Hands off our Opera House

The Opera House of the future? Photo: Zane Hayduk

Prime Minister Scott Morrison called it “Sydney’s biggest billboard”. Most of us call it the Sydney Opera House. The difference is revealing of two sharply contrasting mindsets.

Politicians from the major parties see everything through their corporate-coloured glasses: here’s a chance to make a buck.

Why not? What’s wrong with you wowsers? You are just elitists, screams the infamous 2GB shock jock Alan Jones who has a butler and receives a base salary of $4.5 million a year.

We like sporting events, we like the arts and we like a good time: but we don't like promoting the gambling industry by advertising an exclusive horse race on the Opera House sails.

The annual Vivid light show is a great counter example to the New South Wales government’s demand that the Opera House allow the promotion of Everest, billed as the “world’s richest race on turf” on its sails.

Jones, who has multi-million-dollar investments in racehorse breeding, is the person who pushed the idea in the first place, according to Racing NSW.

The horse race includes 12 of the fastest competing at Randwick Racecourse for prize money of up to $13,000,000. The event will take place on October 13.

Jørn Utzon, the architect behind the Sydney Opera House, and whose son joined the debate saying his father would have opposed the move, had a view on public infrastructure and its use.

He explained: “[Labor premier Joe Cahill] said we want this building because many people in this town have shown that they want expressions like opera, theatre, and music in the same way as they have in big cities in Europe.

And he said, ‘I do not want my people to miss anything that they could get in Europe.’ It was that simple and nice and marvellous.”

Labor has moved a long way since.

NSW Labor leader Luke Foley says such marketing is “reasonable”. Labor MP Anthony Albanese patronisingly told critics of the decision to “chill out”.

This shows how out of touch they really are.

The public is well aware of the rapacious privatisation of public assets and community space in NSW and does not like it. The Change.org petition Defend Our Opera House: Support Lousie Herron is growing at an extraordinary pace.

As some have remarked, how lucky we are to still have a public Sydney Opera House. The rate of privatisation of public assets is out of control — which helps explain the widespread anger.

The NSW treasury supports the projection: the new gambling tax it introduced in the past budget is expected to add $100 million a year to government coffers — money we are unlikely to see deployed for more desperately needed services in schools, hospitals and more.

Green Left Weekly proudly stands with those who gathered around the Opera House to protest not just this decision, but the entire political set up that puts profits before the concerns of people. You can help by becoming a supporter.

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