So Peter Garrett, Minister for the Environment, won’t be answering questions on climate change in the House of Reps. Nor, if the press from the Bali climate change conference is any indication, will he be saying much out of the House – it’s the Rudd/Wong team issuing statements live from Bali at the moment. For the true believers, this is not a good sign.
Garrett was brought on board because he carried with him, as well as not inconsiderable public profile, a passionate and articulate advocacy for environmental conservation issues. Now, due partly to the MSM’s thirst for the trivial gaffes that Garrett has occasionally provided, it seems that the parliament to which he has been duly elected is joining Qantas lounges on the ever-growing list of locales where his unmediated passion is unwelcome.
To many of those who have despaired at Labor’s edge towards the centre (or beyond), Garrett is as important figure because he represents hope. Hope that the maniacally-dancing frontman of one of the nation’s most fiercely political bands would take that unbridled passion to the crushingly careful world of Australian politics, and drag it kicking and screaming into a more compassionate future. Hope that a man who performed at the Olympics wearing a “Sorry” shirt would stand up as a representative of the Australian people and enshrine that sentiment in law. Hope that a crusader for our environment would bring his insight and his experience on the front lines to the insulated public service town that is Canberra.
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But it seems the time is not yet ripe for the Garrett show to roll into town. Yet the hope for the true believers endures. The hope that Garrett is, far from being neutered, a tamed beast. A circus tiger, perhaps. For now, he is happy to remain in his cage, run through the tricks, let his trainer be the boss. But come the day he is pushed too far – on the environment, on indigenous affairs, on the arts – he will snap. And with a fierce swipe of his razor-sharp claw, he will slash the ropes that bind him and eviscerate the parliament of Australia with such passionate ferocity, such fierce conviction, that politics as we know it will never be the same.
That hope endures because to let it die is to concede that Peter Garrett, who through the sheer force of his personality had pub yobs all over Australia singing passionately about indigenous land rights, has been de-balled by the vast Labor machine. And that’s simply too horrible to contemplate.