Brian Harradine

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Brian Harradine
Senator for Tasmania
In office
13 December 1975 – 30 June 2005
Personal details
Born (1935-01-09)9 January 1935
Quorn, South Australia
Died 14 April 2014(2014-04-14) (aged 79)
Tasmania, Australia
Political party Independent

Richard William Brian Harradine (9 January 1935 – 14 April 2014) was an Australian politician who served as an independent member of the Australian Senate, from 1975 to 2005, representing the state of Tasmania. He was the longest-serving independent federal politician in Australian history and a Father of the Senate.

Early life[edit]

Harradine was born in Quorn, South Australia before moving to Tasmania in 1959.[1]

Political career[edit]

Harradine was an official for the Federated Clerks' Union.[2] He then served from 1964 to 1976 as Secretary-General of the Tasmanian Trades and Labour Council and a member of the executive of the Australian Council of Trade Unions.[3]

In 1968 the Federal Executive of the Australian Labor Party (ALP) refused to let Harradine take his seat on the body.[4] He was suspected of links with the Democratic Labor Party[5] and had declared that "the friends of the Communists intend to try and silence me".[6] The Executive's actions prompted ALP leader Gough Whitlam, who had supported Harradine, to resign and seek a renewed mandate from the caucus. He was only re-elected by a narrow margin, 38 votes to 32, in a ballot against Jim Cairns.[4]

In 1975 the Federal Executive, by a majority of one vote, expelled Harradine. They subsequently rejected, by the same margin, an attempt to convene a special conference to hear his appeal. The Executive's action came after the Tasmanian State Executive declined to expel him.[7] He had been accused of involvement with the National Civic Council.[8]

Harradine decided to contest the 1975 election as an independent for the Senate. He won comfortably. Thereafter he remained a senator until deciding not to contest the 2004 election. His term expired on 30 June 2005.[9]

From 1993 to 1999, Harradine and Mal Colston were joint Fathers of the Senate. Between 1999 and 2005, Harradine alone held this title.

Harradine was a particularly important figure in the Senate between 1994 and 1999. (See Australian Senate for the Senate numbers.) From December 1994 to March 1996, the makeup of the Senate meant that Harradine's vote combined with that of Labor and the Australian Democrats was just enough to pass Labor government legislation, making his support extremely valuable to either side of politics. Then, after the March 1996 election and the resignation from the Labor Party by the disgraced Colston, Harradine's and Colston's votes were sufficient to pass Coalition legislation, notably the Native Title Amendment Act 1998 (also known as the "Wik ten-point plan") and the partial privatisation of Telstra.[10] He secured $350 million in communications and environmental funding for Tasmania in return for backing the Telstra legislation.[11] However, he refused to support the GST.[10] After 1 July 1999, the Coalition needed four extra votes to pass Senate legislation, so Harradine's vote became less important.

Harradine was socially conservative, reflecting his Catholic values.[12] He opposed abortion,[12] embryonic stem cell research,[13] same-sex marriage, and pornography.[13] He secured a ministerial veto on importation of the abortifacient RU486 and a prohibition on Australian overseas aid financing family planning that included abortion advice.[6]


Harradine died on 14 April 2014 in his home in Tasmania. He suffered several strokes prior to his death. He was 79 years old.[13]

Prime Minister Tony Abbott offered Harradine's family a state funeral, which was accepted.[14] The funeral was held on 23 April 2014 at St Mary's Cathedral in Hobart.


  1. ^ Rimon, Wendy: Brian Harradine, The Companion to Tasmanian History, University of Tasmania, 2006.
  2. ^ Stuparich, Jeremy (15 April 2014). "Brian Harradine was a people's advocate with strong beliefs". The Age. Retrieved 15 April 2014. 
  3. ^ "Brian Harradine". Retrieved 15 April 2014. 
  4. ^ a b Pybus, Cassandra (1999). The Devil and James McAuley. Univ. of Queensland Press. p. 219. ISBN 978-0-7022-3111-7. 
  5. ^ "By year – National Archives of Australia". Retrieved 15 April 2014. 
  6. ^ a b Grattan, Michelle (14 April 2014). "Brian Harradine – a one-off who played the power of one to the max". The Conversation. Retrieved 15 April 2014. 
  7. ^ "Running Sore". The Sydney Morning Herald. 28 September 1975. p. 25. Retrieved 16 April 2014. 
  8. ^ Darby, Andrew (23 April 2014). "Former senator Brian Harradine remembered as a 'just, principled' man". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 30 October 2014. 
  9. ^ Green, Antony: Retiring MPs, 2004 Federal Election Guide, Australian Broadcasting Corporation, 2004.
  10. ^ a b Grattan, Michelle. "Harradine and the political power of one", The Age, 30 June 2004.
  11. ^ Wright, Tony. "Former senator Brian Harradine – the blueprint for the power of one". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 15 April 2014. 
  12. ^ a b Chan, Gabrielle. "Longest-serving independent senator Brian Harradine dies aged 79". The Guardian. Retrieved 15 April 2014. 
  13. ^ a b c "Brian Harradine, Australia's longest-serving independent senator, dies in Tasmania aged 79". ABC News. 14 April 2014. Retrieved 30 October 2014. 
  14. ^ "State Funeral For Brian Harradine". 17 April 2014. Retrieved 30 October 2014. 

Further reading[edit]

Parliament of Australia
Preceded by
Peter Durack
Father of the Australian Senate
with Mal Colston (1993–1999)
Succeeded by
John Watson