Federal Liberal MP Don Randall was found dead in his car in Boddington, a town southeast of Perth, on Tuesday afternoon.
Randall, 62, a colourful and often outspoken parliamentarian, entered the House of Representatives with the Howard government in 1996, in the seat of Swan. He lost in 1998 but won Canning – which covers suburban and rural areas south of Perth – in 2001 and held it ever since.
Earlier this year fellow WA Liberal Luke Simpkins and Randall moved the unsuccessful spill motion against Tony Abbott.
Abbott said on Tuesday night: “Don was an outstanding local member. He was a passionate and persuasive advocate in Canberra and a hardworking community leader in Western Australia.”
Abbott said Randall had made a fine contribution to the Howard government and particularly to the Coalition during the years in opposition.
“He was a mentor to many and integral to the success of our party in the state of Western Australia.”
Randall was periodically the centre of controversy, including after claiming travel expenses for a trip to Cairns which was put down as electorate business.
Police said Randall’s death was not being treated as suspicious. A police statement said: “Just before 3:00pm this afternoon, WA Police were advised that a 62-year-old man had been found unresponsive in his vehicle on Club Drive in Boddington. Police and St John Ambulance attended but tragically the man was found deceased.”
It is understood Randall had gone to an electorate function.
Cabinet ministers put out messages on Twitter. Christopher Pyne described him as a “good friend and colleague”; Mathias Cormann said he was “a great campaigner” who “always spoke his mind”; Joe Hockey said he was “absolutely shocked and devastated” at the news.
Bill Shorten said that “Don was liked on both sides of parliament and was counted as a friend by many in the Labor Party. He was a thoroughly good and decent bloke.”
Labor frontbencher Gary Gray, from WA, said Randall’s “country upbringing and years of service as a teacher helped make him into a highly effective parliamentarian representing the semi-rural electorate of Canning”.
Randall’s seat, for which there will be a by-election, is held by a margin of nearly 12%.