SYDNEY, Australia - The former lead singer of the Australian rock band Midnight Oil announced Thursday that he will run for parliament with the opposition Labour Party and party leaders said he could even become a government minister someday.
Peter Garrett, a committed environmental activist with a distinctive bald pate, had long used Midnight Oil as a forum for his political views. The band broke up in 2002 after 25 years.
"Politics is an imperfect game, we all know that," Garrett said. "We see it on television stations every night; and yet it's the best game we have for making the country work better."
Rock singer and leftwing environmentalist Peter Garrett, seen here, the former lead singer of Midnight Oil has applied to join the opposition Labor Party, paving the way for him to stand for a parliamentary seat later this year despite a grassroots revolt, (AFP Photo)
Labour had asked Garrett to run, and he'll try for a seat from a Sydney district that is a Labour stronghold. Party leader Mark Latham said he expected his star recruit to become a senior minister someday.
"He's got a big contribution to make and of course we want that contribution to be made in the most appropriate capacity," Latham said. "I'd be surprised that if sometime in the future Peter wasn't a front line minister in a Labour government."
Midnight Oil scored a major international hit with its 1986 protest song about Aboriginal land rights, "Beds Are Burning." The band played the tune at the closing ceremony of the 2000 Sydney Olympics.
Garrett has been involved in campaigns against genetic engineering, coastal development and the nuclear industry. In the early 1980s, he was narrowly defeated in a bid for a seat in parliament's upper house on a nuclear disarmament ticket.
Earlier Thursday, several Australian newspapers reported that Garrett had not voted in the last 10 years a period that included three federal elections and a referendum on whether Australia should become a republic.
Garrett did not specifically address the reports but said he had voted in the past. Voting is mandatory in Australia; failing to do so is punishable by a fine.
"I have voted in previous elections, I have voted in referenda, I have even voted when I was overseas," he said.
Prime Minister John Howard, of the ruling Liberal Party, said the report cast doubt on Garrett's credibility.
"All I can say is that if somebody hasn't voted on the last three occasions and had an opportunity to do so, they can't be very passionate about the future of this country, can they?" Howard told Perth's Radio 6PR.
Howard, who said Wednesday he is a Midnight Oil fan, has yet to announce a date for the next parliamentary elections. A poll is expected before the U.S. presidential elections in November.
In addition to his singing career, Garrett has been president of the Australian Conservation Foundation. He also has served on the international board of environmental group Greenpeace.
© 2004 Associated Press