A BIT like admitting to favouring Collingwood as your second team, a residual affection for Peter Garrett is one of those things it is best not to mention too loudly. The Minister For Something To Do With Schools has precious few admirers or defenders on the left, which is hardly surprising, as it is very difficult to determine exactly what he is meant to be doing, there being a veritable tribe of cabinet members with some or other responsibility for the alleged promotion of education. If Gillard could only find one or two more scholars’ advocate she would have the appropriate half-dozen – six being the traditional number for carrying a coffin. With Garrett no longer allowed anywhere near the Environment portfolio, he could draw some relief for the thwarted green urge by insisting on burying old-fashioned, rigorous and fact-based educational standards in one of those organic, worm-welcoming cardboard coffins in which his sometime friend, Helen Caldicott, plans to be laid to rest.
On the right, Garrett gets even less respect, regarded as the roof-burning, apprentice-electrocuting incompetent whose guidance of the pink-batts fiasco continues to cost taxpayers dear.
All of the above is true, but at the Billabong memories of Garrett’s days with Midnight Oil still grant a little indulgence. Yes, with the exception of those few who believe a Craig Thomson impersonator borrowed the brothel-creeper’s credit card, licence and signature, there is probably no bigger dill in Canberra. But to have caught the show the Oils put on one night in the late Seventies at Paddington Town Hall, well let’s just say memories count for a lot. The Saints and Matt Taylor, at that point still hot for flying saucers, were on the same bill, and it was a memorable evening. If Radio Birdman had marched up the road from the Oxford Hotel – this was before it went gay, gay, gay and Rob Younger went bald, bald, bald – to join the show it would have been a perfect night.
It is sad, very sad, to see Garrett now doing his best to alienate another body of opinion. That would be parents who, thanks to the former rocker’s low profile, had no idea he exerts an influence on shaping their nippers’ little minds. But then, earlier this week, he ruined his reputation on that score as well by voicing the Gillard government’s reaction to the Gonski report. It wasn’t what Garrett said, and he said rather a lot, it was that none of it made the slightest sense. Here’s a sample:
PETER GARRETT: We're not talking about more talking now; we're actually talking about real action on the basis of the recommendations that Mr Gonski brought forward. And I ...CHRIS UHLMANN: And what do you define as real action?PETER GARRETT: Well I'll tell you. I expect the senior officials working group of federal and state senior education officials to look immediately at what we think are the necessary funding principles we need to agree as we consider Mr Gonski's model…
Perhaps it was all those years spent standing too close to huge banks of speakers which rattled something loose upstairs. Maybe climate change has fried the central cortex, or perhaps he drank from one of Craig Thomson’s unwashed cups and rampaging spirochetes are now wreaking their havoc. Whatever the reason, anyone who believes “not talking about more talking” means additional rounds of chinwagging to determine what “we need to agree” is quite clearly a suitable case for treatment.
Poor Peter, he should have stuck with the rock business.