The Hon Peter Garrett AM
Midnight Oil – vocalist, songwriter, since 1977
President Australian Conservation Foundation (1989 – 1996)
Board Member Greenpeace International (1993 – 1995)
Labor Member for Kingsford Smith 2004-2013
Minister for Environment & Arts 2007-2010
Minister for School Education & Youth 2010-2013
Peter Garrett is a long-time advocate and campaigner on a range of local and global issues. A member of Midnight Oil, one of Australia’s most successful bands, he served as a cabinet minister in the Rudd/Gillard Labor governments from 2007-13.
The ‘Oils’ are renowned for their fierce independent stance and active support of the rights of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and protection of the environment. The band’s protest and benefit shows, most notably the anti-Exxon performance on the back of a truck in the streets of New York, and the ‘Sorry suits’ appearance at the closing of the 2000 Sydney Olympics, were hallmarks of a 13-album career leading to an ARIA lifetime achievement award in 2006. In 2020 the band released The Makarrata Project, its first new material in 14 years. The mini-album, featuring collaborations with First Nations artists, debuted at Number One on the ARIA charts. A new Midnight Oil album is expected soon.
Peter Garrett was appointed the youngest-ever President of the Australian Conservation Foundation (1989-96). Significant results were achieved in his first term for many threatened areas of Australia’s natural heritage including Queensland’s Wet Tropics and Jervis Bay in NSW. The second term saw ACF’s profile expand with the development of partnerships with non-government and business organisations and increased focus on marine issues and Northern Australia.
Peter entered federal parliament as the Member for Kingsford Smith in 2004. In 2007, Labor won government and he was appointed Minister for the Environment, Heritage & the Arts.
This role saw substantial additions to Australia’s national reserve system, particularly to Indigenous Protected Areas, along with increased investment and new programs for the conservation of the Great Barrier Reef.
As Minister for the Environment, Peter Garrett was instrumental in the campaign against so-called “scientific whaling” in the Antarctic, culminating in Australia’s successful challenge to Japanese whaling in the International Court of Justice in 2014. He secured agreement to a national waste policy leading to Australia’s first-ever e-waste recycling scheme and delivered a long-awaited resale royalty scheme for visual artists.
Following the 2010 election, Peter was sworn in as Minister for School Education, Early Childhood and Youth. In that role, he secured a broad suite of education reforms. These included legislating, for the first time, a needs-based funding system for all Australian schools, as well as implementing a national curriculum and initiating indigenous ranger cadetships for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students.
A member of the Order of Australia for contributions to the music industry and environment, and an Officer of the Order of Arts and Letters (France), in 2010 he received the ‘Leaders for a Living Planet’ award from WWF Australia & International.
In 2015, Peter Garrett’s best selling memoir ‘Big Blue Sky’ was published described as “something much greater than a political autobiography. It is a true memoir…a beautifully written autobiography, but also a social, cultural and political history of great depth and moment.” In 2016 Peter’s debut solo album ‘A Version of Now’ was released and toured nationally with his band the Alter Egos. In 2017, Midnight Oil embarked on The Great Circle World Tour – with most dates selling out within 24 hours, the band played across 14 countries.
2007-10: Environment, Heritage and the Arts
Peter Garrett made more decisions to protect the environment than any other Australian environment minister. During his term Peter:
- Refused to approve the Traveston Dam in Queensland to protect the endangered Mary River Turtle
- Ensured the successful World Heritage nomination of Ningaloo Reef in Western Australia
- Authorised the listing of the Kimberley region as an area of national heritage
- Initiated a world-class system of marine reserves, including declaring a conservation zone of a million square kilometres of the Coral Sea.
- Instigated the successful International Court of Justice case against Japan’s so called scientific whaling
- Made record additions to ‘Indigenous Protected Areas’ across northern Australia including the Wardekken-Djelk IPA covering over 1.3 million hectares.
- Legislated a resale royalty scheme for visual artists
- Negotiated and introduced Australia’s first e-waste recycling scheme.
2010-13: School and Early Childhood Education
As education minister Peter Garrett, oversaw the most significant changes to the education system since Federation, the Gonski reforms, with the introduction of a fairer, needs based school funding model. Peter also delivered the first stages of a national curriculum, championed anti – bullying programs, and secured additional resources for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students and teachers.
- Securing agreement for the first time to a national curriculum.
- Legislating, again for the first time, a national, needs-based funding model for school education – the Gonski reforms.
- Introduction of a Safe Schools Hub, accelerating the effort on addressing bullying in schools
- Establishing the inaugural national set of teacher standards