Robert is a former Victorian Attorney-General and Minister for Finance. He was the Member for Box Hill in the Victorian Parliament from 1992 to 2018 and was Acting President and then State President of the Liberal Party in Victoria from Deccember 2018 until 2022.
Robert was first elected to Parliament in 1988 at the age of 31, and subsequently served the community both as a local MP and in a wide range of portfolio areas including Attorney-General, Treasury, Finance, Industrial Relations, Planning, WorkCover, Gaming, ICT, Energy & Resources, Major Projects and Counter Terrorism.
From 2010 to 2014, Robert was the Attorney-General, Minister for Finance and (from March 2013) Minister for Industrial Relations in the Coalition Government under Premiers Ted Baillieu and Denis Napthine.
As Attorney-General, he was responsible for reforms including:
- stronger and more effective sentencing, including baseline sentences, community correction orders, statutory minimum sentences for gross violence attacks, attacks on emergency workers and coward punch killings, up to five years’ jail for breach of family violence orders, fines reforms, unexplained wealth laws, asset forfeiture laws and abolition of suspended sentences.
- strengthening the criminal law through reforms in relation to sexual offences, reporting of and acting on child sexual abuse, bail, bikie gangs and fortifications, jury directions and abolition of defensive homicide,
- establishment of Court Services Victoria to give Victorian courts independent control of their own administration for the first time
- reforms to the law relating to vexatious litigants, powers of attorney, fences, privacy and data protection, wills and inheritance, family violence safety notices and reports, and equal opportunity
- establishment of the Uniform Legal Services regime with New South Wales, under a federal model open to other states and territories to join.
(A full listing of the Coalition government’s law reforms and initiatives is here.)
As Minister for Finance and Minister for Industrial Relations, Robert was responsible for reforms including introduction of Victorian Building and Construction Industry Guidelines, including mandatory drug and alcohol screening, both regrettably scrapped by the Andrews Labor government, as well as for overseeing public sector wages policy and risk management and being part of the government’s budget and financial management team.
Robert was elected in 1988 as the Member for Balwyn. Following the abolition of the Balwyn electorate in a redivision of electorate boundaries in 1991, Robert was elected as Member for Box Hill in 1992 and re-elected in 1996, 1999, 2002, 2006, 2010 and 2014. He was involved in bringing about a range of key improvements in the electorate over that time, including:
– the redevelopment of Box Hill Hospital
– extending tram 109 to Box Hill
– the growth of Box Hill TAFE
– extending the Eastern Freeway from Doncaster Road to Springvale Road
as well as numerous school upgrades, kindergarten capital works and traffic light and intersection improvements.
From 1988 to 1992, he was a member of the all-party Economic and Budget Review Committee, and a member of the Treasury and Attorney-General’s Committees of the Parliamentary Liberal Party and then the Liberal-National Party Coalition.
In 1992, he was appointed Parliamentary Secretary to the Victorian Treasurer, Alan Stockdale, helping to restore Victoria’s finances and pride after the damage caused by the Cain and Kirner Labor governments. Robert had particular responsibility assisting with legislation, financial management and the reform of ports and the water industry.
Following the 1996 election, when Alan Stockdale became Victoria’s (and the world’s) first Minister for Multimedia, Robert was appointed as Parliamentary Secretary, Treasury and Multimedia, a position he held until the Coalition lost government in October 1999.
From 1992 to 1999 he also convened the Parliamentary Coalition’s Treasury and Finance Committee. He was a member of the Coalition’s Attorney-General’s Committee 1992-1999, Education Committee 1992-1996, Tertiary Education Committee 1996-1999 and Multimedia Committee 1996-1999.
- Shadow Minister for Planning (including Major Projects) October 1999-September 2001
- Shadow Minister for WorkCover October 1999-December 2002
- Shadow Treasurer September 2001-August 2002
- Shadow Minister for Finance September 2001-December 2002
- Shadow Assistant Treasurer August-November 2002
- Shadow Minister for Gaming August-December 2002
- Shadow Treasurer November 2002-December 2006
- Shadow Attorney General December 2006-December 2010
- Shadow Minister for Information and Communication Technology December 2006-August 2007
- Shadow Minister for Industrial Relations December 2006-November 2009
- Shadow Minister for Energy and Resources December 2006-November 2009
- Shadow Minister for Finance November 2009-December 2010
In Matthew Guy’s Liberal Nationals opposition from 2014 to 2018, Robert was the Shadow Minister for Industrial Relations, the Manager of Opposition Business in the Legislative Assembly and (from September 2017) the Shadow Minister for Counter Terrorism.
Robert was also from 2001 until 2006 a member of the all-party Public Accounts and Estimates Committee of the Victorian Parliament. From 2007 to 2010 he was the Deputy Chair of the Law Reform Committee and the Dispute Resolution Committee , and Deputy Chair of the Legislative Assembly’s Privileges Committee. From 2011 to 2014 he was a member of the Dispute Resolution Committee and the Privileges Committee, and was reappointed to those committees in 2015 and 2016 respectively as well as to the Legislative Assembly’s Standing Orders Committee.
Robert was born in 1957 and grew up in St Albans, in Melbourne’s west, the elder of two children. His father, Jack, was an aircraft mechanic and his mother, Peggy, was an accounts clerk before giving up work to raise her family.
Robert went to St Albans East Primary School and St Albans Heights Primary School, St Albans High School (now St Albans Secondary College) and University High School before entering Melbourne University in 1975, where he obtained a B.Com (Hons) in 1980, an LLB in 1982 and a BA in 1986.
He was also Treasurer of the Melbourne University Students’ Representative Council in 1976-77. While Treasurer, he brought Supreme Court proceedings against the University, members of the SRC and members of the Australian Union of Students, alleging misspending of compulsorily collected student fees. His successes in these proceedings resulted in changes to the law relating to student unionism in Victoria.
After completing his law degree, Robert was a solicitor practicing in commercial, financial and labour law prior to entering Parliament.
Robert joined the Liberal Party in 1976. He was President of the Forest Hill Young Liberals from 1986 to 1987, an Executive Member of the Victorian Young Liberal Movement in 1986 and Vice-Chairman of the Deakin Electorate Committee from 1986 to 1988. He was also a member of the Party’s Constitutional Committee from 1987 to 2018. From December 2018 until June 2019, Robert served as Acting President, and from then until August 2022 as State President, of the Liberal Party in Victoria.
Robert is married with 2 adult children, and lives in Surrey Hills.