Condolence speech - Russell Trood
08 Feb 2017
Dr CHALMERS (Rankin) (18:34): It is an honour to follow the member for Lingiari and also the member for Chifley. I am here to pay tribute to a man who was a scholar and a senator. He was from the other side of politics and from the other chamber. He was a Liberal senator, but he was also, for a very long time, a teacher, an academic, a writer and a thinker. I am so grateful for the opportunity to be able to put on the parliamentary record my admiration for Russell Trood. Russell was a man who cared very deeply for his students, for his colleagues, for his country and for his country's place in the world. There are so many reasons why I admire Russell Trood. Principally I admire Russell because he was, for me, an inspirational teacher at university; he was my lecturer in international relations at Griffith University. His loss—firstly, to the Senate in 2011 and, now, to this world—is something that we should mark, because his contribution was so significant.
I want to speak not necessarily just as a Labor MP but as a student of Russell's in the mid-1990s. Twenty-one years ago, almost to the day, I met Russell Trood for the first time. It was the first week of my first year at Griffith University. I had much longer hair then and my fair share of an 18-year-old's acne. I found myself in an international relations theory lecture, and it dawned on me very soon after the start of the lecture that I had been enrolled in error as a first-year student in a third-year course. As it dawned on me, I got the predictable amount of terror that I was in the wrong place. When I got up the courage afterwards to go and see Russell to explain what had happened and to work out how to extract myself from his course, he said, 'Come and walk me back to my office.' We got talking and we spent quite a bit of time together, and, after a little while, he said: 'You are enrolled in error, but I think you might be okay in the course. Why don't I just keep an eye on you. Why don't I just lend you all these books'—and he started pulling all these books off his shelves from his personal collection to lend to me so that I could catch up. He kept an eye on me throughout that whole course, and he would check in regularly and say: 'If you feel like you're falling behind, or whatever, come and see me; I will spend some time with you. Bring us a cup of tea, and we'll have a chat about the course material.'
I tell that story partly because it goes to the care that Russell had for his students, his considerate nature and the way he was such a thoughtful lecturer but also because I do not think my story was necessarily unique. I do not tell the story because I think it is a unique one; I tell it because I suspect it was a pretty common experience for people who were taught by Russell at Griffith University. He was an inspiring teacher. Griffith University is blessed on that front. There were so many people who were so influential in my time at Griffith University, and Russell was one of those extraordinary teachers whose lectures were something to be enjoyed and not just endured. International relations theory was always about Clausewitz, Morgenthau, Thucydides, Joe Nye and all of these sorts of characters, and Russell always had a way to balance the heft of some of those subjects with a little bit of wry humour as well, which people who know him would be familiar with.
So much of this early period of knowing Russell as a student came back to me first when he left the Senate in 2011, then when he passed away very recently but also, especially, last Friday when Griffith University, to their great credit, put on a memorial service for Russell. The member for Ryan and the member for Wright, who are in the chamber now, were also there, and I am sure they agree that it was such a fitting tribute to a great man. I want to commend Henry Smerdon, Ian O'Connor, David Grant, Andrew O'Neill and everyone from their teams who was involved last Friday in putting on such a fitting tribute to Russell Trood for his colleagues, his friends and his family at the conservatorium of music in Brisbane. There were so many people there from all parts of Russell's life, including current and former senators that Russell served with. I think they brought great credit on themselves through the tributes that they paid to Russell.
In particular, I wanted to pick up on a point that Senator Brandis made in what was a very moving contribution. What Senator Brandis said was that it was quite easy to mistake Russell's civility for a lack of partisan passion. But I appreciate that Russell was really a passionate Liberal warrior. He was a small 'l' Liberal warrior, but he had been in the Liberal Party since his Young Liberal days in Sydney. He was a warrior for his cause, but he carried himself in such a classy way and in such a civil way that people would easily mistake the sort of way that he carried himself for being something less than a fully-engaged warrior for the things that he and his party—and the member for Ryan's and the member for Wright's party—believed in. I thought that was a good point that Senator Brandis made.
From my point of view, I would quite often be on a plane with Russell, or I would see him at the airport or I would see him at the Griffith Asia Institute. I was reminded of his partisanship when he generally made a version of the same reference to the great horror that he felt that he had taught so many students who went on to join the Labor Party. He consider that to be a great failure on his part—that, in his words, he had churned out so many Labor kids and not a Tory amongst them! He would generally make a joke of that nature when I would run into him around the place from time to time. But there were also words of encouragement, which was a characteristic of Russell's.
His family were at the memorial last Friday—his wife, Dale, his daughter, Phoebe and his brother, Artie. He also had a son, James—I can only imagine how much they miss him. The version that I got to see of Russell was sparing, apart from that initial engagement at Griffith. I am sure they consider themselves very fortunate to have had so much time with such a great person, husband, brother and father. So we send them, of course, our condolences. On behalf of all the students, really, who were taught by Russell, and on behalf of our side of the House of Representatives, I do want to say that he was an accomplished, decent, thoughtful and considerate man—a man who cared so much about his students, his colleagues and his country, and his country's place in the world. May he rest in eternal peace.