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Wednesday, 17 August 2011
Page: 8510

Mr McCORMACK (Riverina) (18:59): At 9.15 on the night of Monday, 25 July 2011, a statement was issued to all members of the federal parliamentary press gallery advising them:

Our longest-serving and much-loved colleague, Rob Chalmers, is very, very ill and has decided to reluctantly retire after 60 years of insightful and independent political commentary and scrutiny.

The following Wednesday, 27 July 2011, Robin Donald Chalmers passed away aged 82, surrounded by his loving wife, Gloria, and his children. From his first question time in March 1951, with the Daily Mirror, to his last budget lock-in in May this year, his efforts spanned an unprecedented 60 years. From Sir Robert Menzies to Julia Gillard, Rob Chalmers was a wise and determined presence in the press gallery and his knowledge and passion for all things political was renowned. When he began his career in journalism, typewriters and copy boys were in use, then came facsimile machines, the first mobile telephones, computers and the internet and email. What a transformation in telecommunications. A dedicated journalist to the end, Mr Chalmers' death marked the end of an era.

Rob Chalmers had a remarkable work ethic. Just days before his death he was still working on the upcoming newsletter, Inside Canberra, where as the editor he finished off his final copy only just missing out on seeing it in the final print hours before he died. The life of a journalist and editor is not an easy one, and I know all about that. It is a tough game with high public expectations, as you would expect, and intense deadline pressures and the need to be accurate, balanced and fair. As with any job there are good and bad aspects; character is tested each and every working day of what is more a way of life than a career.

To remain on the scene for more than 60 years as Mr Chalmers did is no mean feat. Mr Chalmers was an inspiration to not just journalists but to all who worked within these political walls. It is not an easy job and it is not easy to maintain such dedication and passion in an ever-changing environment. He carried out his work with aplomb and with a certain sense of presence, and I am told the gallery will miss Rob's determined shuffle along the corridor and his astute observations and wisdom. Rob was an old-fashioned journo to the core—shrewd, independent, authoritative. He represented the best of hardnosed press gallery journalism in this country. He had, as they say in the industry, ink running in his veins. He was happy to pass on advice and taught some of the very best, yet few will be able to match his array of knowledge on the very topics he loved the most—policy, politics and new ideas.

As a fellow journalist by trade I pay my respects following the loss of a great writer and tutor, and as a parliamentarian I mourn the loss of a fine journalist who faithfully filed the news for an appreciative readership. To his wife Gloria, son Rob and daughter Susan I offer my deepest condolences. May he rest in peace.