The world is our bill­board

Shepparton News - - VIEWPOINT - john.lewis@shep­p­ JOHN LEWIS

Now is the time to get your bets in.

What and where will be the next bill­board?

We have so many to choose from — Uluru, Par­lia­ment House, the eight Apos­tles, the War Memo­rial, the MCG.

Given the dig­i­tal project tech­nol­ogy be­hind White Nights, there’s ab­so­lutely no rea­son the MacDon­nell Ranges or the en­tire Great Bar­rier Reef could not be used to ad­ver­tise World Wrestling Entertainment.

Per­son­ally I think a 200 m im­age of Hulk Ho­gan per­form­ing a Smack­down on Stone Cold Steve Austin would be ab­so­lutely awe­some dis­played across the largest liv­ing or­gan­ism on earth off the coast of Queens­land.

On a lo­cal level — how about a taste­ful pic­ture of the lat­est SPC prod­ucts dis­played across the ed­i­fice of East­bank?

This week’s il­lu­mi­na­tion of jockey num­bers, colours and an im­age of a branded horse race tro­phy on the sails of the Syd­ney Opera House was so crass it would have been laugh­able if it didn’t point to darker things like power, greed and bul­ly­ing.

A straight de­bate be­tween arts luvvies and race pun­ters on what is a cul­tural icon would be en­ter­tain­ing, but never con­clu­sive.

But the wa­ters around the Opera House have been mud­died by the mega­phone of Alan Jones and the hyp­notic power it seems to wield over politi­cians — par­tic­u­larly right-wing politi­cians.

Why are prime min­is­ters, state pre­miers and for­mer power-wield­ers fall­ing over them­selves to ap­pease Jones?

The an­swer is they be­lieve he com­mands a vast con­stituency of peo­ple who agree with every­thing he says.

But the Opera House furore has shone a light on Jones’ clay feet.

By Tues­day af­ter­noon a pe­ti­tion against the Opera House bill­board pro­mo­tion had more than 283 000 sig­na­tures.

By that evening about 1000 torch-wield­ing chant­ing peo­ple turned up to ex­press their dis­gust at the de­ci­sion to turn the Opera House into a bill­board fu­elled by Jones’ shock jock bray­ing.

Where was Jones’ army of sup­port­ers?

Politi­cians are ter­ri­fied of the Jones army of an­gry bat­tlers and dis­grun­tled mid­dle class vot­ers.

Yet here was Jones pro­mot­ing gam­bling in­ter­ests through a $13 mil­lion horse race run by, and for, the elite.

So much for be­ing a voice for the ev­ery­man.

Of course the only peo­ple Jones and his fel­low shock jocks speak for is them­selves.

What the Opera House furore has shown in a pow­er­ful way is that politi­cians and mega­phone power­bro­kers like Jones are ac­tu­ally com­pletely out of touch with or­di­nary peo­ple — their de­sires and their be­liefs.

Some things can’t be bought. Some things are pre­cious be­yond money. World her­itage icons are not cheap bill­boards.

Here on the street, we all know that.

But up there in the neon party rooms and tow­ers of ide­ol­ogy, they’ve for­got­ten.

Once again mil­lions of or­di­nary pun­ters are mak­ing their own choices on climate change, sus­tain­able en­ergy, sex­ual ori­en­ta­tion, healthy food and ed­u­ca­tion fund­ing — choices which are not re­flected by the poli­cies that politi­cians are pur­su­ing.

At the mo­ment I’m read­ing the book Rusted Off by Gabrielle Chan which talks about the di­vide be­tween vot­ers, par­tic­u­larly coun­try vot­ers, and politi­cians.

Here, Ms Chan elo­quently de­scribes the sit­u­a­tion:

‘‘There is Aus­tralia. Then there is the land of Par­lia­men­talia — a cas­tle sur­rounded by a moat. In Par­lia­men­talia, any­body can ar­gue any stance and make it sound cred­i­ble.

‘‘These skills, learned in school de­bat­ing teams and univer­sity com­pe­ti­tions on the road to a po­lit­i­cal ca­reer, have be­come the very things vot­ers de­spise.’’

The Opera House de­ba­cle, al­though a par­tic­uarly Syd­ney af­fair, does il­lus­trate a na­tional plea.

We’re tired of trick­le­down pol­i­tics — we need trickle-up pol­i­tics.

● John Lewis is The News’ chief of staff.

Pic­ture AAP

Against crass com­mer­cial­ism: Demon­stra­tors protest against the de­ci­sion to project the bar­rier draw re­sults for NSW Rac­ing’s multi-mil­lion-dol­lar race, The Ever­est, onto the sails of the Opera House.

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