When former Midnight Oil frontman-turned-politician Peter Garrett got to Canberra, he figured joining the unofficial parliamentary choir, known as the Parliamentary Poets, might be fun. The Poets hold a sing-off against the press gallery choir every Midwinter Ball, and while the journos were usually the better performers, Garrett thought it was the politicians’ turn, despite the journos’ “semi-witty” musical putdowns — an extension, he wryly notes in his recently released autobiography, of their usual occupation.

But Garrett wasn’t to last long among the Parliamentary Poets:

“[The journalists] were beatable, but not so long as my choir mates, without a hint of self-awareness, continued to instruct their new star recruit and de facto choir leader in how we should sing. Most struggled to hold a tune, so what we needed to do was practice, plain and simple. Yet, strangely, people would rarely make themselves available for rehearsals. I eventually gave up on this harmless yet surreal extra-curricular activity.”

Another interesting revelation from Garrett’s memoir: he has an allergy to cold water. Yes, Ms Tips was sceptical too, but it sounds legit. In 2004, Garrett was in the news after blacking out while surfing. Doctors were puzzled about why it had happened, but after the media misreported it as a surfing accident, Garrett got an email from a specialist in rare allergies in California suggesting the allergy might have developed. Further tests in Sydney confirmed it — cold water can be fatal for Garrett. He carries an EpiPen at all times.

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Peter Fray

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