Re-elected Greens Councillor Irene Doutney is alone on the new City of Sydney Council in opposing a grant for a Royal Australian Navy event, arguing Council should not support the “glorification of war.”
“I just think it’s unfortunate that Sydney is spending ratepayers’ money on the celebration of warships,” Ms Doutney said.
The grant supports an International Fleet Review in Sydney Harbour from October 4-11 next year, which coincides with the centenary of the first entry of the Royal Australian Navy into Sydney Harbour on October 4, 1913.
The proposal was presented last Monday at the first City of Sydney sub-committee meeting since the September 8 local government elections.
The grant would provide $644,000 in cash, forgone revenue and in-kind support to the Navy. Costs may increase as Council awaits confirmation on matching State Government support.
Ms Doutney acknowledged her stance was likely to attract criticism.
“I know I’ll cop it from all directions, [but] I come from a party which has a principle of peace and nonviolence.”
Ms Doutney said she was not criticising Navy personnel.
“I’ve got nothing against the members of the defence forces,” she said. “I think they do what they do for the most noble and honourable of reasons.”
A Navy spokesperson cautiously replied to Ms Doutney’s comments, and stated the Navy “respects the opinions of individual members of the public.”
The spokesperson also said the Navy “appreciates the support of the City of Sydney in this world-class event.”
Other councillors disagreed with Ms Doutney. Newly elected Living Sydney Councillor Angela Vithoulkas said she supported the grant, identifying economic benefits derived from the event.
“The event is a celebration of the Royal Australian Navy, not a celebration of war,” Ms Vithoulkas said.
“The cost of the celebration to the City of Sydney is moderate compared to the benefits that local businesses will receive, and the exposure that Sydney will get on a world scale.”
Recently elected Liberal Councillor Edward Mandla said he was “excited” about the opportunities provided by the “once in a lifetime” International Fleet Review.
Mr Mandla also highlighted the benefit to business.
“One of Council’s primary roles I think is to help business and, particularly, currently to help struggling business,” he said. “75 ships coming into Sydney… think of what that is going to do for the local economy.”
Destination NSW and the Navy believe interstate and international visitors will inject approximately $50 million into the local economy. Revenue from domestic visitors has not been calculated.
The vote approving the grant on Monday, October 15 is expected to pass.