Opera House Petition Delivered, Alan Jones Apologises And An On Air Spat

It's the story that no one can stop talking about.

Last Thursday, on a rainy afternoon, a father of two started a petition after listening to 2GB shock jock Alan Jones berate Opera House CEO Louise Herron over her decision not to let Racing NSW advertise an upcoming horse race on the sails of the heritage listed building.

On Tuesday morning, Mike Woodcock delivered the petition -- all 232,000 names printed out, double-sided -- to NSW Parliament.

"I never expected anything like this," he told ten daily on Tuesday morning. "I expected maybe a few friends would sign, maybe a couple hundred people."

He just wanted Herron, who he doesn't know personally, to know that she wasn't alone.

"I felt pretty pissed off about it [the interview]," he later told media, "and I figured a lot of other people might feel the same way."

Mike Woodwock holding his petition outside NSW Parliament. Photo: ten daily.

The petition is the fastest growing one on Change.org in recent memory, said director Sally Rugg.

"It's really clear that the community feel incredibly strongly about this," she told media outside NSW Parliament house on Tuesday morning.

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A few dozen people who had signed the petition came out in support, including a couple who had gotten up at 5am and driven over an hour from Windsor to be there.

Wentworth independent candidate Kerryn Phelps was there to lend her support, calling on the state government to reconsider its decision to order the Opera House to display the toned-down racing ads.

"Sydney Opera House is the people's place," she said. "It is not a billboard. It is an architectural icon, it is heritage listed, and it is a treasure of the Australian people. It is not meant for crass commercialism."

Kerryn Phelps standing outside NSW Parliament on Tuesday morning. Photo: ten daily.

Although NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian did not meet the campaigners outside parliament as hoped, Greens MP Jenny Leong came outside to deliver the petition.

She said she was taking a stand against the "bullying" from those who would see ads for the upcoming Everest race displayed on the iconic Opera House sails.

The advertising is due to appear on Tuesday night, but will not be the full campaign initially proposed. It will also include a light show.

Meanwhile, Jones issued an apology to Herron on his program on Tuesday morning.

"I used some words in these programs about the Everest, and the Opera House, and Louise, which in hindsight I now most regret hearing, having heard the impact they've clearly had on some people," he said.

"So to Louise and those people who've been offended, I apologise."

It's the second time Jones has issued an apology on-air in recent months, after using the racist phrase "n****** in the woodpile" in a rant about Liberal party politics.

The Opera House controversy sent sparks flying on The Project on Monday night, with a heated clash between hosts Peter Helliar and Steve Price.

“It’s a few lights flashed up on the sails briefly, there’s no graffiti, it’s not advertising, it’s promotion of a NSW sporting event,” argued Price.

When Helliar argued his point, Price hit back.

"You're so obsessed with this story. You don't even live in Sydney. You didn't even pay for the Opera House, I did!"

Helliar laughed. "You've made me angry. You paid for the Opera House? There's your headline. You're a wanker."

Price was referring to the Opera House Lottery, which ran from 1957 to 1986 and largely paid for the building's $102 million cost.

Contact the author: abrucesmith@networkten.com.au

Lead photo: ten daily