see me.' And he gave some advice about carrying on and not giving up, about trying again and trying to finish the job. We have heard about that time that he had between Swan and Canning, and that was exactly that experience that he had—the disappointment he had, and being left to that harsh solitude of election defeat—that made him want to make sure it did not happen to others—to people like me, even though I had not been elected in the first place. But that advice he drew upon was most excellent for me.

The day before Don's funeral, I decided that I would drive to Pinnaroo—I thought it was very nice of the family to select a final resting place for Don so close to my electorate, and only 10 minutes' drive from my electorate office. I thought I would go out there and just make sure I knew exactly where I was going, so nothing would go wrong and so I would be there on time, because I did not want to miss his funeral for any reason whatsoever. When I got there, the first thing I saw was this magnificent marquee sitting on the grass near a beautiful lake, and shortly after that I saw Gemma Whiting, who is a very well-known staffer and Young Liberal in Western Australia, and she was looking after things for the funeral. It was great to see her there, and great to see that it looked so well planned and under control. So I knew it was going to be a good and fitting send-off for Don the next day. I certainly put it on record that I pay tribute to Gemma Whiting and her efforts, and to Don's entire staff as well, for the magnificent effort they made in rising to the occasion under very difficult circumstances. I would also like to thank Senator David Johnston for his magnificent work as MC and in delivering the eulogy as well—again, in very difficult circumstances in that moment—he did a great job. It really was a wonderful occasion, to be able to look back and hear about the different aspects of Don's life brought to us by people that were there.

It was just last Friday that I was sitting at a coffee shop talking to some constituents and someone came up to me that had actually been taught by Don Randall—so quite a few years ago—who saw me and came over and specifically said, 'so sorry to hear about Don; he taught me'—at a particular school—'and he was really something special'. And Don had a great impact on this young bloke's life. It is interesting, where we see that Don was a very important figure in Canning and before that in Swan, and in this place here, but his influence has impacted around so many places in the wider area of Perth as well, and people remember him so fondly and so dearly. It is pretty amazing, really.

I guess the last thing I would finish with is that on Saturday afternoon, I decided that I would just go and visit Don's grave; something that I thought I was going to do in the months ahead. Obviously, the day of the funeral was so busy—Don always could pull a big crowd!—and there were hundreds of people there; I would think that 700 would be a conservative estimate. It was very busy, so it was hard to have much of a personal moment on that day. So I looked forward to that opportunity where I would go and sort of sit with him for a while. When I look back on what happened, and on that funeral, the quietness and the solitude was something pretty special for me on Saturday. Surrounded by not much more than 100 kangaroos—part of the charm of the Pinnaroo cemetery—and just to be there with Don for a quiet ten minutes or so was pretty special. It is something I am going to do fairly regularly; I think I will probably go out to see Don every two or three months. I do not think that it is too much to ask, when someone has had such a positive impact upon a part of your life, that you should go and pay tribute to somebody like that and take those quiet moments, when it is just you and them, to say thanks—thanks everything he did for me, and thanks for the things he did for the electorate of Canning, and for the great impact that he had on this parliament. To conclude: my greatest condolences to Julie, to Tess and to Elliott; and to the wider family, and of course to Don's staff.

I would just say one more thing, because you guys were so magnificent on the day. At various times since I have been here, I have talked to Don about staff issues. We all try to get the best possible team we can at times, but almost always whenever I asked Don about these matters he would say, 'Oh, you should get people like I've got,' because he was obviously so proud. So well done to you guys from the staff, and, again, condolences to Julie, Tess and Elliott. Don, it was great knowing you, and I really appreciate the support you gave us.