CANBERRA OBSERVED: News Weekly
Senator Brian Harradine retires
, July 2, 2005
In his valedictory speech, Tasmania's long-serving senator reflects on the public concerns which motivated him.At a time when politicians increasingly battle to gain public respect, Senator Brian Harradine has been one who stands apart.
The Tasmanian independent senator bid his farewell from the Senate this month after 30 years and six successive election victories.
Well-wishers came from all sides of politics to pay their respects to the veteran MP, and even his enemies conceded that the Tasmanian senator has been one of if not the most consistent, courageous and effective politicians of his generation.
In his final speech to the Parliament Senator Harradine revealed how he had never wanted to become a senator, but had been led into federal politics after he was expelled from the Tasmanian branch of the ALP in 1975.
But having been pushed into politics, Senator Harradine was never reluctant to champion the causes he believed in, including human rights and pro-life issues, despite his many detractors.
"In three decades, I have witnessed the encroachment of utilitarianism, crass materialism and moral relativism, each having negative implications for true human flourishing,'' he said.
"Against this backdrop, my approach to public policy has at times been summarily dismissed as an attempt to legislate morality.
"As the great Natural Law philosophers pointed out, the public policy issues of equality, fairness, justice and the common good are indeed profoundly moral questions.
"Is not all legislation a reflection of a moral position?
"I have consistently addressed matters of public policy through a rigorous analysis of proposals against a framework of social justice principles that are able to be understood and supported by persons of goodwill who are committed to a just, free, equal and life-affirming society.''
To this end, Senator Harradine said he had fought for economic justice for workers and their families "against the slavery of economic rationalism''.
He had also taken on the pornography industry which exploited women and children; fought against the mistreatment of asylum-seekers and refugees; and opposed scientific experimentation on human embryos.
"It is why I have maintained that the true measure of our society and our civilisation is not how rich, or powerful, or technologically advanced we are. But simply, it is how we treat the weakest and most vulnerable among us.
"It underpins my unwavering defence of pro-life, pro-human values against the despondency of abortion and euthanasia.
"It motivates my criticism of the technological imperative - 'what can be done should be done'.
"There is growing pressure to allow the cloning of human embryos, which is a direct threat to humanity itself.
"Even now, taxpayers' money is being used to fund destructive experimentation on human embryos.
"This imperative has re-introduced a eugenic mentality which wrought such sorrow and destruction for a previous and not long distant generation.
"It inspires my support for a better deal for families, and my defence of marriage between a man and a woman as the fundamental building block of a life-affirming society, confidently providing for its future.''
Senator Harradine, who has had poor health in recent months, said he would be leaving the Senate for the political wilderness "to spend more time bushwalking the beautiful Tasmanian wilderness, God-willing''.
In his final parting words, Senator Harradine urged his fellow senators to remember that the "gravity of what we do and who we represent should humble us immensely''.
"To those who remain and to all newcomers, I can only but echo the prayer with which we start each day in this chamber: May God continue to bless, direct and prosper your deliberations. Farewell."
And farewell to you too, Senator Brian Harradine.