Premier Chris Minns stands by cost reasons in refusing to light up Sydney Opera House for King Charles coronation

Premier Chris Minns stands by cost reasons in refusing to light up Sydney Opera House for King Charles coronation
  • PublishedSeptember 14, 2023

The New South Wales premier’s decision to keep the sails of the Sydney Opera House unlit for the coronation of King Charles III was “political”, internal government documents have revealed.

In May, Chris Minns said he cancelled a planned projection to save taxpayers’ money, claiming the cost would be between $80,000 to $100,000.

But in April, staffers at the Department of Premier and Cabinet discussed how a “purple wash” could be projected onto the harbour landmark for as little as $10,000.

In an email chain obtained by the state’s Opposition under freedom of information laws, one staffer asked whether the decision against projecting the King’s Cypher on the sails was political or operational.

Her colleague replied: “More political … from the premier.”

At the time, monarchists condemned the move, which they saw as a snub.

“From now on, should taxpayer funds ever be used to light up buildings, it will prove that this decision was based on Mr Minns’s republican sympathies and not on cost,” Philip Benwell, the national chair of the Australian Monarchist League, said in May.

Premier quizzed at question time

Opposition leader Mark Speakman quoted the documents during question time in parliament on Wednesday.

“How can the public trust anything you say?” Mr Speakman said.

Mr Minns said that in 2022 the Opera House was lit for 71 days.

“It was like a billboard,” he said.

The premier later said the costs discussed in the departmental emails were not presented to him.

“When the brief was originally given to me it was $75,000 — at least,” Mr Minns said.

“Mostly lighting up the Opera House was $100,000 or more.”

Mr Minns added that his decision was not only about the costs.

“It was also a recognition, as I made clear in parliament, that the Opera House is being lit up too often,” he said.

“It should be reserved for events that are taking place in NSW.”

Opera House lit up for Modi visit

Weeks after the coronation, some of the sails were illuminated with the Indian flag to mark the visit of that country’s prime minister, Narendra Modi.

People walk outside a building at night time illuminated in orange, white and green.
The sails were lit for the arrival of Narendra Modi weeks after the coronation decision.(AAP: Steven Saphore)

The premier denied that the foreign leader’s visit was deemed more important than the coronation of Australia’s head of state.

He pointed out that the Indian flag was projected on the eastern side of the Opera House and was therefore cheaper than the plan to light the western side for the coronation.

“The costs are vastly different, and they were met by the Commonwealth,” Mr Minns said.

The Sydney Opera House is working on an updated sail’s lighting policy to “prevent overuse”, including greater clarity around the type and frequency of projections.


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