Opera House light display dividing Sydney will last just six minutes
Opera House light display dividing Sydney will last just six minutes

Jones apologises for ‘bullying’ interview

THOUSANDS of outraged Sydneysiders are gearing up for a night of protesting over a six-minute light display which has divided the city.

Anger is mounting against the NSW government's plan to promote a $13 million horse race on the Sydney Opera House with one critic calling it an "assault" on the cultural icon.

The Coalition overturned a decision by Opera House management to reject the plan.

It came after 2GB radio host Alan Jones had a fiery interview last week with Opera House chief executive Louise Herron.

This morning Jones has apologised for publicly berating Ms Herron and saying she should lose her job.


"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.

"In relation to Louise (Herron), I was tough regarding an issue I and others felt is very important.

"So to Louise and those people who've been offended, I apologise."

The apology came as comedy group The Chaser last night projected an "advertise here" sign on the sails with advice to "call Alan", in reference to broadcaster.


Last night on The Project, host Peter Helliar slammed Jones for the "bullying" interview.

"This isn't about gambling, it's the fact that the Sydney Opera House have a charter, and they've been forced to change that charter and that interview with Alan Jones - and it's almost a side issue - but that was disgusting," Helliar said angrily.

"That was so disgusting. To hear a woman bullied … and (NSW Premier) Gladys Berejiklian - even if she had nothing to do with it - shouldn't have gone ahead with (approval of the Everest projection). She should have changed her mind to send a message."

A petition opposing the plan to project Tuesday night's barrier draw for the Everest race onto the venue's sails has garnered more than 230,000 signatures and protesters plan to disrupt the event.

Protest organiser Rachel Evans says there's "a lot of anger on the streets" about the plan which she's described as an "assault on the Opera House".

There are even fears from the NSW Government that a disgruntled staff could cut the power to the Sydney Opera House during the controversial six-minute display.

Everest organiser Racing NSW claims it has received death threats in the wake of furore and security around the Sydney icon will be beefed up at about 8pm as thousands of protesters gather.



Despite a major war or words brewing over tonight's brief advertisement, the exact details of how it will look and what it will consist of are unclear.

Only those behind the light display and those involved in approving it know exactly what it will look like, however Racing NSW CEO Peter V'landys said it will last just six minutes.

NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian has urged Sydneysiders to "have a look on Tuesday before you judge it", claiming the version of the projections taking place tonight is "much toned down from what the government was first presented with".

"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," she said.

This is how the display could have looked. Picture: Racing NSW
This is how the display could have looked. Picture: Racing NSW

Older Racing NSW artist impressions show each sail lit up with a mixture of the Everest logo, a video of the race and a list of horse names.

According to The Guardian Racing NSW even asked the NSW opposition leader, Labor's Luke Foley, to consider introducing a public holiday - similar to the Melbourne Cup public holiday in Victoria - as a way of further promoting the horse race.

However, more recent artist impressions show a more simple display of colours and the numbers of the horses taking part flashing on the sails.



Around 3000 people on Facebook said they are attending the protest on Tuesday night where they will try and disrupt the Everest projection using torches and mobile phone lights.

The Change.org petition, which the website says is its "fastest growing petition" in recent memory, is expected to be delivered to NSW parliament on Tuesday morning.

It was started by Sydney father Mike Woodcock who says he was "offended" by the state government's presumption Sydneysiders would be OK with the decision.

Police are monitoring a number of Facebook groups organising protesters armed with lights and torches to ruin the light show.

National Trust NSW conservation director Graham Quint says projecting commercial material onto the Opera House contravenes state laws.

The heritage expert added the Racing NSW promotion had been referred to the World Heritage body UNESCO.

The venue's own conservation management plan states "the Sydney Opera House exterior, particularly the shells … should not be regarded as a giant billboard or commercial/advertising opportunity."

NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian said Sydneysiders should see the display before judging it. Picture: AAP Image/Ben Rushton
NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian said Sydneysiders should see the display before judging it. Picture: AAP Image/Ben Rushton


Ms Berejiklian on Friday intervened to allow the advertising after Jones publicly berated Ms Herron who'd ruled against Everest words or branding being projected onto the venue because "it's not a billboard".

The premier on Monday stood by her decision saying she was "incredibly comfortable".

Prime Minister Scott Morrison defended the decision to project the details of the race.

"It's not like they're painting it on there, it's lights flashing up there for a brief moment in time, and that goes all around the world," Mr Morrison said on Jones' 2GB show radio.

"They do it for other things, the Wallabies indeed and others.

"I just don't understand why we tie ourselves up in knots about these things."

Mr V'landys said he had been negotiating with the state government for more than a year and initially wanted to use the Sydney Harbour Bridge to promote the Everest race.

"The Opera House was the alternate venue put forward by the NSW Government, which wanted to support the promotion of the event internationally, as it had done for other sporting events," he wrote in an opinion piece published in the Sydney Morning Herald.

"We are promoting a unique Sydney event, The Everest, not gambling."



This is now what the NSW Government says the display will look like. Picture: Anna Caldwell
This is now what the NSW Government says the display will look like. Picture: Anna Caldwell

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