Thu, 30 Nov 2023 - 13:08



Shadow Minister for Science and the Arts

Shadow Minister for Government Services and the Digital Economy

Manager of Opposition Business in the House




30 NOV 2023


ASHLEIGH GILLON: Well, as we've been reporting the Carla Zampatti CEO, Alex Schuman, has resigned from his position on the board of the Sydney Theatre Company Foundation. The resignation follows an onstage pro-Palestine stunt on the opening night of The Seagull by three actors, including Hugo Weaving, son Harry Greenwood. Joining us live now is the shadow minister for the arts, Paul Fletcher. Appreciate your time, Paul Is there any place for political messaging on stage in these sorts of performances, do you think? I mean, the arts and artists broadly have had a pretty long activist history over the years on a number of issues.

PAUL FLETCHER: Well, ASHLEIGH, this so-called protest on stage was, of course, deeply offensive to many Australians, including many in the STC audience, many long standing supporters of the Sydney Theatre Company, because it is expressing support for the murderous terrorist thugs of Hamas who carried out an attack which saw 1400 civilians, men, women and children in Israel killed over 200 dragged off to captivity, many still in captivity and it is not surprising that it has provoked a strong response. Of course, many in the Australian Jewish community, certainly in my electorate in Bradfield and elsewhere around the country, have strong personal ties to people in Israel, including people who have been killed and people who are in captivity. So this is this was a deeply offensive act. Unfortunately, it's not the first time that Hamas sympathisers have been active in the Australian arts scene. We saw that with a boycott of the Sydney Festival at the start of last year on the grounds that Sydney Dance Company was performing a work by an Israeli choreographer and there was some sponsorship support by the Israeli embassy. So Hamas very disappointingly appears to have some sympathisers in the arts community. But it is absolutely understandable that people in the audience people who are ticket buyers, have season ticket holders, people who have been donors to the Sydney Theatre Company, people have supported in many ways would be absolutely horrified and appalled that in the midst of a production, you see an expression of support for the murderous terrorist thugs of Hamas.

ASHLEIGH GILLON: So Paul Fletcher, what would you like to see the Sydney Theatre Company Foundation do now? We are reporting Alex Schuman has resigned. The longtime board member, Judi Hausmann, has also quit. Should there be further ramifications for the actors involved in the stunt? What other ramifications could there be? We know the Sydney Theatre Company, as I understand it, receives substantial Federal Government funding as well.

PAUL FLETCHER: Well, I think ultimately that's a matter for the Sydney Theatre Company's board and management to work through, but I think they need to realise that this is extremely problematic. What has occurred here, and you mentioned funding from the Federal Government, but of course they also receive generous philanthropic support from many sources and of course ticket revenue from people who buy tickets to go along and see shows. And many of the people in their audience are deeply and rightly offended by what has happened here. So this is something broader management need to think about very carefully. I'm not going to be giving them specific advice, but what I can say is I think I consider what happened was entirely inappropriate. And it is not the first time, as I've mentioned, that we've seen naive sympathisers of the murderous terrorist thugs of Hamas making their presence felt in the Australian arts community. As I've mentioned, we saw a similar thing with the Sydney Festival at the start of last year and an article I wrote then I called them the useful idiots of Hamas, you know that term from Stalinist Russia used by the Communists to refer to their sympathisers in other countries. And I frankly think that remains an appropriate term. Hamas is an appalling organisation and to engage in this kind of expression of support is utterly inappropriate and I fully support all of those who have expressed their abhorrence for what has occurred here.

ASHLEIGH GILLON:  Paul Fletcher, appreciate your time. Thank you.

PAUL FLETCHER: Thanks, Ashleigh