Some months before his death Bob emailed me privately to explain that he had a melanoma that had escaped discovery, the prognosis was bad while the combination of pain and medication made it difficult for him to comment coherently. This meant that he might not be able to comment.
In fact he did continue for a period and then, suddenly,.he stopped. I feared the worst.
Bob's email was characteristic of the man. He wanted me to know the reason if he dropped out, but did not want me to tell anyone. He preserved his privacy. At one point I had remarked in a comment that 2 tanners equalled a bob. Bob got quite cranky because he felt that I was breaching his privacy, his ability to comment freely.
Bob and I first met in, I think, early 1984 when he came to work in my branch in the Department of Industry, Technology and Commerce. He had completed a degree in economics at the Australian National University and was completing add-on studies that would give him a degree in Political Science and Philosophy. Later he would complete a Masters of Science in computing at Deakin University
In thinking of this early period, I tried to find some of the comments where Bob talked about it but without success in the time I had. This blog has attracted 10,000 comments, so searching was time consuming. So my response here is working from memory.
We were trying to find a new approach to industry policy that would break through the mind-deadlock between the old protectionist school, neoclassical economics and the emerging neo-liberal forces. We believed that Australia could have a global future in the new communications, computing, electronics, system and software based industry areas that were emerging but if, and only if, we could break through the dominant mind-locks. And that was hard.
It was Bob, I think, who coined the term the Belshaviks to describe the group. Later, he would paint a picture of me as a pirate attempting to storm the citadel. There was some truth in that.
After I left Canberra I kept coming back for work and marketing reasons, seeing Bob on many trips. The last time we met was in the early 2000s when Bob helped organise a lunch for the old Branch. That was when I learned about the Belshavik tag!
Meantime, Bob's career had gone in new directions. He moved to Finance. There. among other things, he managed the Solomon Islands' budget as part of the RAMSI mission. Later he would do the same in Timor Leste.. From Finance he moved to Foreign Affairs and Trade and then into the private sector as a consultant specialising in PFM (Public Financial Management). This brought him back to Timor Leste, this time to help in the health sector.
I lost contact with Bob after the Branch lunch. We came back into contact during the RAMSI period because Bob discovered this blog. For a time, Bob maintained a blog on the Timor Leste period - I'm sorry, I have lost the link.- which gave a fascinating insight into that country at a very human level. I still laugh at the description of the official emu parade!
In Timor Leste, Bob was actively involved with building Rotary and with Rotary projects. I saw but cannot re-find some of them.
Bob was a lovely man with an active mind and a commitment to service. I am sure that you join with me in sending wishes to Diana and all the family. There will be a memorial service for Bob in Canberra in late July.
Update 2 July
kvd found the Bob kept on his Adventures in Timor Leste. And he added this comment that I thought that I should bring up in the main post. We did talk a lot about cooking!
"And it was most remiss of Jim to note tanners' other Masters degree - in cooking - to whit, from February 2016 in this blog:
I take a shinbone of beef and slash it with a sharp knife. In the cuts I insert wild garlic and basil. I take three large onions and cut them as finely as possible, then fry them in strongly flavoured olive oil, with pepper and herbs. I wait till the onions are golden brown and melting, then I add a little Douro Shiraz. I have some thin, delicate prosunto which I also chop finely and add to the gravy that is forming. At some stage, everything starts to bubble together and some one says, "Let's just eat that! It smells so good."
That is a signal. The rest of the bottle of wine goes in, along with two carrots (roughly chopped), a sweet potato, peeled and roughly chopped and some pieces of parsnip, along with the beef shin.
The beef shin is covered as much as possible by the mixture, the heat is set to extremely low and for the next four hours the house fills with the smell. It's glorious torture for everyone. The weather is cold (this is always best served in the cold) so I warm up the plates. When the last plate is warm I throw in a handful of snow peas. Two minutes later, I ladle out everything into the plates except the meat. Using gloves so as not to burn myself I strip the meat to the bone. It's so tender I can literally do this with a plastic spoon. That leaves the bone itself. Many love to suck the marrow from the bone, but sometimes the cooking has already done it.
If there is no marrow in the bone, say "Sorry, it's already in your meal." Put the empty bone in the bin. If there is still marrow in the bone say "Sorry, it's already in your meal", zip out the back, suck it out and put the empty bone in the bin. Do NOT get caught doing this.
It is a glorious way to spend an afternoon, with house full of cooking smells and a delicious meal at the end of it.
But, I've told you the old fashioned, really good way. You can get something ALMOST as good with the same ingredients. Fry the onions, pepper and prosunto for a few minutes and throw them and everything else in a slow cooker for six hours while you go out, get some exercise, visit a modern art gallery, write 20 pages of a thesis or do unpaid work for your employer.
This meal has red wine in it and some alcohol remains, but you should always drink strong red wine with it.
2tanners was a fine contributor who taught me many things, or at least explained exactly how and where I was wrong (on the very odd occasion :)"