Brian Harradine, the former Tasmanian independent senator who held the title “Father of the Senate,” has died at home after a long illness. He was 79.
A devout Catholic known for his stance against pornography, abortion, and stem cell research, Mr Harradine was an important political figure, particularly through the 1990s and early 2000s.
Mr Harradine’s vote helped to form the balance of power during the twilight years of the Keating era and the start of Howard’s reign.
A strong advocate for the union movement, in 1975 he was expelled from the Labor Party for claiming the ALP had links to the Communist movement.
A spokesman for the Harradine family said on Monday in a public career spanning more than 40 years, Mr Harradine tackled a wide range of issues of importance to people across the political spectrum.
“Brian Harradine was a great politician of the old school who connected with people from all walks of life,” the spokesman said.
“People saw in Brian a man of integrity who respected the dignity and worth of every person.”
"Ever the staunch advocate for Tasmania, Brian Harradine always sought to get the best possible deal for his state," Prime Minister Tony Abbott said in a statement.
"His faith and his family played an integral part in his life."
From late 1994 to March 1996, Mr Harradine's vote - when combined with the Australian Democrats and Labor - was enough to help pass Labor government legislation.
After the March 1996 election, his vote, when combined with the vote of the disgraced former Labor Party member Mal Colston, was enough to help pass Howard government legislation.
That included the Native Title Amendment Act 1998 and the partial privatisation of Telstra.
Mr Harradine was a controversial figure on the Australian left.
Senator Eric Abetz, who on Monday said Mr Harradine’s death would be felt by the whole community, believes Mr Harradine’s career was boosted when he was kicked out of the Labor party.
“His willingness to stand on principle was highlighted with his expulsion from the ALP for his assertion, now proven, that there were “friends of the Communists” in the ALP,” Mr Abetz said.
“His expulsion by a National Labor Conference held in his home city of Hobart gave him the publicity to be elected to the Senate in 1975.
“He was successful at every following election until his voluntary retirement.”
Mr Harradine’s first wife, Barbara, died in 1980. The couple had six children. In 1982, he married Marian, a widow with seven children.
Mr Harradine was Australia’s longest-serving independent member of the Australian senate, serving between 1975 and 2005.