In one sentence, Waleed Aly just nailed what the Sydney Opera House debate is really about.


On Tuesday night’s episode of The Project, Waleed Aly once again summed up what everyone’s thinking about one of the most controversial news stories of the year.

A story so divisive, it’s prompted hundreds of people to protest on the steps of Australia’s most iconic landmark.

Late last week, the New South Wales Liberal government instructed the Sydney Opera House to promote the Everest Carnival, a $10 million dollar horse race set for October 13, through advertising on the structure’s white sails on Tuesday night.

As Sydney Opera House CEO, Louise Herron, explained to The Sydney Morning Herald: “The community regards the Opera House as its asset to be treated with respect, to be treated as the treasure it is.”

In fact, Opera House policy explicitly forbids the display of “logo[s] or corporate identity”.

“What that means is when people come along and say ‘I want to advertise Chicken Tonight on the sails,’ we can hold firm because we never approve that,” the chief executive told The Sydney Morning Herald.

On the other side of the debate sits Prime Minister Scott Morrison, who says he can’t understand why everyone is making such a fuss over the proposal. Next to him is Gladys Berejiklian, the Premier of New South Wales, who is allowing it to go ahead. And from behind a microphone broadcasting to the nation, we heard 2BG broadcaster Alan Jones’ opinion on the matter, that “we own the Opera House, not you,” he told Herron.

But just who exactly is the ‘we’ Jones was referring to?

It’s that exact question Aly answered in a segment on The Project that explained why this issue is so much bigger than advertising on the Sydney Opera House or a rich horse race.


“It’s about a political system that’s meant to be about you, being gained to keep you shut out,” The Project co-host said.

“All we’re doing now is sharing our opinions after the fact about a decision that had already been made about a deal that’d already been done, without the opinions of [us]… the citizens.”

Watch part of Aly’s story on The Project below. Post continues after video.

The journalist and lawyer went on to explore how, in recent years, politicians see our public spaces as assets to be sold off to big corporations. Corporations that have made significant donations to our political parties and “expect a return on their investments.”

Aly also spoke of the Victorian government’s decision last year to give the green light for part of Federation Square to be torn down for an Apple store, without consulting the people who call Melbourne home as an example of when we’ve seen this before.

“This is much bigger than one Prime Minister or one party or even one government. This is about how powerful organisations buy influence and commodify things that matter most to us, every single day,” he said.

“It’s that feeling you’ve had for a few years now about how the system is broken, that the people who run it are in it 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.”


Aly ended the segment by showing the audience the lapel pin The Project sent to the Prime Minister, Premier Berejiklian and other key politicians.

A dollar sign, “not to remind them, but to remind us when we see them, who they’re really working for.”

How do you feel about advertising on the Sydney Opera House? Do you think this is about more than a horse race?

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