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Harradine looks to life beyond Senate

Tasmanian Senator Brian Harradine, considered by many to be a model Catholic politician, has indicated he might not contest the next election.

In a move that could shift the balance of power in the upper house, Senator Harradine, who will be 70 when his term expires in June 2005, told The Sunday Age he is considering his future.

"People, I suppose, expect me to continue. I don't necessarily have to do what people expect me to. I generally don't do that," he said. "I will reflect on the situation as time goes on."

But in the wily style that has kept governments guessing on his voting intentions, Senator Harradine also said there were serious issues he was still concerned about.

"That's what keeps me going. We really have a long way to go," he said. "Our focus should be on the poor and the most vulnerable in society."

Senator Harradine was first elected to the Senate for Tasmania in 1975.

His most recent reaction was to the National Health and Medical Research Council's decision on Friday to issue the first licences allowing excess human embryos to be used for research.

Senator Harradine described it as "licences to kill" and said it set an "unacceptable and profoundly disturbing precedent by allowing the destruction of the most vulnerable, innocent members of the human family" for experiments.

If he committed to serving another six-year Senate term, Senator Harradine would be signing on until age 76, although some observers say he might stand at the election and then retire, handing over his seat to one of his sons or someone sharing his moral and political views.

Senator Harradine has shared the balance of power with the Democrats and other independent and minor party senators since 1996.

He allowed the Coalition to pass its native title (Wik) legislation and to introduce the 30% private health insurance rebate.

However his electoral support has declined, with some analysts doubting whether he would retain his seat. Last time he faced the voters in 1998, he polled just 24,254 direct votes (7.87%) and scraped home on preferences - well down from the 32,202 votes (10.4%) he won in 1993.

Harradine looks to life beyond Senate (The Age 18/4/04)

Brian Harradine, Senator for Tasmania

19 Apr 2004