Final respects paid to revered `father of the Senate' at state funeral
IN WHAT was perhaps more fuss than former Tasmanian independent senator Brian Harradine would have liked, hundreds of family, friends and politicians past and present gathered yesterday to farewell the humble man.
Australia's longest-serving independent senator was remembered as a faithful servant to family, friends, society and God at a state funeral in Hobart yesterday.
About 600 packed St Mary's Cathedral to pay respects to the father of 13, who requested the mass focus on prayer for his soul rather than on his life and legacy.
Many parliamentary colleagues from all sides, including former prime minister John Howard and Premier Will Hodgman, were there to pay their respects.
In a written memorial, Mr Harradine's son, Bede, explained the decision not to give a eulogy during the service was in line with his humble father's wishes.
"Throughout life he never sought the praise of others. In death, he most certainly had no desire to be eulogised," it said.
Known during his political career as the "father of the Senate", Mr Harradine represented Tasmania for 30 years in the nation's upper house, gaining a reputation as a wily negotiator.
"For some, Brian Harradine was a parliamentary colleague: fearless, determined, formidable. For others, he was the perfect gentleman.
"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."
For some, Brian Harradine was a parliamentary colleague: fearless, determined, formidable. For others, he was the perfect gentleman.
He said many had tried to pigeon-hole his father.
"Yet, Brian Harradine - the statesman in the tradition of Thomas More - was always far deeper, his vision far broader, than they could ever fathom."
He recalled a letter from his dad showing his subtle humour and trademark practicality, after an airline lost his luggage and as consolation upgraded him to first class.
"Seat 1A. I think though I'll go back to economy during the night, fold back the arm rests in a four- seat row and hopefully get some sleep," the letter to his son read.
Archbishop Julian Porteous presided over the service and paid tribute to a "just man".
"He's seen by allies and by those opposed to him as a man who will not go down paths of expediency or compromise in order to achieve his ends," he said.
"Brian leaves behind an extraordinary legacy of good."
He said Mr Harradine shunned personality politics.
"He never claimed the limelight, or sought to gain credit for what he achieved; he never wanted a fuss, and he's probably thinking that today is a little over the top."
Speaking after the service, Mr Howard said he may not have always been able to win over Mr Harradine, but he was a man you could trust.
"He was tough but faithful," Mr Howard said.
"If he gave his word on something he stuck to it. When he wouldn't give his word on something you knew you had no hope of getting it."
Former Liberal senator Richard Alston recalled there was no easy way out when dealing with Mr Harradine.
"You couldn't just get through on a general proposition, you really had to argue your case with him," Mr Alston said.
"I found him very good to work with."
Former long-serving Tasmanian speaker Michael Polley met Mr Harradine shortly before he was expelled from the Labor Party for accusing its leaders of having links to communism.
"It cost the Labor Party nationally and here in Tasmania dearly at the time," Mr Polley said.
While the party may have regretted the decision, Mr Polley said Mr Harradine remained a Labor man at heart.
"He was a great trade unionist," Mr Polley said.
"Always remained president of the shop assistants union."
As well as his integrity and tough negotiating skills, all sides of politics remarked on his record of standing up for Tasmania.