Politics

Waleed Aly Just Nailed The Reason This Opera House Controversy Is So Important

"It's about a political system that's meant to be about you, being gamed to keep you shut out."

The ongoing drama about projecting a Racing NSW ad onto the sails of the Sydney Opera House might be starting to seem like a bit of a storm in a teacup at this point. But as Waleed Aly pointed out on The Project last night, it’s actually about so much more than just one ad.

There’s been public outrage for the past week following the NSW Government’s decision to overrule the Opera House chief and allow Racing NSW to project an ad on the sails of the building. Conservative radio host Alan Jones sided with the government, shouting at Opera House chief executive Louise Herron on air before offering a grudging apology for doing so. Meanwhile, opponents of the ad launched a massive petition, projected Alan Jones’ personal phone number onto the Opera House in protest, and turned up last night to block out the Racing NSW ad by shining torches on it.

And that would be that, except that as Aly put it on The Project, this week’s display of public anger isn’t just about one building, or one racing ad. “This is much bigger than one Prime Minister, or one party, or even one government,” he said. “This is about how powerful organisations buy influence and commodify the things that matter most to the rest of us, every single day.”

“The Opera House case is a flashpoint, because it throws into broad daylight what normally happens in the dark,” he added — namely, the fact that a huge amount of political influence in this country can be bought by powerful corporations, who many politicians end up working for after their political careers are done. This goes way beyond just the Opera House, according to Aly, because it happens all the time. 

“You know that feeling you’ve had for a few years now that the system’s broken?” he said. “That the people who run it are there for themselves and their mates, but not the people? That something’s a bit rotten, but you can’t quite put your finger on it?”

“It’s banks charging dead customers for years, while pollies resist calls for a Royal Commission. It’s half a billion dollars being given away in secret to the Great Barrier Reef Foundation, no strings attached. It’s a rich, powerful radio host with vested personal interests, and an industry that’s spent money in all the right places, and it’s politicians, so captured by them that they’re even prepared to override the decisions of those people whose job it is to look after our greatest national treasures.”

“Politicians are surprised by consumers’ — sorry, citizens’ — outrage, because as far as they’re concerned, this is just business as usual.”

You can watch the entire clip from The Project below.