by Moana Maniapoto
When Labor won the election in Australia last month, it was only its fourth win since 1942. And the last time Labor won, Midnight Oil frontman Peter Garrett - was there.
Tonight on Te Ao with Moana (8pm on Māori Television), the former politician explains how it is he morphed from musician to parliamentarian and back to artist.
“My first love in many ways is music because I think music works at an emotional level but my first calling is politics because I wanna change stuff.”
Garrett discusses the challenges he faced as an activist-turned-cabinet minister, under both Kevin Rudd and Julia Gillard.
In his autobiography Big Blue Sky: A Memoir, Garret doesn’t hold back his disdain for former Liberal Prime Minister John Howard, Kevin Rudd (“the great underminer”) and the Green Party (“willing to sacrifice the good for the perfect”). After nine years in parliament, Garrett resigned after Rudd reclaimed his leadership from Gillard. Garrett described the nature of politics during his 2013 valedictory speech.
“It was a no-win situation being environment minister. Fifty percent of the Australian population wanted me to do much more and the other 50 percent didn't want me to do anything at all. And so there we were, in the middle and you know, that's politics.”
Butt of protests
In 1984, the 6’4 (193cm) frontman for Midnight Oil, Greenpeace and the Australian Conservation Foundation, stood for Parliament as leader of the newly formed Nuclear Disarmament Party. But, surprising many fans, he entered Parliament not with the Greens - but under Labor. In 2007, the rocker once described as a “walking icon of outrage” was appointed the minister for environment.
The former protestor himself became the butt of protests in Tasmania over his support of a pulp mill and mining. While Garrett can point to successes such as setting up an almost million square kilometre conservation zone in the Coral Sea and successfully taking Japan to the International Court of Justice over so-called scientific whaling, his term was also marked by tragedy. Rudd demoted Garrett over a Labor-led home insulation programme linked to 200 house fires and four deaths, an event outlined in the chapter entitled 'The Fall Guy'.
In September, the man who served as minister of education and youth under Gillard, is back in his happy place.
This year Midnight Oil will tour for the last time. Famous for political anthems that focus on environmental and indigenous issues, the band have released 13 albums, selling over 20 million units worldwide - including the epic single Beds Are Burning. Midnight Oil will tour New Zealand and play songs from their newest album Resist.
In his memoir, Garrett wrote about an earlier tour that took in Hamilton during the early 1980s.
According to Garrett, in the early hours of the morning, the band were bingeing on takeaways when their sound engineer was approached by a Mob member demanding a bite from the soundie’s burger.
“Suddenly Colin thrust the entire hamburger into the inquisitor’s mouth as the bikie froze for a moment agape at the audacity of the move. 'Run' Colin shouted and we took off out the door, in pure shock and awe.”
Hamilton is not on the itinerary this time.
Watch the full interview tonight 8pm on Māori Television.