When Peter Garrett first entered politics way back when, it was contesting a seat in the Senate for the Nuclear Disarmament Party. With his profile, he was a god-send for their fledgling cause. For my friends outside Australia, Garrett was better known as the enigmatic singer of the band, Midnight Oil.
Come 2007, Garrett was now a high-profile recruit for the Australian Labour Party, although it was former Labour leader, Mark Latham, who originally recruited Garrett to the cause back in 2004 during Latham’s failed leadership. Perhaps not surprisingly, given his prior public vocal stances on green issues, Garrett was given environmental issues as his portfolio after the Labour Party won office in November 2007. However, being a minor Senator without portfolio interests was a very different kettle of fish to being placed in a Cabinet portfolio role that while not necessarily the most senior, was always going to be one in the public spotlight. There were plenty of pundits who wondered if he was up to it. I was one of them but was more than happy to be proven wrong.
Regrettably, history has proven the doubters right. Normally I am only too happy to win an argument. However this time, I wish I hadn’t.
The question has to be asked, why was he permitted to continue to hold any portfolio interests after his repeated bungling and failures in a Cabinet post? On that track record, others would have been long before dumped from such interests entirely, yet Garrett was permitted to stay.
That Garrett is a principled person who has gone into politics for all the right reasons – to make Australia and the world a better place – is beyond question. But he, at the minimum, needed a damn sight more experience in the game before being given such responsibilities. Instead, the deaths of four Australians are now on his conscience for what may only be described as a staggering display of ineptitude over the government's housing insulation scheme. Ultimately, the blame for those deaths has to be shared by those who left him in that role where he continued to be damaging.
The question also has to be asked, just how much real damage has Garrett unintentionally done to the Rudd government’s re-election chances? Quite a bit, I fancy.