Brian Harradine

Brian Richard William Harradine (b 1935), union official and politician, was born at Quorn, South Australia. In 1959 he left the PMG (Engineering Division) and came to Tasmania, where he worked in a number of small trade unions. From 196476 he was Secretary-General, Tasmanian Trades and Labor Council and a member of the Australian Council of Trade Unions' executive. After a decade of bitter ideological struggle with the left-wing over his vocal anti-communism and association with social conservatives of the National Civic Council, he was expelled from the Labor Party in 1975.

Harradine represented Tasmania as an independent senator continuously from 1975 until his retirement in 2005, his 1980 re-election recording the highest vote for an independent senator since federation. As the senior member, he was the 'Father of the Senate', and the longest-serving independent senator since federation. Harradine enjoyed widespread local support for his strong Christian values and as a passionate protector of Tasmanian jobs and families.

Holding the balance of power, Harradine used his pivotal independent status to win key concessions from government, such as securing extra funding for the Tasmanian environment and telecommunications in return for his support for the one-third sale of Telstra. He was a vigilant, influential and effective member of many Senate and Joint Committees covering such diverse topics as industrial relations, human embryo experimentation, human rights, video materials, information technologies, defence and trade. He participated in each of the eight Senate Legislation Committees covering all portfolios, and played a central role in significant national debates such as Wik, media ownership and the GST.

Further reading: Biographical information, Senator Harradine's office; www.aph.gov.au/senate/senators; Who's who in Australia 2003.

Wendy Rimon