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Tuesday, 13 May 2008
Page: 1482


Senator JACINTA COLLINS (1:27 PM) —This is not my second first speech but I could not miss the opportunity, probably unwanted by Robert Ray, to add a few comments of acknowledgement of his distinguished service as a fellow Victorian Labor senator. I would first like to thank Senator Evans and others for their comments of welcome to me this afternoon. I, like other senators, over the last several days have reflected on much of the commentary on Robert’s contribution and the accurate descriptions of him as a factional operative and back room heavy, or on his being one of Labor’s most effective or aggressive parliamentary performers. I noted that certainly his style has been very direct, strong and, I would say, ‘assertive’ rather than ‘aggressive’, and I think some of the comments from other senators here today have reflected on that. Robert would be strong, direct and assertive but not aggressive in a way which compromised public servants in estimates and not aggressive in a way which unfairly compromised the position of an adversary. When we say ‘aggressive’ I think often people mean ‘strong’, and certainly Robert was that. As has been noted, his style was such that he would avoid undesired attention but certainly when he wanted attention, he would get it.

There is another aspect, one which Senator Evans touched on, which I would like to acknowledge today. Robert also performed a pastoral role but without the religious connotations. I could not think of other words that described pastoral interest or care for others without those connotations. His support and guidance was important when I first arrived in this place as the only female Labor representative from Victoria. I was impressed that, whilst Robert was a highly effective Minister for Defence, he could also anticipate the needs—and I stress ‘anticipate the needs’—of a new senator and her new baby. More broadly, his role in building and maintaining party cohesion and discipline has been critical—and I highlight ‘critical’—in Labor achieving government at both state and federal levels. There are many stories about him, some of them touched on today and some that will never see the public record, but I believe this aspect of Robert’s work should be acknowledged.

As Senator Faulkner highlighted, Robert’s staff of many years—in particular Koula Alexiadis—have made a significant contribution. They were a key part of Robert’s influence and support. This influence and support will be greatly missed here, but I am sure it will continue within the Labor Party. I conclude these brief remarks by wishing Robert and Jane all the very best in the future.