Peter Garrett, once rock star in Australian band Midnight Oil, then President of the Australian Conservation Foundation and board member of Greenpeace International, then parachuted into federal politics, and now, following the elevation of Kevin Rudd to the position of leader of Australia’s Labor Party, the Shadow Minister for Environment and Climate Change.
On ABC radio this morning Garrett talked about the need for “targets and timelines” to address climate change. He didn’t mention alternative energy sources.
Some say that the only real greenhouse neutral alternative to coal, for baseload power generation, is uranium. The Australian Prime Minister, John Howard, recently commissioned an inquiry into nuclear energy and is likely to make nuclear power an election issue next year. Interestingly Peter Garrett has always been an ardent critic of nuclear power and uranium mining.
Few would dispute that climate change is likely to be a focus for the next federal election. Is Garrett, as shadow environment minister, going to limit the potential for the Labor party to do anything except back carbon trading and Kyoto? Furthermore, how effective is carbon trading likely to be, if there are no realistic carbon neutral sources of energy generation in Australia?
It is also interesting to ponder the extent to which Peter Garrett has been an integral part of the Australian environment movement. In June 2004 I explained in The Land that:
“Perhaps the best kept secret is Garrett’s significant contribution to building and giving impetus to the Australian environment movement through the Mittagong Forum.
Peter Garret was President of the Australian Conservation Foundation (ACF) from 1989 to 1993 and then most recently from 1999. It was in 1999 that the ACF Strategic Plan announced the need to ‘broaden and strengthen the environment movement in Australia’.
The concept was realized through a series of meetings held in Mittagong in the Southern Highlands.
Garrett also lives there. He played a key role in getting the big environmental organizations together including Greenpeace, World Wide Fund for Nature and State conservation councils.
Early discussion included methods to increase movement wide collaboration on issues and campaigns, along with understanding emerging issues and developing potential strategies to tackle them.
In 2000 ACF received a substantial grant from a philanthropic trust and directed the funds towards the Mittagong Forum, which has met at least 14 times since 2000.
Its vision is to, ‘develop capability, generate strategic insights, and to work collaboratively, to enhance the effectiveness of Australia’s Environment Movement.’
‘Fundraising to increase independence of organizations and for the Mittagong Forum’ has also been a key goal.
The forum recognizes that different environmental groups will not ‘necessarily agree on issues’, but says by working together they can more effectively achieve broad and specific environmental conservation outcomes.”
Garrett has always been outcome focused… and he has always opposed uranium mining. An interesting combination for a potential Environment Minister given the current overwhelming concern about global warming.