There are reports today that 700 million dollars is needed to restore and refurbish the Sydney Opera House.
This makes me wonder whether there should be a so-called Shared Responsibility Agreement with the people of Sydney before any government money is provided to fix the Opera House. This is currently a favourite approach of the federal government for needy aboriginal communities, where the government only agrees to provide some money for a pressing community need if the community agrees to do something positive like improve school attendance rates.
What social improvement should the public of Sydney be required to perform before their Opera House gets the megabucks?
In exchange for federal funding, Premier Morris Iemma could be required to make a statement to Parliament acknowledging that there are as many talented musicians, writers, thinkers, entrepreneurs, politicians, sportspeople, scientists, artists and cooks in the rest of Australia as there is in New South Wales.
Maybe the media could announce a “we will listen to what the rest of the country outside Sydney thinks” month.
Or perhaps at next years New Years’ Eve fireworks, they could spell out “we admit Sydney is not the centre of the universe” in big letters on the bridge.
They could require their taxi drivers to actually know where they are going (my favourite anecdote is jumping in a cab in the middle of the city, and on finding out that the driver didn’t know the suburb I was heading to, saying to him “just go over the Harbour Bridge and I’ll direct you from there”. “Where’s that?” came the reply from the driver.)
Or maybe they should have to fix up the shambles of their water infrastructure first. They could start by getting rid of Frank Sartor as a Minister, who dismisses viable solutions like recycled drinking water because “the public won’t accept it.”
Or their politicians could stop the endless exaggerated law and order auction which has led to record numbers of people in NSW prisons. This alone could save enough money to pay for a big chunk of their Opera House renovations. Perhaps as part of this, their talkback radio jocks could also promise not to inflame community anxieties for the sake of ratings.
I know the Opera House is a striking, iconic building from the outside, and its roof may well be an engineering marvel. However, as an actual building for opera, it sounds like a dud. The acoustics are bad, one quarter of the seats have obstructed or poor sightlines, the orchestra pit is too small and has bad sound and the wings of the stage are too small for dancers. In short, Sydney has an Opera House which is crap for opera – and pretty much all other musical performances. Sounds like a real wonder of the world to me! Well worth another $700 million.
Maybe they should build a new building that is actually good for opera and orchestral performances, and use the current “Opera” House for something more suitable – such as an aboriginal culture and history centre. There could hardly be a more appropriate location than Bennelong Point in Sydney Harbour, where the dispossession of aboriginal Australians first spread from.
UPDATES: Now I’m in trouble – an MP in Wales has seen what I’ve written and is suggesting superiority for their Millenium Centre over our Opera House. I’m in the “un-Australian” camp now for sure.
Also, today’s Sydney Morning Herald reports on a study that says “Sydney’s reliance on cars is costing more than $18 billion a year through congestion, accidents and air pollution.” Plenty of room for mutual obligation style savings there, by the look of it.