New South Wales Premier Gladys Berejiklian believes perspective has been lost in a stoush about the Opera House being used to promote a horse race, and has called for respect on all sides of the debate.
Last night, more than 1,000 protesters used lights and torches to spoil the projection of the Everest barrier draw after Ms Berejiklian overruled the Opera House chief Louise Herron, who claimed the promotion would breach its guidelines.
The debate has raged since Friday, when broadcaster Alan Jones called for Ms Herron to be sacked in a fiery on-air interview, and became an argument about balancing the promotion of NSW against using the iconic building’s sails for commercial purposes.
Ms Berejiklian today said she was disappointed with the way the debate spilled out into the public arena and aggravated residents.
She revealed the Government was close to securing an “amicable agreement behind closed doors” that would have kept all parties happy.
“I’m upset at the way the issue panned out publicly, but I’m equally upset at those who’ve come out now and been almost as vitriolic in expressing their views,” Ms Berejiklian said.
“I encourage the input and say people protest for governments to listen — and we do that — but I also say people on all sides of the argument should be respectful.
“Unfortunately sometimes people on all sides lose that perspective about respect.”
Ms Berejiklian said the Opera House policy had similarly been breached for the Ashes, Wallabies and a Samsung promotion.
She said as the daughter of a welder who worked on the building during its construction, a love of the building was “in her blood”.
The drama unfolded during the State Government’s Responsible Gambling Awareness Week.
Ms Berejiklian said it showed the digital age has made it possible for governments to gauge public opinion in real time.
“That’s a positive,” she said.
“I want people to know that I appreciate that and respect that.”
Amid the backlash, NSW Racing yesterday conducted an early barrier draw in secret and suspended all betting until the results were publicly revealed in the projection.
The racing body cited perceived risks about integrity and security for the move.
Jones has apologised for the words he used during last week’s interview.