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Tuesday, 13 May 2008
Page: 1485

Senator EGGLESTON (1:44 PM) —I would like to make a few short comments about Senator Robert Ray and the time that I knew him in the Senate. Senator Ray was obviously a very distinguished Labor Party senator who made a very major contribution to the Senate over the years that he was here. As Senator Boswell said, he was a former minister who, I gather, was a very good defence minister. That was prior to my arrival in the Senate in 1996. My dealings with Senator Robert Ray were very largely in committees—I served on two committees with him: the Senate Standing Committee of Privileges and the Senate Standing Committee on Procedure. Of course, he was a frequent visitor to estimates committees that I chaired.

I was always impressed by Robert Ray’s intelligence when dealing with issues. In the privileges and procedure committees I found he could cut to the core of an issue very quickly, and he understood the broad principles. I found that, after Robert Ray had spoken on some issue in either the privileges or the procedure committee, that tended to end the debate because his comments encapsulated the core of the issue under discussion and usually provided the correct solution to the issue or the problem. He certainly was an extraordinarily adept committee man. He understood the procedural rules of the Senate very well and I often thought his suggestions on Senate procedure were very good.

In estimates Robert Ray used to work with Senator John Faulkner. The two worked as a team, like forensic barristers cutting down to the core of an issue. I must say that, as chair of a Senate estimates committee, when these two walked into the room I always knew that the hearings that followed would be interesting because, as I said, they worked together like forensic barristers, opening up with very wide questions and narrowing down all the time to ever more focused questions. That was a skill which I admired, and Robert Ray was a very exceptional senator in the way he handled those estimates inquiries. Of course, I know nothing of Robert Ray’s role in the ALP but I simply wish to put on record my respect for him as a great committee man and somebody who respected the institution of the Senate. I wish him well in his retirement.