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Tuesday, 7 December 2004
Page: 54


Senator LUDWIG (3:39 PM) —I ask that general business of motion No. 43 today, which condemns Sydney Lord Mayor Clover Moore and relates to multiculturalism and the celebration of Christmas, be taken as a formal motion.


The DEPUTY PRESIDENT —Is there any objection to this motion being taken as formal?


Senator Brown —I have an objection unless the minute by Lord Mayor Clover Moore, which I have circulated, is incorporated into Hansard.


The DEPUTY PRESIDENT —As I understand it, leave has been granted for that, Senator Brown; therefore, there is no objection to the motion being taken as formal.


Senator LUDWIG —I move:

That the Senate—

(a) condemns Sydney Lord Mayor Clover Moore for inappropriately using multiculturalism as a shield for stripping back Christmas celebrations;

(b) notes:

(i) the damage that is done to multiculturalism by this kind of misguided action,

(ii) multiculturalism does not mean abandoning your own beliefs or culture out of deference to imagined offence to a different culture, and

(iii) that Christmas itself is multicultural, celebrated as it is across Europe, North and South America, parts of Asia, Africa, the Pacific and wherever Christians may be;

(c) embraces the spirit of Christmas and encourages the people of Australia, whatever their beliefs, to practise the Christmas message of peace and goodwill to all; and

(d) wishes a safe and merry Christmas to the people of Australia.

The document read as follows—

ITEM 3D. FESTIVE SEASON CELEB-RA-TIONS AND CHRISTMAS DECORATIONS

FILE NO:

DATE: 6/12/04

MINUTE BY THE LORD MAYOR

To Council:

As Councillors will be aware, there has been considerable public interest in the City's Christmas decorations and events in recent days, with some misinformed criticism driven by a fabricated quote wrongly attributed to me.

In view of the level of interest in this issue, I propose to deal with it as the first item of business.

The City is spending over $900,000 ($300,000 more than last year) decorating the city and celebrating the Christmas season, followed by spending another $5 million on New Years Eve celebrations and the Sydney Festival during January, closely followed by Chinese New Year.

While there has been a view expressed that the City is not doing enough there is also a contrary view in the community—indicated by many of the letters published in the Sydney Morning Herald today—that the expenditure of ratepayer's money on these type of activities is already more than adequate.

Council has to strike a balance between competing views in the community, making a reasonable and justifiable decision concerning the expenditure of public money.

Councillors will understand that this year's decorations and celebrations were planned many months ago and the expenditure approved by the former General Manager. I am informed that past practice has usually been to have decorations specially commissioned . and then generally re-used for about 3 years, and there has been no major departure this year from what has happened in previous years.

To ensure there is no misunderstanding, I will now place on the public record the Council's Christmas and festive season activities.

The City's celebrations commenced on 25 November with the lighting of the Christmas tree and a concert attracting 7,000 children and their families in Martin Place, with me arriving in a Christmas sleigh with Santa. We ran a children's colouring in competition with the prize lighting the official Christmas tree.

The Martin Place Christmas tree is 20 metres tall, and took 9 days to install. It has 180 gold and silver baubles, 120 stars and 19,000 lights.

The City has also decorated Chifley Square, Sydney Town Hall and Pitt Street Mall and is still in the process of installing 545 banners to _decorate the streets, based on a . “Christmas lights” theme and “seasons greetings” translated into the 8 most frequently spoken languages within the City boundaries, The banners will be located in George Street, Martin Place, Taylor Square, Anzac parade, Green Square and Kings Cross.

We are also having roving Christmas street performers around the CBD shopping precinct on weekends during December.

Most importantly, we are also holding free family Christmas concerts in the City's expanded areas in Rosebery, Alexandria, Rushcutters Bay, Glebe and Surry Hills, with Santa, carollers, a big brass band, MC Justine Clarke from Playschool and special performances at each location,

I attended the Alexandria Park Twilight Christmas Concert last Friday night and can report that it was a fantastic event and very much appreciated by the local community.

