Controversy over a gaming advertisement is roiling Australian politics after New South Wales Premier Gladys Berejiklian decided to allow a promotion for the Everest horse race to be beamed onto a World Heritage-listed architectural struggle.
After Berejiklian’s decision, Australian President Scott Morrison called those who criticized the NWS premier as “precious”.
The Sydney Opera House is recognized throughout the world as an architectural marvel. When people outside Australia think of Sydney, its opera house is one of the signature landmarks they consider.
The Everest horse race is the richest turf race in the world and the richest race of any kind in Australia each year, with $13 million in prize money. The Everest is held on the second Saturday of October each year as the feature race in the Sydney Spring Carnival.
Alan Jones Calls for Everest Ad
This year, Alan Jones demanded the Sydney Opera House be used as an advertising medium for The Everest. Ads would be beamed onto the structure at night to remind Sydney residents that the race was coming soon and to be sure to place bookmaker bets on the results.
Diverse members of Sydney’s community pressured Gladys Berejiklian to ban such ads, then criticized her when she decided to accede to Alan Jones’ demands. The community members said the ads damage the reputation of the Sydney Opera House for refinement and class. They also argued that gaming ads on a cultural monument cheapens the city of Sydney’s image.
Scott Morrison, who replaced Malcolm Turnbull as Australian PM and Coalition leader earlier this year, was not one of the NSW premier’s critics. Saying it is worth the extra cash such advertisements might generate, Scott Morrison said he would “put the Bathurst 1000 on the Harbour Bridge if I thought it was going to get more people there.”
Scott Morrison: Opera House Is a “Billboard”
Scott Morrison equated the Opera House to a billboard, then said, “This is one of the biggest events of the year. Why not put it on the biggest billboard Sydney has? I come from a tourism background, these events generate massive opportunities for the state, for the city.”
The Australian prime minister then added, “It’s just common sense and I don’t know why people are getting so precious about it….We’re talking about an event that is one of the big money spinners for the state. It creates jobs.”
“This isn’t about advertising a packet of chips, this is about advertising one of the biggest events that NSW holds….Frankly, I thought it was a no-brainer. I can’t work out what all the fuss is about.”
NSW Racing Controversy
One reason the decision received such uproar as the Coalition is the conservative wing of Australian politics, but the decision was made to overrule local leaders. Louise Herron, the CEO of the Opera House, refused to show the advertisement on the Opera House.
Instead of backing a local chief executive’s decision, the state government intervened to ram through the proposal. One can defend the decision as pro-business, but it also overrides the will of local residents to have their city portrayed in a certain way. A city which generates so much income on tourism also wants to protect the city’s image.
Alan Jones, a controversial 2GB broadcaster, asked Louise Herron on behalf of the NSW Racing to place the ad on the Opera House. Herron refused, so Alan Jones said Herron should “lose her job”. He also threatened to speak with the NSW premier “within five minutes.”
Gladys Berejiklian Defends Opera House Ad
Jones appears to have made good on his threat. He and the New South Wales racing industry entered into a weeks-long negotiation to have the Opera House show the advertisement. After the decision was announced, Gladys Berejiklian defended the placement of the ad, saying it was quite toned-down and appropriate.
Berejiklian said, “The version that is going to be displayed on Tuesday is much toned down from what the government was first presented with. What we’ve arrived at is a compromise, I believe a good compromise under the circumstances and that’s why the government proceeded.”
“There’ll be no logos, no names, the only words on there are actually the words of the trophy itself and that is consistent with what has happened in the past.”
One might ask, if there are no logos or names commonly associated with The Everest, why the Opera House ad would be effective. While the words on the trophy are remembered by some, it is unlikely to hit home with the vast bulk of people seeing the advertisement. One might say the real publicity Alan Jones raised for The Everest was by creating the controversy in the first place. If so, then Gladys Berejiklian and Scott Morrison became unpaid endorsers of The Everest this year.