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Tuesday, 13 May 2014
Page: 2434

Senator JACINTA COLLINS (Victoria) (16:20): I join in relatively few condolence discussions, but this is one I think I should make a brief contribution to. I shared the last 10 years of Senator Brian Harradine's period in the Senate and I recall him with enormous fondness. We shared many things over that time. I would like to thank Senator Abetz for his contribution to this discussion; I think he covered the history and contribution of Senator Harradine to Australian public life with enormous respect. I would like to add some of my fondness and personal anecdotes to this discussion. The one principle that I saw Brian Harradine representing, and that I too was inspired by, was that of the common good across a very broad range of public policy issues. I too remember the day when Brian Harradine said, 'I cannot.' He supported progressive taxation; he saw the GST as regressive. In that role he had, with the balance of power in the Senate, he tried to see if there were ways to ameliorate its potential effects, but at the end of the day he said, 'I cannot.'

Brian dealt with an enormous range of issues over that time. For most of that 10 years, as the Labor Party spokesperson on workplace relations matters, I worked with him across a range of those issues in the Senate. And I share Senator Scullion's recollections of Senator Harradine's humour and dry wit.

Brian Harradine and I shared offices nearby. We shared babies; my own, and his staff's. We shared the atmosphere here in the parliament that can often seem to all of us a bit like boarding school. His humour and his wit were those things that help lighten some of the stresses of life here. His passion and commitment to public life, his level of astuteness, his tenacity both to his political adversaries and with respect to his health are all important things to note. But Brian Harradine balanced that passion with his skills, his tenacity and his judgement.

I can recall one day—I cannot recall the debate—standing pretty much in this position as the shadow minister at the time, and he walked past me. He had obviously been listening to the debate up in his office as he came down to the chamber. As he walked past me he gestured—I was being passionate but maybe a bit too much—that I might want to tone it down just that little bit. I think that reflection highlights that whilst Senator Brian Harradine was an Independent, he was indeed father of the Senate. He could proffer support, advice and guidance not only to the crossbenchers but also to those of us within the major parties participating in debates and discussions here. I recall Senator Harradine with great fondness and I note this place has been quite different since his absence. He struggled with his health for a number of years. I would like to thank Marianand his family for the support that they have provided to him over many, many years and share with them their loss. Thank you.