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Tuesday, 18 September 2001
Page: 27276


Senator CALVERT (4:52 PM) —I too wish to be associated with this condolence motion and also to record that Senator Abetz wishes to be associated with it. Over and over, it has been said here today that Robert Bell was a good man. He was a big man, and he had a big heart. He was a good bloke to work with and he worked hard. I would like to pass on my condolences to Jane, Sally, Christopher, Richard, Sylvia and the rest of the family.

I got to know Robert Bell very well, being a Tasmanian senator, and I worked with him quite a deal. The first thing Robert would say if he was here today would be, `What are you wasting your time talking about me for? There's plenty of other work to do round this place.' I can just imagine him saying that, because he was that sort of person. He was very practical—Robert Bell the teacher, Robert Bell the senator.

Robert Bell and I had a couple of things in common. He was a teacher at the Friends School and I was a student there. He was also an alderman of the Hobart City Council while I was a councillor at Clarence. And we were both senators at the same time—mind you, that did not last for long. We had opposing views on some things. I was interested today to hear people talking about Exit Caves. It was always called Benders Quarry when I was arguing the other case.

I had most to do with Robert in committee work. Robert was a very compassionate man and he convinced me that I should be a person who supported him in his great passion for Giant Steps. Those of you who know what Giant Steps is would know that he was one of the people who really put in the hard work and got the support group going for the Giant Steps project on the north-west coast. I am still helping them as much as I can, as are some of my colleagues.

I too, perhaps more than most, was very disappointed to see Robert defeated at the election in what I would say was a controversial campaign, to be generous. I think most of my Liberal colleagues were very disappointed to see Robert defeated, because we all believed he was a practical conservationist. He was a very practical person. He loved his garden. He used to love his radishes and his strawberries. I remember when I visited him at his little corner store he took me out the back and gave me a couple of bottles of recycled chainsaw oil that he had processed from some old engine oil. I thought, `That's not bad. For a person who has been fighting for the preservation of forests, he has developed a very effective and very good chainsaw oil from waste oil.' That is the sort of practical person he was.

I worked with Robert on committees. If Barney Cooney were here, he would remember some of the happier moments we had on the Select Committee on Animal Welfare. Robert was not only passionate in defending the forests, but also a very good animal conservationist.

Before I walked in here today, I grabbed a few reports off my shelves. The first committee on which I came into contact with Robert was the one that produced the Come in Cinderella report. I think that was probably the first report he did. It was for the Standing Committee on Employment, Education and Training. Robert played a leading role there, because it was all about adult education, which was one of Robert's passions.

Another report I took from the shelves was the intensive livestock production report. I remember being in the Northern Territory when we were looking at the damage that feral animals were doing to the Kakadu park and other areas. Robert was a big man, and one thing about him was that he had a heavy foot. In those days, there was no speed limit in the Northern Territory. Barney Cooney, Robert and I were travelling from Darwin to Kakadu, and I think we did it in record time. I was very pleased to see the hotel halfway there so we could have a break for a while.

Robert did not do things in half-measures. I remember that he was part of the inquiry into equine welfare in competitive events other than racing, the inquiry into aspects of animal welfare in the racing industry and many others. When you work with somebody in committees, you get to know them. As I said, Robert was a practical conservationist, he was a very practical person and I support all the good things that have been said about him today. I cannot think of many bad things that people could say about Robert. He was that sort of person. To the family, I say that I, like everybody else, was shocked to hear of his death. In fact, I did not believe it. I was in Darwin and I said, `It must be somebody else; it couldn't be him.' He was the sort of person you would think would go on forever.