Robert was a member of the Australian Senate from 1981-2006, representing South Australia. He studied at the University of Adelaide and the London School of Economics, where he gained a Masters in law.
Robert was elected Leader of the Liberal Party and Leader of the Opposition in the Senate from 1990-1996 when, on the election of the Howard Government, he became Leader of the Government in the Senate from March 1996 until his resignation in January 2006. He was Minister for the Environment 1996-1998, Minister for the Environment and Heritage 1998-2002 and Minister for Defence from November 2001 to January 2006. In July 2005, the Coalition parties took control of the Senate, and Robert became the first Government Leader in the Senate since 1981 to command a majority in the chamber.
In January 2006 he announced his resignation from the Parliament. Robert was appointed Australian Permanent Representative and Ambassador to the United Nations in New York from 2006 to 2009. From 2009 until January 2012 Robert served as Chairman of the Australian Carbon Trust (later Low Carbon Australia Ltd.).
He is Adjunct Professor in Sustainability at the US Studies Centre at the University of Sydney and Chairman of the Cooperative Research Centre for Low Carbon Living at the University of New South Wales.
He was Chancellor of the University of Adelaide between 2010 to 2014. In June 2012 Robert was awarded a Companion of the Order of Australia for eminent service to the Parliament in the portfolios of Environment and Defence and to Australia’s International relations.