The ongoing Sydney v Melbourne debate over major events, particularly major musical openings, continues to gain momentum. And whilst many – including myself – believe that the country comes before the states when it comes to theatre, others have differing views and quite strong opinions on the issue. This week I am handing the column over to the NSW Shadow Minister for Events, George Souris, who gives his opinion on the whole issue…
Editor’s note: The ongoing Sydney v Melbourne debate over major events, particularly major musical openings, continues to gain momentum. And whilst many – including myself – believe that the country comes before the states when it comes to theatre, others have differing views and quite strong opinions on the issue. This week I am handing the column over to the NSW Shadow Minister for Events, George Souris, who gives his opinion on the whole issue…
Statistics released by Tourism Australia this month tell us on average tourists spend $2408 per visitor in Victoria or an extra $293 per person than visitors spend in Sydney. They also spend an average of 25 nights in Victoria compared to an average stay of 22 nights in New South Wales. It is figures such as this that highlights the financial rewards that major events can bring.
So the question is why do international visitors spend more time and more money in Victoria?
The answer lies in Victoria’s world-class major events calendar.
One great failure amongst many of the current State Labor Government over the last sixteen years has been its lack of success in attracting major events, particularly theatrical and cultural premiere seasons. We have seen the premiere runs of shows such as Phantom of the Opera, Wicked, Jersey Boys, Monty Python’s Spamalot and Miss Saigon and many more go to Melbourne.
Melbourne is also due to host the upcoming premieres of Mary Poppins, Rock of Ages, Hairspray and Love Never Dies, three of which were lost under the tenure of our State’s latest Premier Kristina Keneally. In January, she unashamedly stood next to Cate Blanchett and declared New South Wales as the ‘Creative Capital’ of Australia, following her successful bid for Sydney to host the AFI Awards, an event let go and declared by the Victorian Major Events Company as ‘financially unviable’.
How can we be the creative capital of Australia without a vibrant theatre scene?
It is this kind of track record that has fostered a culture of failure towards major events in this State.
Sydney needs two things to happen in order attract these premieres. Firstly, like the Victorian Government, the New South Wales Government needs to adopt a ‘whole of government’ approach towards major events. Secondly, the government needs to allocate more resources to Events NSW, with its current budget of twenty seven million dollars per annum being dwarfed by the sixty nine million dollar budget the Victorian Major Events Company has at its disposal.
Unfortunately neither of these things looks like happening following Premier Keneally’s announcement last week to relinquish control of Events NSW to newly appointed Minister for Major Events, Ian Macdonald. The appointment of Minister Macdonald was not based on merit or his expertise it was a reward for his role in bringing down former Premier Nathan Rees. It is these two actions that highlight the fact that major events has been downgraded on Ms Keneally’s list of priorities.
Under a Liberal & Nationals Government, major events will be made a priority. Barry O’Farrell and I are of the firm view that event organisers should be able to pick up the phone speak to the government at the highest levels directly about any event planning issue or query. This is the kind of access afforded to event organisers in Melbourne, which no doubt makes their job a lot easier.