Australia’s longest-serving independent senator, Brian Harradine, has died in Hobart after a long illness. He was 79.
Mr Harradine spent 30 in parliament as a Tasmanian senator, from 1975 to 2005.
A devoutly religious and thoughtful man, nicknamed “the grey fox of the Senate” he was one of the most powerful and shrewd politicians in the country for a number of years during the Howard Government, using his balance of power to win handsome concessions for his state, especially the $353 million it received from his support for the partial sale of Telstra.
He also blocked Coalition attempts to introduce the GST in 1998, but, to the ire of many indigenous leaders, backed Howard Government’s Wik agreement on native title, believing he avoided a race-based election in the process.
Mr Harradine was born in South Australia and trained as a priest, but then joined the union movement, but was expelled from the ALP, despite attempts by Gough Whitlam to save him, in a bitter religious fight.
But his staunch Catholicism also drew other critics, especially when he attempted to have the Medicare rebate for abortion removed.
Mr Harradine had six children with his first wife, Barbara, who died in 1980. He married again two years later to Marian, a widow with seven children.
He had more than 30 grandchildren and was also known as the father of the Senate.
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