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Tuesday, 13 May 2008
Page: 1484

Senator BOSWELL (1:40 PM) —I would like to associate myself and my National Party colleagues with the remarks of many people in the chamber today about Robert Ray. He has long been the father of the chamber and, with the influx of new senators, I probably knew him for longer than almost anyone here. I suppose if you could describe Robert Ray you would say he was a hard man. He played it very tough and he played it hard but he played it fair. He was an inspiration to many people and certainly he would have been an inspiration to the Labor Party. When I came here, there were people like John Button, who we will honour later today, and Peter Walsh and quite a number of hard-hitting members of parliament who were not from the ranks of the unions or the Labor Party but who did have a wide coverage—

The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Troeth)—Senator Boswell, I do not like to interrupt your speech, but it would aid us in hearing your speech if you could move to your seat so that you are speaking into the right microphone.

Senator BOSWELL —I apologise, Madam Acting Deputy President. As I was saying, Robert Ray was an inspiration to the Labor Party and he held it together through some pretty difficult times. When I came here, Robert Ray was a member of a government that had some pretty strong people in it—Senator Button, who we will honour this afternoon, Peter Walsh and a number of other people. He sat there for a number of years—a very small number of years—on the backbench but eventually he was made Minister for Defence, a portfolio that he very strongly enjoyed and took a great deal of interest in. He was a man of humour and he was a man of honesty. He was a very hard player. We got involved in his accusations that I had eight telephones. It was quite untrue; I had one telephone. I went wrong by not mentioning that the Leader of the Opposition at that time had 55 telephones. I tried to quieten it down, and he went on the attack. That was a mistake on my part.

He is going to cast a big shadow over those who come after him. You do not get players like Robert Ray coming into this place now. He must have held the Labor Party together in Victoria, just as he played a very significant role in the Senate for the Labor Party.

Could I take the opportunity to welcome back Jacinta Collins. Jacinta, we missed you very badly in some of the debates on more social conservative issues that we had over the last three years when you were missing. We look forward to your contribution again on some of those issues, which will no doubt come forward.

I would like to wish Robert Ray a great retirement. He has retired on top of his game. He is probably the last hard man of the Hawke-Keating years left. He leaves us, and we pay our respects to him. In closing, if I were to describe him I would say: Robert, it was a fair bump, but play on.