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Tuesday, 1 February 1994
Page: 108


Senator CHAMARETTE (10.41 p.m.) —I, too, share the sorrow of this occasion and remember Rob Jones and the contribution he made to this chamber and to this place. I would like to share my first impression of him, which is such an endearing one. I do so not out of any light-heartedness but simply because it demonstrates the kind of presence he had. On our very first day in the Senate, with all our raw inexperience, we were determined to meet all the different community groups. We had a whole string of appointments. My receptionist came in and said, `The PLO is outside. Do you want to see them?' I said, `Yes. We see everybody, don't we?'. We were all set to see a representative of the Palestine Liberation Organisation when in walked an enormous man with his head shaved—because he had been away for a year having cancer treatment. He seemed so gentle and lovely that I felt totally at ease.

  It took quite a while before it registered that he was introducing himself as the Parliamentary Liaison Officer. We did not share that joke with Rob until a year later when George Thompson came to see us and we had met representatives of the PLO on many occasions. It will always stay in our minds as the first time we met him. I want to express how grateful we in my office are for the wonderful way in which Rob went out of his way to keep us informed in those early days when we knew nothing. I can only support the remarks that have already been made about his integrity and honesty, and his extreme helpfulness and fairness to all people, no matter what party they belonged to or what issue they happened to be squabbling about or debating at the time.

  We were very pleased for him when he was able to join Gareth's staff as the principal adviser. We felt it was a recognition of his gifts and his intellectual ability. So we were thrilled for him, though sad to see him leave the position where he had been so helpful. He was always available, even when he was in that later position, when there were queries and matters where he could be of any assistance. He was always extremely helpful to all my staff. Senator Margetts knew him less well than I did because he had moved to that position before she knew him, but both of us want to mention how much we admired and respected him in his role.

  I pass on the condolences of former Senator Jo Vallentine. She knew him longer than we did and she was fond of him and respected him, both in his parliamentary role and as a person. Many honourable senators knew him better than I did and knew him as a personal friend, but I want to express with all honourable senators tonight my most sincere condolences to his wife and children and share in the terrible sadness of this tragic loss.