With most bureaucratic controversies happening behind closed doors, it’s not often the public rallies around a public servant, but an online petition in support of Sydney Opera House CEO Louise Herron has passed a quarter of a million signatures.
Louise Herron’s opposition to projecting horse race advertising on the World Heritage-listed sails earned her the ire of shock jock Alan Jones earlier in the week, with Jones letting rip in an interview many have described as “bullying”.
The broadcaster pronounced that Herron should lose her job if she did not “come to the party”. Jones’ response to Herron arguing the Opera House is “not a billboard” was: “Who said? Who said? Who the hell are you? Louise, who do you think you are?”
NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian overruled Herron, approving use of the Opera House for a promotion for the Everest horse race. Prime Minister Scott Morrison backed the decision, saying: “Why not put it on the biggest billboard Sydney has?”
Herron was appointed CEO of the Sydney Opera House in 2012, having previously been a lawyer and corporate adviser, and was chair of Sydney’s Belvoir Street Theatre for 10 years.
Jones offered an apology on Tuesday morning.
“Sometimes I get it wrong, when I do I have no problem in saying so. … I used some words in these programs about the Everest, and the Opera House, and Louise, which in hindsight I now most regret hearing, having heard the impact they’ve clearly had on some people,” he said on air.
“… My intention was to deal with the issue, about which I feel very passionately, and not to bully or demean Louise Herron. So, to Louise and to those people who have been offended, if we are offended that was not my intention, I do apologise.”
He added that he did not believe his actions “qualify as those of a bully or a misogynist but there are clearly many people who do”, and that he would be writing to Herron later in the day.
The Sydney Morning Herald reports two of Jones’ business partners have horses in the race in question, and a horse owned by Jones himself tried out for but missed a spot. Racing NSW boss Peter V’Landys says, however, that Jones has “absolutely no financial interest” in the Everest.
Petition supporting Herron
The change.org petition titled Defend our opera house: support Louise Herron, had passed 265,000 signatures by The Mandarin‘s Tuesday midday publication time. It was created on Friday.
— Alex Bruce-Smith (@alexbrucesmith) October 8, 2018
The petition’s creator, Mike Woodcock, delivered a printed version with 235,000 signatures to the NSW parliament early this morning. It reads:
“Alan Jones and his gambling mates at Racing NSW want to turn the Opera House into their own promotional billboard. They’ve even called for the sacking of the Opera House manager who told them where to get off. Let’s remind Alan that the Opera House truly does belong to everyone, by supporting Louise Herron’s staunch defence of one of our city and country’s few instantly recognisable heritage landmarks.”
The top comment on the page states “Sydney should not be hostage to Alan Jones and the gambling establishments”.
Protest and counter-projections
A protest is being planned for when the projection takes place, at 8pm on Tuesday night.
The protesters say they will disrupt the display with torches and mobile phone light, according to Fairfax.
Jones says the protest should not happen.
For those of you too cool to click the facebook link, here’s the results of tonight’s billboard hunting in all it’s horribly twitter-subtitled glory pic.twitter.com/b7hkFOfNtR
— The Chaser (@chaser) October 8, 2018
In fact, ABC’s the Chaser has already staged its own protest, posting a video to Twitter of themselves driving around Sydney projecting “Advertise here — call Alan”, and listing what is apparently Jones’ real phone number, onto the Opera House, the Art Gallery of NSW and state parliament.
Jones said on Tuesday he was receiving anonymous calls to his mobile phone “every minute”.
◾ Michelle Grattan: The uncivil Mr Jones and the Opera House stoush