The Impossible Tightrope
Fact one: Peter Garrett of Midnight Oil had a strong, outspoken opinion that decried American military bases on Australian soil
Fact two: Peter Garrett of the Australian Labor Party tacitly supports his party's approval of the establishment of a new American military base in Australia by refusing to speak out against this policy
Clearly, Garrett's current position contradicts that of his past. Now, of course everyone is allowed to change their mind. However, if someone - and especially an elected official like Garrett - performs such a public about-face, it's perfectly reasonable to insist upon an explanation of the rationale behind that individual's change of heart. If an explanation isn't forthcoming, then it's perfectly reasonable to heavily discount that individual's credibility.
Of course cabinet (and party) solidarity are why Garrett has seemingly changed his point of view, but that's not nearly a good enough explanation for one questioning his character - potentially a political opponent or a voter in his electorate. Both have the ability to make his political life very difficult if they decide against him - and someone like Garrett is an enormously larger target than a career politician or political cleanskin whose views prior to their entering politics are destined to remain largely unknown.
When I heard that Garrett was an ALP candidate, I immediately realised he would have a tough time in federal politics due to his past. A previously outspoken individual - who was obviously aligned with neither the ALP nor the Coalition - was always going to have his past run up against major party prerogatives; that was 100% predictable. He has a few options, all unenviable, in dealing with his prior stances that contradict current ALP policy. Firstly, he could factually explain his shift in thinking. This requires sincerity, and since he hasn't done this, I don't think he's capable of it because he doesn't agree sincerely with ALP policies on issues like American bases and logging. So we can rule out the 'genuine change of heart' option. He'd have exercised this by now if his position on American bases had genuinely shifted from 'no' to 'pro'. Garrett either has to publicly 'sell out' the views he earlier held (which makes him look weak) or be constantly dogged by his past stances, which he won't reconcile with those he ostensibly holds at present. Two deeply unattractive options for an ambitious politician.
I like Midnight Oil. I admire their fervour and uncompromising political attitude, even though I don't agree with them on most issues. So I was disappointed when I discovered Peter Garrett had hitched his wagon to the ALP horse. This damned Garrett in my eyes - it could mean only two things. Garrett has sold out; he's not the hard-principled man we all thought he was, he'll buy power with his flexible opinion. Alternatively, he thinks he can change the ALP from within. Recast it in his mould. But hang on, cries anyone with any political nous, this is the ALP. "One Man Can't Make A Difference" could well be their motto - moreso than any other party, anyway. And anyone who knows anything about Australian politics is aware of this. So Peter Garrett's either a political whore or a political naif. Needless to say, both are bad. And these most deductible shortcomings are becoming more evident as his political profile rises. That's why he's copping it from both sides of the political spectrum. Garrett's supporters shouldn't be surprised about this fact. It was oh-so predictable.
(Link to Club Troppo article from JF Beck)