A Catholic conservative and former right-wing member of the Labor Party, he was first elected as a senator for Tasmania in 1975. He has been a key player in the Senate's balance of power, particularly during the Howard Government's first term, when he often found himself with the deciding vote.
Told of Senator Harradine's retirement plans by a reporter while campaigning in the Tasmanian electorate of Bass yesterday, Prime Minister John Howard said he had great admiration and respect for the senator.
'I have found him to be an immensely decent, committed person, a very fine Australian and someone who's worked very hard for the people of Tasmania,' Mr Howard said.
Senator Harradine was widely recognised for winning $150 million of concessions for Tasmania when he cast the deciding vote for a 30 per cent sale of Telstra in July 1998.
But he nearly sank the GST in 1999 when he voted against it, forcing the Government to make a deal with the Democrats. Other important votes on the Wik Native Title legislation, the private health insurance rebate and the second part sale of Telstra went the Government's way.
Election analyst Antony Green said a decision by Senator Harradine not to contest the election would open the way for the Greens and Labor to benefit in Tasmania. 'It will probably make the Senate contest easier to pick: three Labor, two Liberals and a Green,' he said.
This should drive the last nail into the Magic 38 thesis.