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Former Midnight Oil rocker named Australia's environment minister

For 25 years Peter Garrett was the frontman of Midnight Oil, an Australian rock band known for its raucously loud music and protest songs about social and environmental issues. Then the bald 6ft 6in singer hung up his microphone, disbanded the group and exchanged his rock star clothes for the sombre suits of a politician.

After a meteoric rise through the ranks of Australia's Labor party, he was yesterday named environment minister in the newly elected government. The 54-year-old said he was "excited and humbled" by the opportunity.

However, his gaffes during the election have robbed him of the chance to take over the entire environment portfolio. Another minister has been given responsibility for the issues surrounding climate change, including negotiating a new post-Kyoto deal and establishing a carbon emissions trading scheme for Australia.
Garrett founded Midnight Oil when he was a law student in 1973 and made a first and unsuccessful foray into politics as a member of the Nuclear Disarmament party in 1984.

Passionate about the injustices meted out to Australia's indigenous population, he and the other band members had a worldwide hit in 1987 with the track Beds are Burning, a protest song about Aboriginal land rights in Australia.

The band also used music to register its anger about environmental issues, performing at the Jabiluka uranium mine in remote Arnhem Land and staging an impromptu concert outside Exxon's New York headquarters in 1990 with a banner that read: "Midnight Oil Makes You Dance, Exxon Oil Makes Us Sick."

Alongside his singing career, Garrett also served as head of the Australian Conservation Foundation and sat on the international board of Greenpeace.


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