Prime Minister Anthony Albanese says there are 1.4 billion reasons for the federal government to light up the Sydney Opera House in the colours of the Indian flag on Wednesday night.
Criticism erupted after the projection was announced, in part because the sails were left blank during the King’s Coronation, despite various other landmarks across the country being illuminated purple for the occasion.
The Opera House would have been the scene of the QUAD leaders summit on Wednesday, which was canned last week due to US President Joe Biden’s last-minute domestic duties.
The lighting up of the sails – which could come at a cost of between $80,000 and $100,000 – comes after a rock star welcome for Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, with a 21,000 strong crowd greeting the leader at an event in Western Sydney on Tuesday night.
On Wednesday, Mr Albanese held a bilateral meeting with his Indian counterpart, where they inked a deal to slow down people smuggling and improve relations between the two countries.
Mr Albanese said it was appropriate to go ahead with paying respect to India in the display, arguing it wasn’t his government’s decision to light up the Opera House for the coronation or not.
“One of the things about lighting up the Opera House is that it projects our image to the world,” Mr Albanese told 2GB.
“It will mean that there is coverage … There are 1.4 billion reasons why we want the Indian flag on the Opera House, because it is the largest population in the world.
“Two thirds of those 1.4 billion people are under the age of 35. We want a relationship with them – we want them to come to Australia, to bring their dollars, to create jobs and create that economic activity in the tourism sector.”
NSW Premier Chris Minns came under fire earlier this month for not lighting up the Opera House for the Coronation, a decision he stood by in order to “protect the taxpayers’ money”.
The Opera House was lit up 70 times in 2022, costing the public between $5.6m and $7m.
Mr Minns said at the time he believed it important to spend taxpayer money wisely.
“Frankly, I think it was just being lit up too often,” he said.