Those of us in Sydney will this week see a horse-racing promotion projected on to the sails of the Opera House promoting an upcoming horse race.
But it’s not because Sydney Opera House CEO Louise Herron didn’t stand her ground in the face of having her job and career threatened live on talkback radio, where she stated a case for only allowing the jockey colours to appear during the light-show.
Nor is it because Herron doesn’t have support out there in the community — with a Change.org petition already at a massive 117,000 signatures at the time of writing this morning, in support of Herron and for keeping the Opera House “billboard free”.
Rather, it seems, it’s because the man who threatened her apparently has that much power and influence that he can put in a call to the premier in order to have a decision by the Opera House’s CEO overturned.
That man is Alan Jones. You might recall his name associated with recent political events at the Federal level.
He told Herron during their ‘interview’ on Friday that he would be putting in a call to the premier within three minutes of hanging up the phone. Credit to Jones for being able to run a radio show, while determining just what Sydney Harbour will look like, and threatening the career of a female CEO. Multitasking at its finest.
On the very day that @WomensAgenda was handing out its annual awards to emerging female leaders and we were acknowledging the first anniversary of the #metoo hashtag, this happened to Louise Herron. Appalling but not surprising. https://t.co/z3XCF0iRZR
— Marina Go (@marinasgo) October 5, 2018
As 2GB writes on the interview: “Alan Jones invited Racing NSW CEO Peter V’landys and Opera House CEO Louise Herron onto his program to sort the situation out.”
Yes, to sort the situation out.
“People will be thinking ‘who the hell do you think you are’, you don’t own the Opera House,” Jones fired at Herron in the first question.
“The Opera House is World Heritage-” Herron attempted to start, before being cut off.
“We know all that Louise. We own the Opera House. You don’t.”
“If I were Gladys Berejiklian I would pick up the phone and sack you today,” Jones continued.
“Out there, they are saying that you should go today,” Jones added, referring to some emails he has received.
Herron said she had agreed to have the Jockey colours on the Opera House during the light show.
“Louise I’m sorry, I think you are out of your depth here, completely out of your depth. You should put your resignation on table today,” Jones said.
“You’ve got some time now to rethink this Louise… There is no support for what you are doing.
“I will be speaking to Gladys Berejiklian in about three minutes. And if you can’t come to the party, you will be losing your job.
“Louise I’ve run out of time, you might be running out of time as well.”
Prominent businesswomen have publicly declared their support for Herron and their disgust at what occurred on radio last Friday morning.
And as well as the wildly successful Change.org petition, Herron has also received extensive support across social media.
Chief Executive Women President Diane Smith-Gander told the Sydney Morning Herald that she finds it “startling” that Jones couldn’t better control himself on air, and recognise that the kind of behaviour he is role-modelling has a general link to respect for women.
“Alan Jones’ power and influence crosses the political divide and nothing less than universal rejection of his behaviour by our politicians will satisfy me,” she said.
The Opera House is not a billboard. Good on you Louise Herron. You do have a right as the CEO to make decisions in the best interest of the organisation and people you serve. https://t.co/HtUUGid1Cc
— Pip Marlow (@pipms) October 5, 2018
— Ann Sherry (@pacificann1231) October 5, 2018
I suspect most Australians regard the Opera House as I do. It’s a national asset and should not be used in this disgraceful fashion. Louise Herron has been treated equally disgracefully. https://t.co/s5edNpgAWh
— Diane Smith-Gander (@DianeSmithG) October 7, 2018
Going ahead with the advertising is the “right thing for Sydney”, according to NSW Premier Berejiklian, after she stepped in, forcing Herron to allow graphics of the trophy and horse numbers to go ahead from Tuesday this week.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison described opponents to the light show as “precious” and said that the Opera House is the biggest “billboard” we have, so why not use it?
Meanwhile, The Guardian is reporting that the United Nations body that assesses world heritage sites is looking into the move to include the Racing NSW projection.
Imagine if that was Alan Jones’ final hurrah? Being responsible for one of Sydney’s most famous icons being stripped of its World Heritage listing.
His influence won’t extend to seeing extensive public support collapse for Louise Herron.