Midnight Oil

[Powderworks] The Garrett

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Mon, 19 May 2003 18:17:58 +1000

Carr gave Garrett the good oil: join Labor and I'll make you really famous

By Deborah Snow
May 3 2003

The Premier, Bob Carr, sought to recruit former Midnight Oil singer Peter 
Garrett to the Labor Party just before Christmas, telling the charismatic 
activist and rock icon he might become Premier one day if he took up the 

The approach was made just nine days after Mr Garrett announced his 
retirement from the band, amid speculation he was heading for a political 
future with the Greens.

The revelation is contained in a forthcoming book on Mr Carr's leadership, 
Bob Carr: The Reluctant Leader, by Labor historian Marilyn Dodkin.

Ms Dodkin was granted extensive access to Mr Carr's diaries. On December 12, 
he wrote: "I had Peter Garrett in to ask him to consider being in the Labor 
Party. 'You could be premier,' I said. 'Not just a Green, on the 
crossbenches in Canberra or Sydney'."

Mr Carr's diary gives no further details of the exchange but the Premier has 
confirmed the approach.

"I'm always seeking to build the party by recruiting new talent," he told 
the Herald. "I wanted to get him into politics and ... I told him he should 
be thinking about this."

On the suggestion Mr Garrett could rise to become a Labor premier, Mr Carr 
said: "If someone who speaks and writes and lobbies as well as he does 
entered politics there would be speculation about them becoming a leader or 
at the very least a minister one day".

A spokeswoman for Mr Garrett said he was unable to comment. However, Mr Carr 
said Mr Garrett told him he was unlikely to take up the offer. "He had a 
business project to pursue in northern Australia, I think, and a lot of work 
to do in winding up the band. I was disappointed, but I reserve my right to 
try again."

Mr Garrett announced on December 3 that he was leaving Midnight Oil after 25 
years. As well as his powerful stage presence one of the group's trademarks 
was its hard-hitting stand on issues like Aboriginal rights and the 

Mr Garrett is now president of the Australian Conservation Foundation and in 
1984 ran for a Senate seat for the Nuclear Disarmament Party.

Mr Carr's diaries reveal Mr Garrett was not the only high-profile recruit he 
sought for state Labor. At a low ebb in his leadership in 1989 he approached 
both Gough Whitlam's son Tony (now a Federal Court judge), and prominent 
lawyer Jim Spigelman (now state Chief Justice) to stand for preselection. 
Both declined.

The diaries also reveal Mr Carr has come close to resignation on half a 
dozen occasions throughout his leadership.

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