Yesterday in Perth, I got to have breakfast with musician, activist and former government minister Peter Garrett as part of a tour to launch his newly released autobiography Big Blue Sky. OK so technically there was a room full of other people there as well… but still…
Staged by WAM in partnership with independent bookstore Boffins, the breakfast featured an ‘in conversation’ style session with local music journalist Simon Collins interviewing Garrett about his autobiography, his career with Midnight Oil and his political career; before giving the audience a chance to put some questions to Garrett.
Here are just a small handful of the things we learnt:
1. Peter Garrett is not Kevin Rudd’s biggest fan.
This one isn’t going to be news to anyone who’s been following or seen any of the recent media coverage in regards to Garrett’s autobiography; and not surprisingly proved to be one of the early topics of conversation with Garrett remarking that one of his biggest regrets was supporting Kevin Rudd, over Kim Beazley, in his bid for the leadership of the Labour Party; and that at the time he believed that Rudd had the energy to trouble Howard at the election. Garrett also made clear the respect he has for Kim Beazley, especially after getting to know him better at the backbenches and spoke highly of Beazley’s character especially in his unwillingness to attack Rudd from the backbenches.
2. Midnight Oil was definitely a rock band
In discussing the make up of the band, it was remarked by Collins that Midnight Oil was not your typical rock band; that not many bands could get a song about a West Australian asbestos mine to the top of the charts. Garrett suggested that they were always a rock band, that there were guitars, bass and drums; but that the mind of the band was in a different space and that there was also always an element of social justice and activism to their music, noting that they band had been together maybe two or three months when they played their first benefit for Save the Whales.
3. A Midnight Oil reunion is not imminent
Sorry to disappoint, but there are no plans for Midnight Oil to reform at present. Garrett did suggest that the band had talked about the possibility of reforming; but that no-one was gnashing at the bit for it; and that any future or potential revival would have to work for all of the band and not interfere with any of the band members other jobs and projects.
4. Garrett has ideas on how to change Australian politics.
Garrett when asked what he would do to change Australian politics for the better was quick to reply that he thinks fixed terms of four or five years would help reduce the combativeness of Australian politics. Believing that a fixed term would perhaps foster bipartisanship, whilst the constant threat or anticipation of an election campaign has made Australian politics much more adversarial.
He would also improve civics education for young Australians in an effort to make it clearer how the system works and to combat the negative imagery and talk that surrounds politics and politicians. He also pointed out that politics and the different political parties needed to move away from the old style of organising themselves, and to find a contemporary and accessible way to take part in the political process.
5. Garrett enjoys Australian Hip-Hop
When asked about what new music he’d been listening to, or who he was influenced by, Garrett whilst making clear he was not intending to single any one band out, remarked that whilst he’d been revisiting his old favourites (as we are prone to do) he’d been enjoying listening to Hip Hop, specifically Australian and Indigenous hip hop; name checking Victorian MC Briggs.
Peter Garrett’s autobiography Big Blue Sky is available now from Allen and Unwin.