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Tuesday, 13 May 2014
Page: 2431

Senator SCULLION (Northern TerritoryMinister for Indigenous Affairs and Leader of The Nationals in the Senate) (16:01): I rise to support the motion, and I also rise to speak as a fellow senator reflecting on the enormous contribution made in this place by Brian Richard William Harradine, who was born in 1936 and who sadly passed away on 14 April 2014. I am sure that all of us here concur with the sentiment that a truly bright light was extinguished from private and public life on his passing. I offer my sincere condolences on behalf of the National Party and the government to his spouse and the rich legacy he leaves behind in his children, stepchildren and grandchildren.

I want to start off by noting that, as many have said, Mr Harradine was a humble man. His battles were never about seeking to draw attention to himself, even if political attention was never far from him. His battles were always about others, in keeping with his deep Christian beliefs and convictions. Whilst his views were not considered to have been fashionable by some, he has been universally respected on all sides of politics and beyond. This is because he followed his internal moral road map without wavering.

If I can draw on the words of our former Prime Minister, John Howard, who spoke at Brian Harradine's funeral. He said:

It's an indication that when you make a contribution to public life that's based on integrity, it crosses the political divide …

In an entry in The Companion to Tasmanian History, Wendy Rimon describes Mr Harradine as starting off as a 'union official and politician', even if this is not how most people remember him. This was prior to his parting with the Labor Party in 1975 because of his fierce anticommunist views and his association with social conservatives. After his departure from the Labor Party, the Father of the Senate, as he came to be called, served as an Independent—and there was no-one who was more fiercely independent in thought and conscience, as well as conduct, than Brian Harradine, serving in that capacity for 30 years, the longest-serving Independent senator since Federation.

While it is true that it is difficult to fully appreciate the profundity of his vision, and whilst I may not be able to do justice to the breadth of that vision, the common theme that informed all his battles in this place was a sense of community service. This was reflected in his commitment to the state of Tasmania as the patron of Tasmanian jobs and families, despite his having hailed originally from South Australia. It was no mean feat that he managed to secure a $350 million cash deal for Tasmania, which he negotiated in return for his vote on the partial sale of Telstra.

Of particular interest to me was his role in brokering the Wik native title agreement. He was pivotal in the Wik native title legislation because he feared an election based on race, something he could not countenance. And it should be remembered that it was not Mr Harradine who gave ground in those difficult and protracted negotiations; it was in fact the then government. Mr Harradine was not one to give ground when he firmly believed in something.

Mr Harradine was also a great negotiator, whether it was on the parliamentary stage or indeed in dealing with Indigenous people, for whom he had a deep respect and care. He was always motivated by securing their interests. He was not only the Father of the Senate but a father figure for the most vulnerable and marginalised in our society.

In this place he served on many committees, bringing to bear his indomitable style founded on conviction and hard work. As I noted earlier, it would be difficult to go through all his achievements in public life. In terms of his personal life, his devotion to his family and those closest to him was immeasurable. His authenticity is sadly missed. Frugal with himself, he was generous with everyone else. It should not, however, be forgotten that, for all his seriousness and dedication to his work, Mr Harradine did have a sense of humour, and this dry humour was invariably aimed at himself. It was a truly beguiling trait that a man with so much talent and power refused to take himself seriously.

Brian Harradine, may you rest in peace—a peace you justly deserve. Vale, gentle soul.