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How Can He Sleep While His Cred’s Burning?

garrett.jpgBack in the summer of ’95 (if I’m not mistaken), I headed out to Fremantle and heard Midnight Oil in concert. Those boys could really rock the park, and as a performer, lead singer Peter Garrett was fantastic.

As a politican, not so much.

Example 1:

Peter Garrett has made a humiliating backflip after Kevin Rudd ordered him to reverse his position on Kyoto, blunting Labor’s attack on the Coalition’s split over the issue.

The backdown came after a Labor crisis meeting, which followed a day of sustained assault by John Howard and senior ministers on Mr Garrett’s approach to a new post-Kyoto climate accord which he would be negotiating in Bali in December if Labor wins the federal election.

Mr Garrett started the day by committing a Labor government to signing a new global agreement on greenhouse gas emissions targets that might not include developing nations, such as China and India. He said the absence of China and India would not be a “deal-breaker”.

The Opposition Leader had initially endorsed Mr Garrett’s statement, saying China and India would follow suit if Australia showed leadership on the issue by signing up without them.

The Coalition seized on the Labor position. Mr Howard said it was a policy to “reduce Australian jobs”, not to reduce Australian emissions.

Last night, Mr Garrett issued a statement, reversing his position. “Appropriate developing country commitments for the post-2012 commitment period … would be an essential prerequsite for Australian support,” he said late yesterday.

The blunder enabled the Coalition to shift the heat on climate change away from Environment Minister Malcolm Turnbull. It was revealed on the weekend that Mr Turnbull had asked Cabinet six weeks ago to sign up to Kyoto because Australia would meet its targets anyway.

Mr Rudd had attacked Mr Turnbull, highlighting his difference with Mr Howard – who rebuffed Mr Turnbull’s suggestion – and the rest of Cabinet.

—-

Mr Howard had said Mr Garrett’s original commitment, in an interview with The Australian Financial Review and on ABC radio, was against Australia’s interests and would put Australian jobs at risk.

“We can’t have a situation where Australian industry is bound to take steps to curb greenhouse gas emissions, but competitive countries like China are not bound,” Mr Howard said. He said that would effectively export Australian emissions – and Australian jobs – to China.

Foreign Minister Alexander Downer said committing to any new deal without the explicit support of developing countries was “absurd”.

“You cannot be the government of Australia and go into negotiations saying ‘developing countries don’t have to make a contribution, we’ll sign the agreement anyway’ and think you are going to do something to solve this problem of greenhouse gas emissions,” he said.

At a press conference in Cairns yesterday morning, where Mr Rudd and Mr Garrett unveiled a $200 million plan to protect the Great Barrier Reef, both men repeated the commitment.

Mr Rudd said countries such as Australia should be prepared to take the lead on signing new targets under a new international agreement so that big emitters in the developing world had no excuse not to adopt the same tough approach.

“We believe that leadership must come first from the developed economies, including Australia and the United States, and then countries and economies like China have nowhere to go,” Mr Rudd said.

Only after Mr Howard and other Coalition ministers began to publicly question the policy, and the media began asking questions, did Mr Rudd, Mr Garrett and a team of advisers hold a crisis meeting at lunch-time in Cairns.

It was decided that Mr Garrett, who had made the initial commitment, should release a statement that “clarified” Labor’s position and recognised the need to lock developing nations into targets for greenhouse gas emission cuts.

After Mr Rudd had flown to Townsville, Mr Garrett issued a statement to the media, emphasising that Labor’s policy was to seek binding targets at the Bali conference for both “developed and developing” nations.

Mr Garrett’s statement even italicised the “and” to make it clear he was repudiating his earlier comments.

Example 2:

Ex-rocker Peter Garrett was forced into an embarrassing apology to Kevin Rudd yesterday as the Liberal Party pounced on his remark that Labor would change its policies after the election.

At a hastily convened press conference in Sydney’s eastern suburbs, the Labor frontbencher said “I accept responsibility for cracking a joke at the wrong time and place”. It was “probably a dumb thing to have done”.

Mr Garrett said he had two phone calls with Mr Rudd yesterday morning after waking to damaging front-page headlines.

He told his leader: “Hey mate, sorry for the stuff up.”

“I just apologised to Kevin this morning,” Mr Garrett said. “I said: ‘Hey mate, this is what happened.’ He accepted the apology. We agreed it is a bit of a stuff-up. We won’t be making comments like that again.”

In a rapid-fire response to Mr Garrett’s jocular Friday remarks to disc jockey Steve Price at Melbourne airport, the Liberals released a savage website video clip and a bumper sticker.

Alongside a picture of Mr Garrett, the sticker reads: “Once we get in, we’ll just change it all.” Underneath it states: “Don’t risk Labor.”

The video clip has a series of stinging grabs of Mr Rudd agreeing with Liberal policies, and a humiliating clip of a gauche Mr Garrett gibbering and running away from the camera.

Campaigning in Darwin, the Prime Minister hammered the theme that Labor’s “me-too” support of Coalition policies was a charade.

He said Mr Garrett’s remarks that Labor would change its policies after the election were no joke or gaffe.

He was echoed in Melbourne by Treasurer Peter Costello and in Sydney by Malcolm Turnbull, signalling a headline Liberal assault on Labor’s strategy of copycatting Liberal election promises.

“What he’s done is confirm the suspicions so many of us have had for so long and that is the me-tooism is nothing more than a dodgy strategy to get elected”, Mr Howard said.

“It’s all sweetness and light in the campaign but once they get in, it’ll be a radical, risky alternative.

“You don’t joke about what your intentions are in government three weeks out from the election.”

But the former Midnight Oil frontman continued to strenuously insist that his comments to Price were off-the-cuff light-hearted banter.

“We will just get on with life now. It was just a joke that he seemed to have taken very seriously,” he said.

“I reckon Australians have a sense of humour. I don’t think it’s a sin to have a sense of humour”.

About the author

Picture of David Lange

David Lange

A law school graduate, David Lange transitioned from work in the oil and hi-tech industries into fulltime Israel advocacy. He is a respected commentator and Middle East analyst who has often been cited by the mainstream media
Picture of David Lange

David Lange

A law school graduate, David Lange transitioned from work in the oil and hi-tech industries into fulltime Israel advocacy. He is a respected commentator and Middle East analyst who has often been cited by the mainstream media
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