Published February 26, 2016 - Andrew Taylor, SMH Deputy Arts Editor
"We can see the disdain of this government, the disdain they have towards our cultural institutions. Would they have ever said they'll sell RPA Hospital to build a hospital in Campbelltown or western Sydney? No, but our arts institutions, they're disposable." Jamie Parker MP
Parramatta MP Geoff Lee was jeered in parliament on Thursday as he reaffirmed the NSW government's commitment to moving the Powerhouse Museum to Parramatta.
"The Powerhouse move to Parramatta should not be hampered by politically-driven elitist attacks," he said to the sound of heckling and boos from opposition MPs and the public gallery.
During the parliamentary debate triggered by a petition that gathered more than 10,000 signatures last year, Lee also said the government made no apology for funding arts and culture in western Sydney,
State politicians displayed their indifference to opponents of the plan to move the Powerhouse Museum to Parramatta, with less than one-third turning up to listen to Lee and four other MPs discuss the controversial plan.
Deputy premier and Arts minister Troy Grant did not participate in the discussion, leaving it to Lee and the parliamentary secretary to the Premier for western Sydney, Ray Williams, to extol the virtues of relocating the Powerhouse in Parramatta and selling off its Ultimo site to developers.
Lee countered the suggestion that the Ultimo site could be retained while building a new Powerhouse in Parramatta.
"Responsible government understands there is not an unlimited budget," he said.
Independent MP for Sydney, Alex Greenwich, criticised the government for its lack of a strategic museums policy and its decision-making.
"The government is not relocating this museum. It is dismantling it and using the proceeds for a new, likely smaller, inferior museum for western Sydney".
He added: "It has been unhelpful, irresponsible and disingenuous of the government to twist this community campaign as an inner city versus western Sydney culture war," he said.
Labor leader and arts spokesman Luke Foley highlighted the underinvestment in arts and culture in western Sydney.
He said the $30 million promised by the government to arts in western Sydney was less than the annual public subsidy to the Art Gallery of NSW.
Greens MP Jamie Parker said the plan to move the Powerhouse was part of the NSW government's privatisation agenda masquerading as a cultural initiative.
"We can see the disdain of this government, the disdain they have towards our cultural institutions," said Greens MP Jamie Parker. "Would they have ever said they'll sell RPA Hospital to build a hospital in Campbelltown or western Sydney? No, but our arts institutions, they're disposable."