May 14, 2014

Mr CHESTER (Gippsland—Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Defence) (10:09): It is a privilege this morning to speak on the condolence motion for Senator Brian Harradine, who died, aged 79, on 14 April. In all respects it was a life well lived. I would like to associate myself with the remarks from the member for Bradfield and also the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition in the House yesterday.

Although I never knew him personally, what I learned about Senator Harradine I learned from his public persona. Those of us who share a public life in this place recognise the risk of making assumptions about people based on publicity or what we see in the media. But with Senator Harradine I think what you saw was what you got. As I was looking from afar, he struck me as a passionate man, a man of strong personal beliefs and convictions. He also struck me as a wily politician. As the member for Bradfield indicated, he was someone who knew who had voted for him, and he was determined to represent their interests in the Senate to the absolute best of his ability. He was a very significant figure in Australian political life over three decades. He represented Tasmania with an enormous amount of integrity.

I was struck by the comments from others in relation to Senator Harradine on his passing, including former Prime Minister John Howard, who said:

He was a just man, and he identified with principles and stuck with them.

He never deviated. If he gave his word on something, he stuck to it. When he would not give his word on something, you knew you had no hope of getting it.

The Prime Minister in the House yesterday said:

In a long and distinguished career, Brian Harradine was deeply respected for his values and for his principles. He was deeply respected as a man of honour and integrity. He engaged in many fights, but it was never about him; it was always about the cause.

For Brian Harradine, faith and family were everything. So I say to Brian's family, on behalf of the government, to his wife, Marian, to their 13 children, to their 38 grandchildren and to their family and friends: he was a good man. He made a contribution to this country and will be missed.

Most of all I get the sense that Senator Harradine had a very strong sense himself of family and community. So I extend my condolences, on behalf of the people of Gippsland, on his passing. His 13 children, who I know miss him dearly, would have a deep sense of family pride in the way Senator Harradine served our community. To Bede, Anthony, Gemma, Paul, Fiona, Richard, Phillip, Nicola, Cushla, David, Ben, Ann and Mary, I extend my condolences, and to his wife, Marianne. Only they know the sacrifices that a family member makes for a life lived so publicly. I think it was Prime Minister Abbott himself who said on several occasions that members of this place are volunteers when it comes to public life but their families are conscripts to the cause. Our families are so important to us in this place. I recognise Senator Harradine's family in that regard.

As I said, I never had the opportunity to meet Senator Harradine personally, but I do know his daughter Mary and regard her as a very close family friend. Mary actually lives in the same street as I live in in Lakes Entrance. I asked Mary if the family would like to put anything on the public record in relation to Senator Harradine's career. Bede has provided me with some words of remembrance, which I will take the opportunity to read into the Hansard now:

Brian Harradine was a humble man. Throughout life he never sought the praise of others. For some he was a parliamentary colleague: fearless, determined, formidable. For others, he was the perfect gentleman. For countless others, he was the man who assisted them with an immigration problem here, or stopped to help a stranger fix a puncture there, and always with warmth, gentleness and a genuine smile.

For family, he was far more than a man with a three song piano repertoire, who loved a game of cards, and who once had a fifth share in a sixth-rate racehorse. He was a practical witness to self-giving love.

Brian Harradine spoke often about two main themes.

The first was "values and organisation". One without the other: what can one really achieve? The second was the International Labour Organisation's aim "to contribute to the development of an economic and social order in which people can live with freedom and dignity and pursue both their spiritual development and material well-being in conditions of economic security and equal opportunity". This echoed for him the essence of Catholic social teaching, and it was an aspiration he made his own.

Brian always knew the limits of the public life. He himself once spoke whimsically of being a rooster one day, and ending up a feather duster the next. Over the years, many tried to stereotype and pigeon-hole Brian. Yet Brian Harradine—the statesman in the tradition of Thomas Moore—was always far deeper, his vision far broader, than they could ever fathom.

Brian Harradine lived well his 79 years on this earth, his own delicate hold on life ending on 14 April. He was blessed with Marian his wife, an ardent supporter, a confidant who gave wise counsel, a loving wife and mother, and a careful steward of the household. Theirs was a faithful, loving union, sustained by a shared faith, and a love of bushwalking in the Tasmanian wilderness. Their union endured the pressure of public life, the challenges of raising a large family and, in recent years, the cross of Brian's growing infirmity.

It was supremely fitting that the drama of Brian's final struggle took place in the week of Christianity's central drama. How frequently his family heard him recall the sacrifice of Christ on Calvary. He reflected upon this often, telling his family how it renewed his own commitment to follow Christ in his personal and public life.

Brian Harradine remained to the very end a faithful servant to family, to friends, to society, and to God. May he rest in peace.

It is a great privilege to read those comments from the Harradine family. It is only fitting that a man who served this place with enormous integrity and left this place with that integrity intact should be recognised through this condolence motion. I thank the House.

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