The City is in partnership with the major retailers who have supported the city's concerts, and as has happened in previous years, 400,000 copies of a full colour magazine promoting Christmas events, transport, trading hours, gift ideas, church services and Christmas stories has been produced by Fairfax in association with the City.

Perhaps some of the views expressed in the past few days have been driven by nostalgia, and public disappointment at a reduced level of retailer commitment to Christmas displays in recent years. People's memories of their childhood Christmases often revolve around the type of displays that retailers used to put on—the Santa grottoes and window displays that we rarely see anymore.

Yes, most of us do remember those things fondly—but I don't believe that it is actually the City's responsibility to reproduce the sort of retail display that seem now to be a thing of the past. This is essentially a commercial and marketing decision made by individual retailers.

However, I am happy to raise this with the city's retailers to ensure that they are given the opportunity to consider their displays and participate in planning for next year's celebrations.

I am advised that in other major cities of the world which are often cited as examples of great Christmas decorations, the bulk of the decorations are .provided by the retailers themselves, rather than by government.

I'd also like to put on record my real concern that we should not lose sight of the fact that Christmas is about the birth of baby Jesus and it is a spiritual and religious festival. We should not be preoccupied with commercial and material things—how many hundreds of thousands of dollars we are spending on temporary decorations. I believe we should focus on the more important and enduring aspects—like generating peace and goodwill towards others—and caring about everyone in our community, including the disadvantaged. As elected representatives, we should be more focussed on those far less fortunate than ourselves, rather than the number of Christmas lights suspended over the Pitt Street Mall.

I'm pleased to report that the Council is also conducting a number of very important but lower key Christmas functions and activities for the less fortunate, including:

Delivery of Christmas Hampers to approximately 300 Meals on wheels clients

A Christmas luncheon with traditional Christmas lunch, entertainment and a variety of treats including chocolates, Christmas cake and cherries to take home at each of council's 9 Aged and Disability Activity Centres;

Each Activity Centre has been given funds to purchase Christmas decorations

A free BBQ dinner and then a tour of the Christmas lights in suburbs famous for their decorated houses for approximately 120 aged residents

A Christmas luncheon cruise for around 50 Meals on wheels Volunteers

Groups of aged residents have been taken on special Christmas shopping outings

Assistance with providing transport to a variety of Christmas activities and concerts

Providing transport for the Crystal Set Choir to perform at nursing homes

Hosting a Christmas function at the Redfern Community Centre to be attended by local residents with a BBQ meal, activities, Santa, Christmas stockings and lollies for the children.

As well as these and many other community-based Christmas activities, the Council has many public events planned for the entire festive season.

The celebrations will continue through New Year's Eve with' the award-winning , fireworks displays and the Sydney Festival in January, right up to Chinese New Year.

On New Year's Eve there will be 2 fireworks shows again this year, with an earlier one for children at 9pm and the traditional midnight display. This year the bridge effects have been devised by sculptor Neil Dawson, and it will continue to be one of the world's most watched New Year's Eve displays.

As co-sponsor of the Sydney Festival the Council is playing an important role in enriching the cultural life of the city, allowing people to enjoy 23 free events and encouraging people to visit Sydney. The festival is one of the most attended events in Australia and it is a 3 week celebration of arts and culture, with 52 events featuring the best local and international theatre, music, dance, opera, multi-disciplinary and visual arts.

In supporting all of these events, the City is spending around $6 million of ratepayers' money.

RECOMMENDATION

That arising from consideration of a Minute by the Lord Mayor to Council on 6 December 2004, on Festive Season Celebrations and Christmas Decorations, it be resolved that Council note the many actions and events undertaken by the City of Sydney—to celebrate the festive season in 2004-2005.

(SGD) COUNCILLOR CLOVER MOORE MP

Lord Mayor

Question agreed to.


Senator Brown —I wish to record the Greens' opposition to paragraphs (a) and (b) of that motion but not to (c) and (d).