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Tuesday, 13 May 2008
Page: 1487


Senator LUNDY (1:53 PM) —I am grateful for this opportunity to say a few words about Senator Robert Ray. I was elected in 1996 when Labor lost office, so my first experience of working with him was in the early days of opposition. It was a particularly challenging time for many of my colleagues but, as a new senator at that time, I can say it was quite an extraordinary and exciting time, albeit a tough political environment. My early recollections of Senator Robert Ray were on the Senate Standing Committee on Finance and Public Administration during estimates hearings, which of course back then went from 9 am to about six the following morning. So 18-hour stretches were not unusual for Senate committees at the time. We had the habit of sitting right through the night if issues were pressing. This habit, fortunately, changed after the first term. Spending many a long night around the estimates table, I got an insight into the forensic mind of Senator Robert Ray—and indeed that of Senator Faulkner—on that finance and public administration committee, which I think set a benchmark for performance in Senate committees for Labor’s whole period in opposition.

I would like to make particular comment about Senator Ray’s commitment to this place—to the standing orders, protocols and traditions of the Australian Senate. It is a tough job, but to pay some mind and consistently pay some mind to those protocols, traditions and standing orders takes quite a special commitment. He certainly did that and in the argy-bargy of the political debate often brought a moral dimension to bear on discussions taking place at any one time. He certainly brought his wrath down upon those who sought to exploit the traditions and protocols of this place and was unrelenting in his criticism if he felt they had crossed the line. What the line is in this place is unwritten, but Senator Ray was a good measure of where the line was and, if you ever crossed it, look out!

From a personal perspective, I would like to thank him for the mentoring and support he gave to me as a senator, particularly early on but consistently through that time. His deep understanding of the operations of this place, of not just the Senate committees but also the procedure and standing committees that sustain the institution of the Australian Senate, has placed us in good stead. I know that this compliment that I want to pay to Senator Ray for his commitment and work in those places will be agreed to by all Senate colleagues. His contribution was often unseen in the public mind but it is something that all of us in the Senate are extremely aware of and grateful for.

Finally, I wish to personally thank Senator Robert Ray and wish him and Jane all the best in their retirement. I hope that he is able to watch many a game of test cricket in great comfort and enjoyment, without the interfering question times that he would no doubt be obligated to attend. I wish that they have all the pleasure that is so justly deserved after such an extraordinary and successful parliamentary career.