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Aussie rocker named country's new environment minister

Former rocker Peter Garrett, who headed the disbanded Australian rock group Midnight Oil, has been named that country's new environment minister.

Former rocker Peter Garrett, who headed the disbanded Australian rock group Midnight Oil, has been named that country's new environment minister.

Prime minister-elect Kevin Rudd made the appointment Thursday of the well-known singer, who had served as the party's environmental and climate change critic in the leadup to Saturday's election.

Peter Garrett disbanded Midnight Oil in 2002 to focus on his political career. ((Greg Wood/AFP/Getty Images))

In naming his new cabinet, Rudd split the environmental portfolio, giving responsibility for climate change and water to Senator Penny Wong.

Rudd said the decision to split the environment portfoliobetween two ministers reflected the increased importance of issues such as global warming and renewable energy.

Rudd said both Garrett and Wong will attend upcoming climate change talks in Bali.

"When I attend Bali in just a couple of weeks time, I'll be attending that conference with both Peter and with Penny," said Rudd.

"Penny will have responsibility for our international negotiations on Kyoto and Kyoto-plus. She'll have responsibility for the negotiation of our domestic emissions trading regime."

Garrett was first elected to Parliament two years ago for the Labor Party, where he served as opposition spokesman on the arts and Aboriginal affairs. He was quickly promoted to environmental critic, leading the party's attack on the policies of then prime minister John Howard.

However, critics say he's fallen out of favour over a series of public gaffes during the election campaign and accusations from the conservation movement that he softened his position on a number of environmental issues.

At six feet six inches, the bald Garrett is one of the most recognized singers in the country.

A longtime political campaigner, Garrett first attempted to enter politics in 1984 with an unsuccessful run for Senate as a member of the Nuclear Disarmament Party.

Garrett founded Midnight Oil when he was a law student in 1973, but the group did not achieve global fame until its 1987 track Beds are Burning — a protest song about Aboriginal land rights in Australia.

With files from the Australian Broadcasting Corporation and the Associated Press