Mon, 8 May 2023 at 5:26 pm BST
The Sydney Opera House has been embroiled in a row over the Coronation after the Australian government refused to light its sails for the occasion.
The sails of the opera house on Sydney Harbour are illuminated in colours on important dates, ranging from WorldPride to the Ukraine invasion anniversary and the death of Queen Elizabeth II.
But for Saturday’s coronation of King Charles III, the soaring curves of the 50-year-old building were left dark.
Chris Minns, the state premier of New South Wales, said he had cancelled his predecessors’ plans to light up the building for the King, who is Australia’s head of state.
“I would like to keep it for Australia and Australians and moments of sacrifice and heroism for the country, or when there’s an important international event in Sydney,” Minns told a radio interviewer on Monday.
The premier said the building’s sails had been illuminated 70 times last year – compared with 23 times a decade earlier – at an estimated cost of Aus$80-100,000 (£40-50,000) for each occasion.
People had many places to mark the Coronation including on television, he told Sydney’s 2GB radio.
“The event was not taking place in Sydney, it was taking place in London,” said Mr Minns.
“Of course, I respect the new King but I am mindful of where and when we spend taxpayer money.”
Mr Minns became premier on March 25 after his Labor Party won the state elections.
Anthony Albanese, the Labor prime minister who attended the Coronation, is an avowed republican whose government includes an assistant minister for the republic.
Royalists have claimed that republican sentiments were behind the decision to not turn on the Opera House lights.
“We are facing a campaign of republicanism by stealth in Australia by the current government despite the parading of the prime minister in London declaring his allegiance to the King,” said Philip Benwell, the chair of the Australian Monarchist League.
Mr Benwell said community organisations such as the AML would have raised money to switch on the lights if they had been consulted.
“There are a lot of monarchists who voted Labor at the last state election and they are now regretting having done so,” he told AFP.
But the New South Wales premier said he would not apologise to those disappointed by his decision.
“I have got no interest in antagonising people that believe in the monarchy, people who are royalists – of course not – but obviously I have got to be careful about where I spend their money,” he said.
Polls show many Australians want to get rid of the monarchy in favour of a republic.
But the republican question is taking second place to a referendum later this year on giving Indigenous people the constitutional right to be consulted about laws that affect them.