Short memory

It’s the eve of Federal elections here in Australia. I tend to consider myself apolitical for the most part as I don’t trust any of ’em; but this election is particularly interesting.. and crucial on an environmental level. I’ve left posting this until just before polling commences as I’m not interested in trying to influence people to vote one way or another for the reason mentioned above.

Celebrity politicians aren’t unusual in the USA (Ronald Reagan and Arnold Schwarzenegger spring to mind), but it’s somewhat of a novelty here.

While best known in Australia as one of the biggest Aussie rock bands of the 70’s and 80’s, I believe Midnight Oil had some success in the USA as well during that time. Midnight Oil was all about activism – anti-nuclear, anti-war, pro-peace and very pro-environment. They sang songs that were very popular with my generation, which also shocked and angered the older conservatives of this country.

Through music and verse, Midnight Oil brought to the forefront issues of Australia’s subservience to the USA, our treatment of our indigenous people and the danger of nuclear power. They campaigned against nuclear weapons and the destruction of our unique environment through logging and mining.

The frontman of Midnight Oil, Peter Garret, after also having been the president of the Australian Conservation Foundation in the late 90’s to early 2000’s and a short stint leading the now defunct Nuclear Disarmament Party; is currently the Australian Shadow Minister for Climate Change, Environment, Heritage and the Arts; a role he took on just a couple of years ago.

If Labor should win the election tomorrow night, this country will have its very first celebrity minister in government – an incredibly important position given the state of our world. If you are familiar with Midnight Oil, you’d likely be excited by this prospect as Peter was so passionate in regards to the environment. I was really surprised and very concerned though when he took up with Labor considering that our Greens party, headed by the seemingly steadfast Bob Brown, is gradually gathering strength. Perhaps he felt that he needed to be where the real power is. Unfortunately, Bob and Peter have ended their friendship recently after a spat.

Like the USA, we’re really just a two party country currently. Our Labor party I guess you’d say is equivalent of the USA’s Democrats and our Liberal Party are like the Republicans – yes, the term “liberal” is a little misplaced :).

But in joining the Labor camp has Peter sold out in the process.. or is he about to?

I’m always very suspicious of politicians, regardless of faction, mainly because just about everyone has their price. There’s also this tendency for politicians who start out with the purest of intentions to fool themselves into believing they can make compromises on important matters with the thought in mind of getting back on track at a later date.. cough.. USA Democrats.. cough…. and it never happens. Deals are struck behind closed doors, favors are given and taken – then the piper has to be paid. As the old saying go, the road to hell is paved with good intentions.

Sometimes people are best shouting from the sidelines and keeping the bastards honest rather than being that empowered. It’s a very special sort of person who can keep their integrity in the cesspool of politics at a national level; I certainly couldn’t.

Since Peter’s assimilation into one of the most powerful political parties in Australia; we’ve seen him appear to backflip on a few very important issues; purely by association with the party.. for example, he now supports an extension of uranium mining; the construction of a major pulp mill in one of the last great wilderness areas of this planet and some issues relating to reconciliation with our indigenous people have also been shied away from. These were things that he was very, very passionate about just a couple of years ago. Perhaps they are bitter pills he feels he needs to swallow in order to manoeuvre himself into a position  to effect real change once in power (and returning to his previous stance) – but as mentioned, politics has this way of dragging good people down. Why be seen as a “team player” on a team that that promotes what you so privately vehemently oppose?

As Peter sang in one Midnight Oil song: “It’s better to die on your feet than live on your knees”. Politics, bleh.

Labor says is will ratify Kyoto if elected. Australia and the USA are the only two developed countries in the world who are signators to the Kyoto protocol, but haven’t ratified it. Liberal has made all sorts of environmental promises too if re-elected.

We wait with bated breath the results of tomorrow; but I do fear that regardless of who gets in, we’ll still move too slowly on environmental issues. In the meantime I’ve been taking a trip down memory lane watching some old Midnight Oil videos that still stir up passion in me. I hope Peter keeps close to heart the strong messages he put forth all those years ago.. and doesn’t suffer the same fate of those he sang about in “Short Memory”. Below is the Peter Garrett I greatly admire.. and regardless of what happens over the next 24 hours – there will never be another politician who dances quite like him :).

UPDATE  25 NOVEMBER (Australian local time). After 11 years of Liberal party rule, we now have a new government. Here’s a list of climate change related promises Labor must now fulfill; among them the immediate ratification of the Kyoto Protocol.

Presenting Australia’s new all-singing, all-dancing and hopefully all-genuine  Australian  Minister for Climate Change, Environment, Heritage and the Arts – Mr Peter Garrett:

Power and the Passion – (1983) – political corruption


Short Memory (1982) – war and military occupation


Beds are burning (1988) – Indigenous reconciliation


Blue Sky Mine (1990) – Corporate corruption


US Forces (1982) – USA military and foreign policy