House debates

Tuesday, 27 March 2018


Staunton, Ms Donna

5:06 pm

Photo of Peter DuttonPeter Dutton (Dickson, Liberal Party, Minister for Immigration and Border Protection) Share this | Hansard source

I'd very much like to associate myself with the comments of the Minister for Health and the shadow minister for health. I've enjoyed both of those roles—not so much the shadow health minister role as much as I did the Minister for Health role. Nonetheless, one of the highlights during my course as a member in this place, as shadow minister and as the Minister for Health, was my dealings with Donna. A lot has been said, and quite ably, by the health minister and shadow health minister about Donna's professional background and the contribution she made. I wanted to join this debate not to add to that or to repeat the many accomplishments and attributes of her professional career; on a personal note, I wanted to associate myself as somebody who had a lot of time for Donna. I admired her very much and I enjoyed her friendship.

Sometimes it's a sad reality that you don't learn as much as you should about somebody until their passing or until a life event, and there's a lot that I've learnt about Donna's professional background, but there's nothing that I've learnt in terms of the person that she was. I already knew that she was a great mum who loved her children. She spoke very fondly of Jack and Maddie. She spoke very fondly of her responsibilities as a mother, and she was a very thoroughly decent person. There are lots of people who you meet in this place, and I can say on behalf of my two colleagues here that, in the health space, there are many people who come through the door who, sometimes, you wish might not stay as long as they would like to stay. There are lots of fine people within the health sector, but there are lots of people who have self-interest as their main motivator. Donna wasn't one of those people. She was able to build relationships with both sides of parliament because of her decency and the other attributes that she brought to the role. She was able to prosecute a case effectively, she was able to do it compassionately and she was able to do it for the right reasons.

I enjoyed many dinners with her. I indulge perhaps more than the health minister in terms of the wine on offer. Nonetheless, dinners were an occasion where people let their guard down, and you did see and appreciated an insight into the person Donna was. Whilst Michael Wooldridge was frantic at the dinners, directing and trying to provide the prompting for discussion—perhaps getting back to the order of business—Donna was a soothing influence within that business relationship. She was somebody who had a great relationship with Mike, and I enjoyed very much catching up with them both. You could see the dynamic between them. I know that not only Jack and Maddie and the people who are here today, Donna's family and friends, feel that loss but Mike feels that loss as well. Donna meant a lot to all of us.

As I said, none of us need to prosecute her professional achievements. But today, to Jack and Maddie, I want to say: I want your children, at some point way in the future, to read the words said in this parliament about a very fine person. I want your stories to be relayed to them, but I'd like our stories to be relayed as well. I am pleased for you to know today that we feel very deeply for you, we're very sorry for your loss and we were very honoured to have known a person of such character, somebody for whom we had a great deal of respect. She was someone who obviously was taken too early by a terrible disease, and that scar will live with the family forever, but I hope that we can provide some support today by celebrating a life that was well lived and someone who was respected by those of us who worked with her professionally here.

I can add no more than that, but it really is an occasion for us to mark the passing of a wonderful person who was respected by both sides of parliament. I'm very grateful for the opportunity to add to the remarks today.


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