Senate debates

Wednesday, 23 November 2022


Ellicott, Hon. Robert James (Bob), AC, KC

3:34 pm

Photo of Don FarrellDon Farrell (SA, Australian Labor Party, Minister for Trade and Tourism) Share this | Hansard source

by leave—I move:

That the Senate records its sorrow at the death, on 31 October 2022, of the Hon. Robert James (Bob) Ellicott AC, KC, former Attorney-General and Minister for Home Affairs and the Environment and the former member for Wentworth, places on record its gratitude for his service to the parliament and to the nation and tenders its sympathy to his family in their bereavement.

I rise on behalf of the government to express our condolences following the passing of former barrister, minister and judge the Hon. Robert—otherwise known as Bob—James Ellicott AC, KC at the ripe old age of 95. As I begin, I wish to convey the Senate's condolences to Mr Ellicott's family and his friends.

Born in Moree, New South Wales, on what was Good Friday 15 April 1927, Bob Ellicott had a life that was long and impactful. As a child, he set his ambition to become a barrister, which he set about making a reality by 1950, when he was admitted to the New South Wales bar. In 1964, he was appointed a Queen's Council. Then, in 1969, he became the Solicitor-General of Australia, a role he held until 1973. During that time, Bob Ellicott served as one of Australia's first delegates to the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law, a role which provides a small degree of overlap with the work I currently undertake in the trade portfolio.

Bob entered parliament as the member for Wentworth at the 1974 election. Following the 1975 election, Mr Ellicott was appointed Attorney-General in the Fraser government. As Attorney-General, Mr Ellicott made a big mark on Australian legal structures. In this role, he established the Family Court and the Administrative Appeals Tribunal, which had both been initiated by the Whitlam government. He was also responsible for legislation which set up the Human Rights Commission. However, his term as Attorney-General came to an end when he resigned his ministry after a disagreement with the then Prime Minister in 1977.

While I did not personally know Mr Ellicott, I think we can get a sense of the person he was from his willingness to give up his role due to a difference of opinion with the then Prime Minister, in line with Westminster tradition. However, in recognition of his ability and commitment to reform, not long after that he was reappointed to the ministry as Minister for Home Affairs and Minister for Capital Territory. It was in these roles that he continued to build a legacy which continues to serve us to this day.

One area where Bob made a contribution was in his role—one particularly close to my heart—where he set about establishing the Australian Institute of Sport, following a notably poor performance by Australia at the 1976 Montreal Olympics. His passion for sport continued throughout the rest of his life, and I think it's fair to say that many of our current sporting heroes owe their success to Bob's forward-thinking approach to sport.

Bob left parliament in 1981 after making many significant contributions throughout his parliamentary career. Bob's drive to contribute to Australian society continued. Following his parliamentary career, Bob served on the Federal Court bench and as an arbitrator on the Court of Arbitration for Sport. Over the decades, his efforts saw him awarded with many accolades—too many to list here. This perhaps culminated in him being recognised in the 2017 Australia Day Awards, being awarded the AC in the general division of the Order of Australia. A loving husband of Colleen, who passed in 2020, a loving father of Suzanne, Penelope, Michael and John and an adored grandfather and great-grandfather, our thoughts go out to his loved ones.

In the words of John, Bob was a man of great compassion, love and commitment. We thank Bob Ellicott for the contribution he made to our country through his great life of service. May he rest in peace.


No comments