Condolence motion: Don Randall

  • Speech, E&OE

MrSpeaker, I take this opportunity to congratulate you on your elevation to thishigh office.

Duringparliamentary sitting weeks I begin my day with a run into Parliament House. Itis, for me, a tranquil 40 minutes as I take in the sights and sounds ofCanberra mornings before the turbulence and noise and intensity of parliamentdescends. Over many years my early morning run has been punctuated by a brightspot–a daily encounter with Don Randall, as he walked the same route but in theopposite direction. I looked forward to this brief conversation invariablyalong these lines: 'Morning, Don! What mischief are you up to today?' 'Morning,Jules! Just you wait and see!' Don became a close friend, a trusted friend. Hemade me laugh. He had a droll, often irreverent sense of humour. We had ashared passion for the West Coast Eagles. When I was on the board of the AFLclub during a rather low patch in its fortunes, Don never missed an opportunityto tell me precisely what was wrong with the team and precisely how it could befixed–and he always ended with: 'In my humble opinion.' There was a larrikinstreak within Don's personality. He was a larger-than-life character, oftenspeaking his mind without any regard for the consequences. He was loyal to afault. There was a side to Don that was far softer, more caring than perhapshis public persona. Don had an uncanny way of knowing when his mates werefeeling down, knowing when to contact them. He was always there for them–and hehad many, many close friends.

On17 July last I was attending the national memorial service in Canberra on thefirst anniversary of the downing of Malaysian Airlines MH17. It was a veryemotional day for the family and friends of the victims who were here inCanberra. It also happens to be my birthday. I received this text–and I havekept it: 'Hi Julie. On what is obviously a sad day for you and others aboutyou, I hope you take time to enjoy and celebrate your birthday. Cheers, Don.' Iam so pleased that I took the time to respond to him: 'Thanks, Don. So verysweet of you to send me a birthday text–emoji, emoji–Cheers, Julie.' That wasthe last communication between us.

Overmy eight years as Deputy Leader of the Liberal Party I have been asked by theleader, from time to time, to have a word with Don, invariably after Don haddone or said something that had caused headlines–and not in a positive way. Atfirst Don was rather curt with me and clearly defiant, but over the years thetone of our conversations changed to the point where, after any particularincident involving Don when I would contact him, he would say: 'What took youso long? I've been waiting for your call!' Recently, his beautiful daughter,Tess, told me that Don's staff had dubbed me 'the Don Tamer'.

Throughouthis parliamentary career, Don never lost sight of his role as a local member,first elected by the people of Swan in 1996. The GST election of 1998 saw hisseat change hands in a swing against the federal government in the west. It wasa momentary setback for Don, but he returned in 2001 as the member for Canning,a responsibility which he cherished and to which he was devoted. His politicalcareer spanned almost 20 years and included seven elections–and Don was asuperb campaigner. He was at home amongst his constituents. He listened totheir concerns. He fought for and, if necessary, defended their interests. Whennew members would ask me for tips on retaining their seat, I would alwayssuggest they spend time with Don Randall. He understood better than most howmuch time, effort and nurturing had to be dedicated to an electorate.

Donalso cared deeply for the people of Sri Lanka. He had a significant Sri Lankanconstituency and he became involved in the life of their country of birth,supporting charities that worked with the victims of the civil war,particularly in the northern region. He loved Sri Lanka and was loved inreturn. Let me read from a letter from the Sri Lankan foreign minister, MangalaSamaraweera, that I received just after Don's death: 'We will continue tohonour and value his consistent support for our country in the Australianparliament, including the steadfast advocacy for peace and reconciliation inSri Lanka. As the architect and chair of the Australia-Sri Lanka parliamentarygroup since its inception, Don contributed significantly to promote ourbilateral relations, people-to-people contacts and interparliamentary outreach.In the passing of the Hon. Don Randall, Sri Lanka has indeed lost a true friendand kindred spirit.'

Don'sgreatest love was his family: his wife, Julie, his daughter, Tess, his son,Elliot. They were the centre of his universe. He believed in the sanctity ofthe family unit. As he said in his first speech to parliament:

Thisis where young Australians learn about responsibility for themselves and whereolder Australians learn responsibility for others.

DonRandall was from the West; he was of the West. He spoke in the vernacular. Hechampioned the values, the interests of the West. As a teacher, horse trainer,marketing consultant and local councillor he brought a breadth of experienceand insight and community perspective to the Australian parliament.

Thismorning, as I ran along my route to Parliament House, I felt quite painfullythe loss–that Don was not there. I ran past a man I had not seen before, and hecalled out, 'I'm so sorry to hear about Don Randall.' I stopped and spoke tohim. He was a retired public servant–and apparently he got to know Don throughthe morning walks–and he said to me: 'I walked with him every morning he washere, but I'm taking a different route from now on. It just won't be the same anymorewithout Don.' I could not agree more. To Julie, Tess and Elliot: you are in ourhearts. Don Randall was a good man. He will be missed. Vale, Don Randall.

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