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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2006 Week 09 Hansard (Wednesday, 20 September 2006) . . Page.. 2958 ..

to nine countries in the space of the last year. It is a significant recognition of how important this particular variety is to this region’s winegrowers and of this event’s capacity to showcase the Canberra region and to add a very significant additional attractor to investors and people in this region.

Arts—local venues and performances

MR MULCAHY: My question is to the Minister for the Arts. In light of accusations made by Richard Evans, General Manager of the Australian Ballet, that the Canberra theatre is too small and ill-equipped to host full-scale productions and that the Canberra Symphony Orchestra is too expensive to use and not up to scratch, what has your government done to defend our local arts venues and performers against such outrageous criticism?

MR STANHOPE: I raised both issues in conversation with Mr Evans at a recent Australian Ballet performance at the Canberra theatre. The conversation commenced with a request by me of Mr Evans for information as to why the full company was no longer visiting the ACT. Mr Evans explained to me then that the essential issue of concern to the Australian Ballet was the configuration of the stage, not so much its area but its height. He explained to me the implications of that for the ballet company.

I then pursued that issue with Mr David Whitney and sought a formal briefing from him on the technical aspects of the stage. He conceded that there is an issue with the Canberra theatre stage. I understand from later comments reported in the Canberra Times that the Australian Ballet also suggested that they had some concern about the capacity of the Canberra theatre, but that was not an issue that was raised with me in conversation with Mr Evans.

The issue of the stage and its configuration, most particularly its height, was an issue of concern to the Australian Ballet, and that is something that is accepted, at least in principle, by the Cultural Facilities Corporation and the managers of the Canberra theatre. So I cannot say that this is an outrageous slur on the Canberra theatre when there is a suggestion that perhaps the Australian Ballet has a point.

My concern is that it seems to me from discussions I have had that the point is, to some extent, pedantic and may be overcome with goodwill on the part of all, and we are seeking to work our way through that issue. I have, nevertheless, asked for formal briefings on issues of capacity and the technical requirements of the Australian Ballet for a full ballet, and I am still awaiting that particular report.

In relation to the Canberra Symphony Orchestra, I do accept the thrust of your question, that the slur on the Canberra Symphony Orchestra is simply unacceptable and not justified. I do not disagree with the essential assertion as to the offensive nature of some of the imputations in relation to the Canberra Symphony Orchestra.

As a result of the conversation I had with Mr Evans at the ballet, in which he also raised issues around the Canberra Symphony Orchestra, I have also sought briefings from Arts ACT and arranged a meeting with Mr McLean, which I arranged prior to the issue being publicised in recent weeks. I am meeting Mr McLean, I believe next week, for discussions in relation to issues affecting the Canberra Symphony Orchestra.

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