House debates

Thursday, 17 February 2022


Lucas, Hon. Robert Ivan (Rob)

4:44 pm

Photo of James StevensJames Stevens (Sturt, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I take the opportunity this evening, in the adjournment debate, to pay tribute to a constituent of mine: the Hon. Robert Ivan Lucas MLC. Rob Lucas will retire at the upcoming South Australian state election, which is due to be called this weekend and will be held on 19 March—a little over four weeks time.

Rob Lucas, to my best understanding, is the father of all the parliaments in the nation. He was elected in December 1982, a few months before I was born. If the election were due later in the year instead of in March, he would clock up nearly 40 years of service in the South Australian upper house. Before I address the many other achievements in his career, I think that alone is something quite significant. I enjoyed listening to the very eloquent valedictory speech earlier in the week of the member for Lingiari here. It's quite fascinating for newer members to hear about what things have been like in chambers like this and others over the years—what has changed and also what, perhaps, hasn't changed.

It is quite remarkable that Rob Lucas is still serving in the parliament, having commenced his period of service in 1982. There have been six premiers of South Australia in that time, and he has served four of them as a minister. He's been a cabinet minister for more than 12 years, and he's been the Treasurer for nearly nine years, so his period of cabinet service is very impressive as well. He's been on the frontbench, whether in government or opposition, for almost the entirety of those 40 years. I suspect he was probably elevated to the frontbench within four or five years of first being elected to the parliament. He has been on the frontbench for the entirety of the time that I've known him and worked with him, in both government and opposition.

I had the opportunity to work with him for a very long time. Before coming to this place, I was chief of staff to the Liberal leader in South Australia, Steven Marshall, who is now, of course, the Premier. I was his chief of staff for five years in opposition and his first year in government, before the opportunity presented itself for me to contest my seat and be elected to this chamber, so I worked alongside Rob for six years. Throughout that period, he was a very senior member of the leadership team and someone I saw as a mentor to me. He had an unbelievable experience in government and politics and in understanding how to confront issues—sometimes happy ones and sometimes difficult ones, both in victory and defeat. He certainly is—and soon we will say 'was'—a very reliable 'Rock of Gibraltar' for the Liberal team in South Australia.

I think it would have been a very different election result in 2018 if Rob Lucas had not been a part of the team. Of course, in many ways he was doing us all a favour. The joke in the team was that he would have actually earned more money by retiring than by staying in the parliament because, having previously been a minister, his very generous defined benefit pension scheme would have paid him more than he received as a backbench member. It speaks to the quality of the man that he wasn't in it for the remuneration but was in it genuinely to be a parliamentarian. He certainly enjoyed, and engaged in, the cut and thrust of debate on ideas. He was a very polite but aggressive debater and campaigner for the way in which he believed the state of South Australia should be run and the direction we should take our state, both within the party and in the parliament, as well as in the media and in the community.

Rob's leaves an enormous legacy in the state of South Australia and for the South Australian Liberal Party, and, I humbly admit, I am a part of his legacy. He certainly contributed to enhancing the attributes that helped me come to this place, and I'm truly grateful for the access that I constantly had to his experience, his advice and his wisdom. I was not alone in a team that very much relied on him. When the Liberal Party were elected to government in 2018, he was the only person who had previously served as a minister, and we relied on his enormous amount of experience and wisdom. More importantly, he was a great Treasurer and a great contributor to South Australia. He thoroughly deserves to enjoy his retirement.