brian harradineI never knew the former Senator Brian Harradine, who passed away this week.

But I did hear him speak in the early 2000s at a seminar associated with the annual Parliamentary Prayer Breakfast.

He was passionate about a bioethical issue that was to dominate the decade.

Like most Australians, I had no idea thousands of left-over IVF embryos were routinely disposed of by being flushed down the sinks of clinics once they exceeded their used by date.

I remember Harradine's impassioned plea that human life not be the subject of destructive experimentation.

A couple of years later there was a big conscience debate in the Parliament which allowed what Harradine feared. Leftover human embryos were given over to scientific experimentation.

By 2006, the slope got slipperier and MPs were voting to allow the cloning and destruction of human embryos. It passed the Senate by just one vote.

One can only wonder what Harradine would have thought about the news this week of the accidental impregnation of an Italian woman with twins from another couple.

The 2002 and 2006 votes promised to unleash the healing power of human embryo stem cells. But this is yet to be realised as ethical adult stem cells are where the real action in stem cell science is.

I had not been with ACL long before pressure built within the newly elected Rudd Government to allow our overseas aid money to be spent on providing abortions for women in poor countries.

Never mind that many of these women lacked access to proper birthing facilities, access to abortion was a higher value.

This was significant because Harradine had done a deal with former Prime Minister John Howard to ensure our aid money would only be used for poverty relief, not abortion.

ACL lobbied hard in the Parliament to keep the Harradine deal in place but to no avail. Our supporters responded in droves to our online "Aid, not abortion" campaign, also sadly to no avail.

Harradine was a strong supporter of indigenous people and the need for reconciliation and a life-long trade unionist.

A devout Catholic, he was someone who obviously had a passion for the Lord Jesus Christ.

Press Gallery veteran Michelle Gratten this week reprised a 2004 quote of Harradine's which demonstrated his faith.

"The greatest foul-up that’s happened to me over a period of time is when I’ve been confronted with challenges and thinking, ‘Well, how am I going to get out of this?’ Or, ‘Wow am I going to deal with this real problem?’ Instead of saying to Jesus, ‘How are we going to turn this into good?’"

As we ponder the death and resurrection of Christ this weekend, it is worth remembering that this act of supreme sacrifice has inspired leaders like Harradine to live a principled public life.