Labor, unleash your rock star

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Peter GarrettBarbecue conversation at my place inevitably turns to the question of what bands or artists people have seen. Rare gigs or guilty pleasures are named: Prince, Cold Chisel, The Baycity Rollers ... Mick Jagger at The Corner Hotel. And dead artists are popular: Jeff Buckley, Michael Jackson.

But I come into my own when we start talking about who we've seen the most. My band? Midnight Oil. Seven times. I chanted Oils with the best of them through many a sorry support band's set.

Peter Garrett was my boyhood hero. He turned me on to caring about the environment, Aboriginal people, workers' rights, nuclear disarmament and even politics itself. He couldn't sing to save himself, but Garrett had something that few rock stars had: straight up and down gutsy passion. And it was catching.

That's why what Labor has done to him makes me madder than a Garrett dance across a slippery beer barn.

They got themselves an '80s rock star for cabinet — nice move. Attracted the notoriously disaffected Gen X voter. But they didn't get the lead singer of Pseudo Echo: they got Peter Garrett, the lead singer of a band that once stood on a truck in Wall Street, wailing about financial inequality and environmental abuse. The same singer that travelled Australia getting to know Aboriginal people before releasing one of the best reconciliation documents this country has seen, the album Diesel and Dust.

He's a man who made speeches off the cuff at gigs that Julia Gillard couldn't write in a year.

And what jobs has Labor given him? Ah, Pete, put down the megaphone and Marshall amp, we need you to have a look at this insulation scheme thingy. Guess what Labor? He didn't sing 'How can we keep the recession out of our beds/stick pink batts in all our roofs.' And now he's the man for schools, education and youth, which would have been perfect for him 20 years ago.

Labor has used its rock star politician, who almost made it to Canberra on his own, to push paper around.

A little stage whisper of advice, Labor: Peter Garrett was a rock star and a hero to a lot of us. Use him at the top of his voice! Here's how to make the most of him: first, get him out of that godawful suit and into his long, underarm revealing singlet. Then you let him speak — sing, if he has to! — his mind on every issue that made him the most outspoken rock singer this country has seen.

The Libs have Wilson Tuckey but, Labor, you will have the real Peter Garrett. You won't agree with everything he says, but, by the rock gods, people will listen. There'll be no need for focus groups and citizen's assemblies — the real Garrett will fire people up so much they'll want to raise their fists at him or take action on his words.

And lastly, Julia, the next time he has to make a speech in Parliament, let Pete come running down the stairs, do his epileptic frog dance, grab the mike and scream until the Opposition's heads droop like your approval rating. 


Paul MitchellPaul Mitchell's most recent books are Dodging the Bull (short fiction) and Awake Despite the Hour (poetry). His journalism has appeared in The Age, Griffith Review, Meanjin, crikey and The Big Issue.  www.paul-mitchell.com.au

 


Topic tags: Paul Mitchell, Peter Garrett, Midnight Oil


 

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Existing comments

Bravo or whatever the appropriate Gen X approval word is.

The year before he went in to politics, I heard Garrett speak to a gathering of 200+ Year 11/12 students, some of whom probably thought the Oils were yesterday. He spoke about E Timor and enthused those kids like no teacher or politician or church person could.

Well said, Paul Mitchell.
Frank | 20 October 2010


As DEHWA minister, Garrett did one good thing for the nation: he kyboshed the proposal for the environmentally devastating dam on the Mary that Beattie left behing for Bligh when he shot through on his LA junket ("Qld Trade Representative to California", my a**e).

Bligh lacks the intellectual prowess to recognise that sometimes, one's obligations to the nation should take precedence to slavish adherence of the intent of one's predecessor. Nevertheless, Garrett at least had the guts to reject the plans of ALP Federal President Bligh, and the wisdom to make sure she had no idea that he was making sure the science behind is decision would be irrefutably solid.

The insulation debacle was not overseen by Garrett; if anything, it was being "handled" by Mark Arbib as Garrett's assistant minister. Either Arbib had no idea that so many scuzbuckets and conmen would jump in to cash in on the programme, or he allowed it to happen so that they could use it to smear Garrett if ever he didn't toe the Party line.

David Arthur | 20 October 2010


Bravo or whatever the appropriate Gen X approval word is.

The year before he went in to politics, I heard Garrett speak to a gathering of 200+ Year 11/12 students, some of whom probably thought the Oils were yesterday. He spoke about E Timor and enthused those kids like no teacher or politician or church person could.

Frank | 20 October 2010


Garret or Faustus as I like to think of him is the protagonist of a classic political tragedy. Though a highly successful entertainer with a cult following he was unsatisfied, and made a deal with the devil, he surrendered moral integrity in order to achieve political power and success. However, everything he touched turned to flexible packaging and the devil bit him on the bum. He is now an errand boy.

Time to go back to the music game, Peter.
Dermott Ryder | 20 October 2010


"first, get him out of that godawful suit and into his long, underarm revealing singlet."

"You won't agree with everything he says, but, by the rock gods, people will listen."

This use of language is very offensive. It is an awful sin against the Holy Name.

Peter Garrett is not a role model for anyone. I suugest St.John Bosco as a true role model and hero for our youth and for all.
Trent | 21 October 2010


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