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Tuesday, 13 May 2014
Page: 2429

Senator CONROY (VictoriaDeputy Leader of the Opposition in the Senate) (15:56): On behalf of the opposition, I support the condolence motion moved by the Leader of the Government in the Senate, and extend our condolences to Brian Harradine's widow, Marian, and to their children and extended family—and I understand that one of his daughters is present in the gallery today.

Brian Harradine retired from the Senate on 30 June 2005, having given three decades of service to this place as a senator for Tasmania. He was the longest serving Independent senator since Federation. Although Brian was a passionate Tasmanian, he was in fact born in South Australia. He began his lifelong love affair with Tasmania when he moved there in 1959. It is fair to say that that love was reciprocated—reflected not just in his election to the Senate in 1975, 1980, 1983, 1987, 1993 and 1998, but in the reaction by Tasmanians to his passing last month.

Before entering the Senate, Brian was a committed trade unionist. He was the secretary of the Tasmanian Trades and Labour Council, and a member of the ACTU executive. Brian was a member of the Australian Labor Party until he and Labor had, shall we say—and described well by Senator Abetz—a parting of the ways in 1975.

In his inaugural speech on 25 February 1976 Brian said:

… I am a trade unionist. I have been a full time union official for over 17 years. That is my love; that was my life.

Brian may have left his life as a full-time union official behind in coming to this place, but he never lost his passion for the underprivileged or the disadvantaged. From the crossbenches, he was a powerful advocate for Tasmania and a champion for the causes in which he believed. He played critical roles in important debates and decisions in this place on such issues as native title and the privatisation of Telstra.

We also remember his opposition to the introduction of the goods and services tax. During the debate on the GST bills, Brian Harradine said this:

Decisions we make now on this issue are not for the next three years; we are making decisions here that will affect generations.

What Brian enunciated there during the GST debate was his approach to all legislation that came before this place. In the statement he issued announcing he would not be recontesting his seat, Brian reflected on his role as a senator in these terms:

I am particularly proud of the role I have played in promoting and defending the Senate not as a rubber stamp for the government of the day, but as a true house of review scrutinising and refining the laws under which we all live.

Brian Harradine did just that during the three decades in which he represented the people of Tasmania in this place.

I think some of the tributes described by Senator Abetz are very apt. 'The silver fox' is probably my favourite. He demonstrated that time and time again in negotiations with all parties. He always negotiated in good faith. I would say—from one of my previous roles—that I have always admired his decision to gain for Tasmania what was called 'fibring up the isle of Tasmania'. He negotiated to get government funding many years before the debate about fibre ever started, and he insisted on getting many benefits for Tasmania. But that far-sighted vision that he gained from the government demonstrated that not only did he mean what he said about getting policies over time; he delivered on getting policies over time. That fibre serves Tasmania well today and it will continue to serve Tasmania.

I say to all of us who served with him: it was a delight to deal with him. I was not as lucky as Senator Abetz to deal with him as regularly, but it was a great pleasure to discuss many, many matters with him—and, as always, some entertaining matters about the ALP's past.