PM Laughs Off Opera House Anger: 'It's Not As Though They're Painting It'

Scott Morrison has laughed off critics of racing ads to be displayed on the Sydney Opera House as public anger grows.

"I just don't understand why we tie ourselves up in knots about these things," the Prime Minister told 2GB's Alan Jones on Monday morning.

"It's not as though they're painting it on there, there are lights flashing up there for a brief period of time."

More than 120,000 people have signed a petition to "defend our Opera House", after NSW Premier Gladys Berekjiklian ordered management to accept a watered down version of Racing NSW's proposal to promote the upcoming Everest horse race on the iconic sails.

READ MORE: Massive Public Outcry Against Horse Race On Opera House Sails

Jones, who berated Opera House CEO Louise Herron on air over her defense of not using the heritage listed building as a billboard, noted that it was originally funded in part by a public lottery, "which is a form of gambling."

"It's ironic, and true," Morrison agreed, laughing.

Later on the program, Jones went on a tirade against "lefties" taking issue with the promotion of horse racing on the Opera House sails, wildly claiming it was hypocritical given the event space was sold for concerts and events and "whatever will raise money for Louise."

He also denied that he called for Herron to be sacked, contradicting his statements to her on his program last week.

"I think you're completely out of your depth here, and you should put your resignation on the table today," he'd told her on Friday.

"I'm telling you, I will be speaking to Gladys Berekjiklian in about five minutes, and if you can't come to the party, Louise, you should lose your job."

Racing NSW's proposed projection for the Opera House.

Meanwhile, Racing NSW CEO Peter V'Landys claimed that the idea to advertise the race on the Opera House sails actually came from the NSW Government, and that he'd spent 12 months negotiating with "at least four government departments" in an effort to use the bridge.

The Opera House, he said, was the backup option.

He told Sky News on Monday morning that he and his staff had received death threat over the push to advertise the $13 million race.

He insisted that the use of the sails was to promote "a unique Sydney event", and not gambling.

Sydney Lord Mayor Clover Moore disagreed, describing it as "blatant commercialisation of Australia's world heritage-listed Opera House for an industry notorious for damaging gambling and animal cruelty."

Meanwhile, Labor is divided over the issue. Federal Labor MP Anthony Albanese told ABC Radio listeners last week that people should just "chill out" over the issue, while Tanya Plibersek tweeted on Monday morning that it was "just tacky".

NSW Labor leader Luke Foley supports the Racing NSW plan, which will now see a barrier draw promoted for ten minutes, with the rest of the time dedicated to a light show.

"The original proposal has been significantly wound back after negotiations," said V'landys.

"Firstly, the logo is now not included; the name of the horse is now not included; the actual race field is now not included; all that is left is the trophy, the colour of the jockey silks and the barrier the horse has drawn."

Contact the author: abrucesmith@networkten.com.au

Lead image: 2GB