Condolence speech for Senator Russell Trood, 07/02/2017

Minister Nigel Scullion’s Condolence speech for Senator Russell Trood, 07/02/2017

I rise on behalf of the Nationals in this place to also extend condolences to the family of former Senator Russell Trood, who passed away earlier this year. Russell was a great mate of mine as he was a great mate of so many people in this place. I would also note that whilst he had arrived here quite some years after I had arrived, he played a bit of a mentor to me. In particular, he used to reflect on my behaviour from time to time and said he had arrived not a day too late. He was born in 1948 and completed his education at the University of Sydney before spending time studying abroad in both Wales and Canada. Indeed it was during this time that Russell penned one of his first letters to an editor in praise of Senate committees—a telling sign of what was to come.

Prior to his election to the Senate, Russell had a successful career as an academic. He was a professor of international relations at Griffith University, and served on the boards of numerous policy institutes in that field including the Australian Institute of International Affairs and the Australian Indonesia Institute.

I referred to him pretty much within a week of meeting him as ‘Professor’. Many referred to him as ‘Troody’ or ‘Professor’. We had an ongoing discussion during our friendship. I really thought that a professor was far more important than a senator—they let me be a senator but they would never be let me be something as important as a professor. He agreed and allowed that reference from that time on.

As we have heard, Senator Trood’s election to the final Senate position for Queensland at the 2004 half-Senate election was somewhat of a surprise given he was in the sixth position on the ticket. His election was very important as it gave the Howard Government a majority in both houses. But Russell was indeed a man of surprises. He brought to the Senate an unmatched knowledge of international relations, especially of East Asian affairs. This was reflected on by our Prime Minister, who recently described Russell as ‘one of Australia’s finest foreign policy minds’ saying, ‘Australia’s relations with, and understanding of, our neighbours in the Asia Pacific have been enhanced by Russell’s tireless efforts over many years.’

Russell brought a wealth of knowledge and experience to this place, and I was always impressed by the wide range of topics he contributed on. I have to say, foreign affairs has never really been a background or a philosophy of mine and most of what I know about that area is as a courtesy of Russell invariably correcting some ill witted remark. He would take me aside and spend quite some time explaining exactly what was really happening, and some history.

I got most of my interest in foreign affairs, particularly in Asia, as a consequence of listening principally to some of Russell’s corrections on those matters. From foreign policy to native title policy, which I was able to engage in with a little bit more vigour, I was very much the wiser for his counsel on these matters. He made some really meaningful contributions around the importance of mediation rather than forcing the claimants into courts. I think the way that we use the native title process—certainly, that advice—has been part of a strong legacy that he has left in the operational nature of legislation, as well as policy debate and discussion.

As a strong supporter of the Australian Defence Force Parliamentary Program, I knew of his huge enjoyment and the experience he got out on HMAS Anzac and HMAS Success, as part of the RIMPAC exercises off Hawaii. You think you know Russell, when you first meet him—I used to think I had him boxed: professor, such an erudite man, such a knowledgeable man—but every time you saw him in another environment, it was another surprise. You could just see him on the deck of a destroyer, engaging with the crew as fluently and as easily as he would engage with his peers in this place—quite a remarkable communicator, and just had a way with people. He was very hardworking. He was always doing something. You would go and see him in his office and he always had time for you, but he was writing something or poring over some work. He was an incredibly hard worker, very courteous, well-liked and respected across the chamber.

He was full of surprises. I look up somewhat nervously at the President, because he thinks I am probably going to tell this story—and I am. We were on a trip to Taiwan together—in fact, I think it was Senator Bernardi, Senator Parry, Senator Ferguson, myself and Senator Ronaldson. It was one of those moments in diplomacy where we were with the parliamentarians during the middle of the day, about to enter their equivalent of question time. It was a lunch, something had happened, they wanted to have a toast, and one of them had thrown down a very large glass of red wine followed by a little sort of short shot glass, and apparently that was to be consumed later. In any event, we picked those with the largest livers, so Senator Bernardi was sent in to bat and did something of a similar ilk, and Senator Parry, and then myself. That was all part of this diplomatic exchange, and there was a bit of ho-humming, as normally happens in those matters, and then, of course, we thought, ‘Oh well, here’s Senator Trood—he’s a professor; he’s last, you know, poor thing.’ And so he has just taken a sip out of the glass of wine and then replaced it, and everyone said, ‘Oh look, no, no—you’re supposed to scull it.’ So he then had measured the amount he had taken perfectly, and poured this evil spirit into it and then threw the whole thing down, to much applause and gusto, because he was the most unlikely looking person to have been able to evidence that sort of behaviour.

But in that room, part of what I thought about was not only the laughter—everybody knew him. They did not know who I was, they did not know who, I am sure, the President was, or Bernardi, but everybody knew who Russell was. No matter where you went, he always had this great affection for people. People actually knew who he was. Not only was he a senator, he was also Russell Trood.

When we lost him to this place, which was very sad, it was a great loss to public affairs. He continued in public affairs when he finished here. In 2012 he completed an appointment as the Special Envoy of the Prime Minister of Australia for Eastern Europe. During this time he also became the United Nations Association of Australia National President, and Director of the Griffith Asia Institute, where he encouraged better relations between Australia and Asia-Pacific countries. He will be remembered as a senator, a scholar, a diplomat who served this country and made a lasting and distinguished contribution to public affairs, particularly in his specialist field of international relations. We in parliament, and the wider community, have all lost a valued friend and esteemed colleague, and Australia is better for his public service. So on behalf of the Nationals, and this place more broadly, I pass on our condolences and thoughts to Professor Trood’s family, his devoted wife, Dale, his children, James and Phoebe, and to his many friends. We will miss you. Vale Russell Trood.