A few weeks ago, Ken wrote an excellent post on the hue and cry over what many viewed as Peter Garrett’s craven about face on US bases. It produced a long and lively discussion on hypocrisy, on cabinet solidarity, on what room there is within the party political system for public disagreement and on whether the personal integrity vs party discipline needle could be successfully threaded.
On this morning’s Background Briefing, Garrett has provided some additional input:
BB: How do you, as Peter Garrett, stay true to your core beliefs, because we know twenty years ago the things that you were singing about, but in a sense youâve had to distance yourself from some of those key things that you sang about; uranium mining, US bases and so on. So, how do you stay true to what you believed in?
Garrett: Well, look, Iâm not about distancing myself from Oilâs musical lyrics at all. Certainly, in 2004 when I came into the parliament and into the party, on the question of bases I accepted that the joint facilities could play a valuable role. I thought after 9/11 the circumstances had changed to what they were in the 80s and I believe that they have and I certainly accepted Laborâs policy and support it. On the range of other issues, Iâm strongly of the view that the passions and values that Iâve had before I came into the parliament are still there. Yes, they express themselves differently because they must. Iâm a member of a political party and much of that discussion and expression happens within the bounds of the party and thatâs as it ought to be.
BB: Youâre inside the machine.â
Garrett: Well, itâs not a case of being inside the machine. Iâm a member of the parliamentary Labor party, Iâm bound, willingly, by the rules of the party, Iâm a member of the caucus, and Iâm a shadow minister and, yes, it is a big step for somebody to take whoâs had a different kind of public life but for me it was the right step to take. And Iâm a team player, and I want to be a team player and whatever views I have about a range of issues Iâll express them in the party forums and Iâll play as productive and constructive a role as I can as we do that.
BB: So, are people inclined to think that youâre prepared to toe the party line, if I can put it that way, and Iâm sure youâll disagree, on uranium mining, on US bases, on forestry and so on, because you believe the ground has shifted, that climate change has become to this generation what nukes was to yours?
Garrett: Well, your question says toe the party line on a range of issues and I think youâve got to separate them out. Certainly, climate change does change the nature of the debate in terms of what weâve got to address now, but we need to have good, constructive policy on forests. Iâve got a view on uranium mining which is different from some members of caucus, including from Kevin Rudd and weâve acknowledged that publicly. And Iâll argue that case through, in the party rooms and on the way up to the party conference as well, so . . . .
BB: But after the party conference, youâre going to have to publicly support the position which I suppose is going to be to get rid of the three mines policy.
Garrett: Well, look, Iâm not going to speculate about what will happen at conference specifically. Iâm not going to take my bat and ball and go home though, just because I lose an argument. I mean there are many instances of people in political life who carry their passions and enthusiasms and their views about certain issues through, and they may lose the debate in a shadow cabinet or in a caucus room. It doesnât mean that they donât care about it or that they donât believe in it anymore, it just means that theyâve got to find other ways of expressing it and maybe they come back to it, maybe they keep on with it in different ways over time. But they donât, because the party as a majority decides that they want to go in a certain direction, retreat and say Iâm not going to be a part of the party anymore. Thatâs be a silly situation for someone to put themselves into.
Seems reasonable to me.