Bullies Begone: The Day Sydney Said No To Shock-Jocks and Sycophants


Alan Jones’ latest ham-fisted attempt to force his will and back his mates, and the NSW Premier’s weak-at-the-knees response to it, has shown what living in an actual community is really about, writes Greens MP, Jenny Leong.

I’ve always wondered whether people who live in key moments of history knew they were inhabiting a significant moment in time. I wondered if I would recognise a moment of such gravity if I was in the middle of it. Today, reflecting back on the last 48 hours, I think the answer is yes, I would. Because yesterday I did.

The decision to put gambling ads on the sails of our Opera House has kicked off a vitally needed discussion about the exercise of power, about who speaks for who and what we really value as a community. These are kind of existential questions that rarely break through the busy, white noise filled moments of our day.

But, this whole episode has really cut to the heart of so many of us – and bought all those questions to the fore for me and thousands of others like me.

When conservative shock-jock Alan Jones used his radio program to bully and threaten the CEO of the Opera House, Louise Herron, he probably had no idea that he had just crossed a line for so many people – especially women. It’s fair to say this week has been a bad week for many women and Jones just made it a whole lot worse.

Radio shock jock, Alan Jones.

That’s the first problem with this whole sorry saga. Bullying works because the bully gets to terrorise one person, but everyone else who witnesses the bullying knows they could be next. Bullies only ever need to target one person to send a message of power and menace.

But it was made so much worse when those who are supposed to provide political leadership caved in to the bulling.

Sydneysiders have had the odds stacked against them for too long. Faced with the broken trifecta of the privatisation obsessed Liberal Premier, a continually disappointing NSW Labor leader and a gang of conservative commentators who think they run the state – it was time to draw a line in the sand.

By overriding the proper process and disregarding the arm’s length decision-making processes, the Premier made it clear that she has little respect for the public interest.

When we look at the reasons as to why this might be, you don’t have to search very far.

The influence of political donations, particularly from the racing and gaming industries, are clear. Even if the disclosures and transparency around their corrupting influences are not.
Given this, it’s not a coincidence that these industries have been handed unprecedented access to two iconic points on Sydney Harbour – Barangaroo and last night Bennelong Point.

Member for Newtown, Jenny Leong, at the recent community protests in support of the Sydney Opera House. (IMAGE: Supplied)

So it’s not surprising that people have had enough. They’ve had enough of the bullies who think they can throw their big money and their loud voices around and get their way.

In the last 48 hours, it was just wonderful to see the community’s spontaneous reaction. The outpouring of support and the commitment to action to reclaim their House, their city and their state.

That’s why this week has been so extraordinary. It was a time where the broad and diverse community of NSW drew a line in the sand.

We saw a petition to the Premier – now signed by over 300,000 people – brought to the steps of NSW Parliament House by a father of two who had had enough of the bullying and wanted to defend the Opera House. Then, people came together to create a moment at the Opera House to show that their collective lights could be much more powerful than any paid propaganda.

Feeling the weight of the hundreds of thousands of petitions in my hand as I carried it in to the NSW Parliament, standing in the crowd with thousands of people raising lights and voices to protect the Opera House, I knew this was a turning point.

It’s clear that people are sick of being told the financial interests of industry trump our desire to hold on to our public places and spaces. And it’s certainly clear that we have had enough of seeing the bullies get their way.

Yesterday was a significant moment, where we came together and felt how powerful, joyful and good it feels to be part of a community that cares.

Jenny Leong is the State Member for the Electorate of Newtown in the New South Wales Legislative Assembly. Jenny was elected to parliament at the NSW state election on 28 March 2015. Prior to entering parliament, Jenny worked for a number of years with Amnesty International as a crisis coordinator and campaign manager in London, Hong Kong, and Sydney. At Amnesty International, she oversaw the organisation’s response to the Middle East & North Africa Uprising and worked to protect freedom of expression in the lead up to the 2010 Burma elections. She has also held the position of Manager of Community Arts and Cultural Development at the Australia Council for the Arts. Jenny has been an active member of The Greens for over a decade. In 2013, she worked as the Federal Election Campaign Coordinator for the NSW Greens.