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Tuesday, 13 May 2008
Page: 1478

The PRESIDENT (1:05 PM) —It is a mark of the respect in which Robert Ray was held in this Senate that practically everybody who speaks to this debate will have almost the same notes down as to what was his contribution to this place. I think of Senator Minchin, who said, ‘He left without fanfare.’ That is true and that was Robert Ray’s style. I distinctly remember, when I first came to this place, former Senator Brian Archer saying to me one night, ‘I won’t be here in the morning,’—and I knew he was not contemplating suicide—and I asked why. He said: ‘I am retiring and people can judge me on what I have done. I have no wish to make a valedictory speech.’ Probably former Senator Robert Ray is of the same ilk—he will be judged for his contributions in this chamber because of what he did and said in this place, not because of any particular speech he might make at the end of his career.

We have heard phrases like ‘the loss of corporate knowledge’ used in relation to Robert Ray’s retirement. We will certainly miss his wise counsel. Strange as it may seem, I think people on the coalition side of politics will miss Robert Ray just as much as those on the government side of politics, because he was a person whose advice was often sought. He had the knowledge of what had happened before. He managed to make sure that he was on the committees that actually dealt with the institution of the Senate. Robert Ray had a genuine concern for the institution of parliament, and particularly the institution of the Senate. That is why we saw Robert Ray serving on the Senate Standing Committee on Procedure for so many years and why we saw him serving on the Senate Standing Committee of Privileges. He had dealings with all of the committees which dealt with the running of this place and maintained the conventions and procedures of this place that were so important to him—but he was not afraid to make changes where he thought change was necessary. I will certainly miss him. I know that many people in the Senate will miss Robert Ray’s contribution to this place, to the running of the Senate and to making sure that the Senate as an institution in the future is an institution which we can all be proud of.

I, along with Senator Faulkner, served with Senator Ray on the Joint Standing Committee on Intelligence and Security. Of all the committees that I have served on in my time here, I enjoyed that committee almost as much as any because it comprised of people who had been in this place for a long time and because, in most instances, partisan politics was almost put to one side. It was a committee that worked together with the knowledge of what had gone on in the past. Of course, having been a minister of defence and having dealt with security organisations, Robert Ray’s knowledge was absolutely imperative to that committee. I know that he will be sorely missed on that committee, which has had an almost complete change of personnel from 12 months ago.

I listened while Senator Evans said that opposition senators may have suffered because of Senator Ray’s debating skills and the speeches he made in this place. That is true, but I can say that one of his former colleagues suffered much more than any of us on the coalition side of politics. There is one particular thing I would note about Senator Ray’s time in this place, and that is that, if you were in your office or close by and he stood to speak, you always stopped and listened. A number of people can be speaking in the chamber and I can continue quite comfortably with whatever I am doing but, in the case of Robert Ray, I always stopped and listened because he only spoke when he thought it was absolutely necessary. He did not speak just for the sake of making some statements in the Hansard. He will be remembered for that.

I, like many others, am well aware of Senator Ray’s great love of cricket and of Collingwood. I think that he is likely to have more success with cricket than with Collingwood. Senator Ray will now have the opportunity, in retirement from the Senate, to pursue other interests, which I am sure he will. I am sure that his concern and love for the Labor Party will continue—but maybe he will express those in a different role. He will have time to spend on those pastimes which, for him, are great loves. He was a good companion to speak to about things. His knowledge of cricket and of football, in particular, meant that he was genuinely good company in whatever place you found the time to talk to him.

I want to pass on my respects to Robert in his retirement. The contribution that he has made to this place is an enormous one. He will be sorely missed. You cannot say that about every senator that leaves this place, because they will not all leave the impact on this chamber that Robert Ray has left. He is one who will be missed, and I certainly wish him well in his retirement.