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’ were 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.
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 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.
Married with three daughters, Peter Garrett has recently released a memoir ‘Big Blue Sky’ and a debut solo album ‘A Version of Now’, and is touring nationally with his band the Alter Egos.
I’m often asked the question ‘was it worth it?’
The answer is a resounding yes, as I hope these short (and long) lists of things that were accomplished over my time in parliament, with colleagues and as part of a Labor government, make clear.
2007-10: Environment, Heritage and the Arts
The short list
- Successful historic challenge to Japanese so called ‘scientific whaling’ whaling in the International Court of Justice.
- Record level investment in resourcing and protecting national parks and reserves, new Indigenous Protected Areas, and the Great Barrier Reef.
- Securing agreement for the first national e-waste recycling scheme for computers and televisions.
- Getting the ball rolling for a world’s best marine reserve system, including declaration of nearly a million square kilometres for the Coral Sea Conservation Zone.
- Handing back vulnerable sections of Malabar Headland to the NSW government as national park.
- Stopping the Traveston Dam in Queensland.
- Legislating a Resale Royalty Scheme for visual artists.
- Increasing the arts budget and getting more artists into schools to encourage and inspire young people.
- Successful nomination of Ningaloo on the World Heritage list, and the Kimberley region on the National Heritage list.
2010-13: School and Early Childhood Education
The short list
- 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