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Lawyer Could-Have-Been: Peter Garrett

Midnight Oil is one of Australia’s best-known rock bands, putting out music for more than three decades.

For 25 years, the front man and lead singer was a 6-foot-6 bald guy named Peter Garrett (right). Watch one of their videos on YouTube and you can’t miss him.

Garrett joined the band in 1976, after responding to an advertisement the others had placed for a lead singer. At the time, he was a law student at the University of New South Wales. He left school to join the band on tour, returning and completing his degree a few years later.

The Oils, as the band is known to its diehard fans, always have displayed a keen political sensibility. Their hit, “Beds Are Burning,” addressed Aboriginal rights; “Blue Sky Mine” spoke of lack of payment for asbestos exposure. “River Run Red” blasted pollution.

So it’s no surprise that Garrett’s career path went toward politics instead of law practice. He left Midnight Oil in 2002 to concentrate on his political career, rejoining his old mates for several benefit performances in the 2000s.

He was elected as member of the House of Representatives in 2004; when the Australian Labor Party won the national election three years later, the new prime minister, Kevin Rudd, named Garrett as Minister of the Environment, Heritage and the Arts. A number of problems, including a troubled program to provide free insulation to homes, prompted Rudd to demote Garrett. He remained in Rudd’s cabinet but was stripped of responsibility for energy efficiency.

And if Labor loses the election this fall, Garrett always has the band the fall back on…

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