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Peter Robert Garrett AM MP (born 16 April 1953), is an Australian musician, environmentalist and politician. He has been an Australian Labor Party member of the House of Representatives for the seat of Kingsford Smith, New South Walesmarker, since October 2004. After the Labor Party won in the November 2007 election, Garrett was appointed Minister for the Environment, Heritage and the Arts by Prime Minister Kevin Rudd. He was lead singer of the Australian rock band Midnight Oil from 1973 until its disbanding in 2002. He served as President of the Australian Conservation Foundation for a total of ten years, and in 2003 was appointed a Member of the Order of Australia for his contribution to the environment and music industry.

Music and activism

Born in Sydney, New South Wales, Australiamarker, Garrett attended Barker Collegemarker in Hornsbymarker, before studying Arts at the Australian National Universitymarker and later Law at the University of New South Walesmarker. About the same time he became a rock singer with the Australian rock band Midnight Oil in 1973, after responding to an advertisement placed by one of the band's founding members Rob Hirst. In tandem with its musical and commercial success, the band was long identified with environmentalist causes. It was particularly critical of United Statesmarker military and foreign policies during the 1980s. He is known for his trademark "stiff and sudden" dance movements in performances.

Garrett was president of the Australian Conservation Foundation (1989–1993, 1998–2004). He joined the international board of Greenpeace in 1993 for a two-year term. He served as adviser and patron to various cultural and community organisations including Jubilee Debt Relief, and was a founding member of the Surfrider Foundation.

On and off stage, Midnight Oil often made political statements. At the closing ceremony of the 2000 Olympic Games in Sydneymarker, the group performed before Prime Minister John Howard and a television audience of hundreds of millions, wearing black tracksuits bearing the word "sorry." This referred to the Howard Government's refusal to apologise to Aboriginal Australians for the former policy of removing of Aboriginal children from their families.

In 2000 Garrett was awarded the Australian Humanitarian Foundation Award in the Environment category and in 2001 he received an honorary Doctorate of Letters from the University of New South Walesmarker. He left Midnight Oil in 2002 to concentrate on his environmental and social activism, effectively spelling the end for the group. He has since ruled out any future musical projects, stating that his musical career was always exclusively bound to Midnight Oil.

He was appointed a Member of the Order of Australia in 2003 for services to both environmental advocacy and the music industry.

Following the Asian Tsunamimarker of Boxing Day 2004, Garrett and the other members of Midnight Oil reformed for two gigs as a part of the fund-raising event WaveAid.

On 7 July 2007 Garrett presented Crowded House at the Australian leg of Live Earth.

On 14 March 2009 Garrett (with Midnight Oil) also performed live at the Melbourne Cricket Ground for Sound Relief to raise money for the Victorian bushfire appeal.

Australian federal politics

Garrett's first attempt at entering politics was in 1984, when he co founded the Nuclear Disarmament Party and stood for a seat in the Australian Senate in New South Walesmarker at the December 1984 federal election. He needed 12.5% of the vote to win a seat in the Senate voting system, but a primary vote of just over 9% was insufficient when Labor gave its preferences to the conservative National Party ahead of the NDP.

In June 2004, Labor leader Mark Latham announced that Garrett would become an Australian Labor Party candidate for the House of Representatives at the 2004 federal election, in the safe New South Wales seat of Kingsford Smith which was being vacated by the former Cabinet minister Laurie Brereton. There was some initial criticism from Labor members in the electorate, as this overrode the local branch's wishes. He won an easy victory on 9 October, increasing the Labor majority there.

In June 2005, Garrett was appointed Shadow Parliamentary Secretary for Reconciliation and the Arts.

Garrett has modified many of his earlier views and says he is now a "team player" in the Labor Party. He now supports the U.S.-Australia alliance, and no longer opposes the Joint U.S-Australian Defence Facility at Pine Gap. He says he will argue for environmental causes inside the Labor Party, but will observe the decisions of the ALP caucus, including accepting any decision to change Labor's "no new uranium mines" policy. Garrett's change of stance drew criticism from both journalists and Midnight Oil fans, who contrasted Garrett's former pronouncements on environmental and political issues he made before joining the Australian Labor Party.

While the media generally responded negatively to Garrett's alleged betrayal of his former beliefs, labelling him a "turncoat", some commentators, such as the Canberra Times columnist John Warhurst, defended his need to be a "team player" if he was going to play the political game "from the inside".

During the 2006 Victorian State election campaign, Garrett urged voters to vote not for the Australian Greens, but for his own Labor Party. This incurred the ire of Greens leader and former Garrett ally, Bob Brown who accused Garrett of having "sold out" and of going against the green movement, since joining the Labor Party.

Peter Garrett is a committed Christian. Although he firmly supports the separation of church and state, Garrett has commented extensively during his time in Parliament on the implementation of Christian values and how "personal values should and do inform one's day to day thought processes and decision-making."

In December 2006 Kevin Rudd, the newly-elected Labor Party leader, announced that he planned to appoint Garrett to his front bench. Garrett was subsequently appointed as Shadow Minister for Climate Change, Environment & Heritage, Arts.

Garrett has been criticised for giving support to the Gunns Company's plan to build the Bell Bay Pulp Millmarker in the environmentally sensitive Tamar Valley, Tasmania.

In the 2007 Federal election, Garrett was re-elected to his seat with a 4.56% swing towards him. However, his campaign was fraught with a number of tactical errors, including journalist Steve Price claiming that Garrett had said to him that Labor would simply change all their policies once they got into power. This was disputed by Garrett as a "short jocular conversation".

On 29 November 2007, the Prime Minister-elect Kevin Rudd named Garrett Minister for the Environment, Heritage and the Arts; however, his responsibilities did not include the climate change role, which was given to Penny Wong.

On 20 December 2007, Garrett approved a controversial plan to dredge Melbourne's Port Phillipmarker Bay. This move has attracted strong criticism from environmental groups who are concerned that the 23 million cubic metres of sand, rock and contaminated silt dredged from the bay's shipping channels will affect fishing and tourism in the area.

Garrett approved a major expansion of South Australia's Beverley uranium mine on 28 August 2008, saying the uranium mine would use world's best practice for environmental protection. Garrett's decision was praised by the uranium industry, but criticised by the Australian Conservation Foundation which said the decision would result in the mine spreading acid and radioactive pollution over 100 square kilometres.

Garrett announced on 24 October 2008 that the government would be withdrawing all $2.6 million funding from Australian National Academy of Music (ANAM). ANAM, which is responsible for training Australia's most promising classical instrumentalists, will be forced to close if it cannot attract funding from other sources.

Personal life

Garrett is married and has three daughters. In 2007 the artist Michael Mucci entered a portrait of Garrett in the Archibald Prize.

Garrett is the uncle of Nickelodeon Australia personality Maude Garrett.

See also



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