Thursday, June 10, 2004

Peter Garrett and “Gay School”

The right-wing Catholics who are the Labor bedrock of Kingsford Smith have so far refrained from throwing the ultimate knock-out punch at Peter Garrett. Being people to hold long grudges (or so it is reputed), they should now be reminding Garrett of what Labor did to him during the 1984 Federal election, at which he came within a whisker of a Senate seat for the Nuclear Disarmament Party, and was only defeated because Labor preferenced the Liberals ahead of him.

Thus, I would have thought, the local branch wotries could quite reasonably argue that either: (i) Garrett has the moral consistency and memory of jelly (at least by right-wing Catholic Labor standards), or (ii) he should not be trusted, as he must be merely biding his time ino order to take sweet revenge on Labor, revenge as a dish served very cold, in this case.

As for the Latham-in-the-Lodge merits of Garrett, I’m a bit confused. Many say he’ll be good for the yoof vote, while Andrew Norton correctly points out that Midnight Oil fans of their 80s heyday are now well into their 30s. Certainly, that’s me. At the Oils’ Kooyong stadium gig in 1985, I badly sprained my ankle in the moshpit, but somehow moshed-on, one-legged. That night was also the high-point of the Oils musically, as far as I’m concerned – January 1986’s long-awaited “Red Sails in the Sunset” was a big disappointment, especially after “10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1” (easily one of the ten best albums of last century) and its under-rated precursor “Place Without A Postcard”.

Similarly, the mid-80s were the high-point of Peter Garrett’s politics. I voted NDP in 1984 and, unlike Garrett, I still value principles above political convenience. AFAIK, Garrett is yet to announce the effect of his Labor candidature on his current position as president of the Australian Conservation Foundation. And as far as that body goes, when the Garrett-factor is combined the recent Trish Caswell debacle*, the ACF is starting to look perilously like a grooming academy for flaky sell-outs.

Otherwise, the Garrett candidature has over-shadowed what is actually a much more important story: the “Gay School” controversy. On the morning the story broke, I made light of it, assuming that the predictable homophobic blowhards, a la Fred Nile, would weight in for a day or two, then the whole thing would be forgotten, and everyone move on. Clearly, I was wrong – most especially in underestimating the listening-to-the-shock-jocks basis of Mark Latham’s policy (in this respect, Latham joins the PM, of course).

“Gay School” is an appeal to censorship and prejudice, plain and simple. Unlike the controversy over gay marriage, where IMO the balance of convenience* lies with leaving things as they are, the implications of the shock-jock/Lathamite line on “Gay School” are frightening. And if Nicole Brady and I are representative of inner-city left-leaning voters, Labor has just lost two votes, because of “Gay School”, for every vote that they could possibly hope to pick-up thanks to Garrett and his “Arnie” factor.

Correction 11 June 2004

As noted in the comments box, Peter Garrett has resigned as ACF president. For whatever reason, this fact - effective from the afternoon of Wednesday 9 June - received scant media coverage.

* Caswell, a former head of the ACF, is now boss of the Victorian Association of Forest Industries

** a legal concept, used for deciding when an injunction (= urgent legal remedy) should be granted.

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