Political rivals get warm and cuddly over love of Bluesfest
LABOR Richmond MP Justine Elliot and Nationals Page MP Kevin Hogan had a rare moment of accord in Parliament when Ms Elliot rose to speak about this year's 25th Byron Bluesfest.
Ms Elliot rose in the House of Representatives on Monday to sing the praises of the festival and its director, Peter Noble.
She called on the Parliament to note the festival's anniversary, the many awards received by the feestival and Mr Noble, Bluesfest's environmental credentials, and Mr Noble's efforts in promoting the Indigenous Boomerang festival.
The festival was important to the Byron Shire economy but also made big contributions outside the region and even outside the country.
"Looking solely at the economic benefit of the 2013 Bluesfest, there was a total benefit of $64.1 million for the Byron Shire, including an estimated total income-that is wages and salaries-of $10.8 million for the Byron Shire," Ms Elliot told the Parliament.
"Bluesfest is also very supportive of charitable groups as diverse as kindergartens and hospices and also of some musicians who have fallen on hard times.
"Bluesfest fundraising alone raised $130,000 for the victims of the 2004 Boxing Day Tsunami. Major charity fundraising over the past 15 years has been for the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, and guitar raffles at the festival have raised over $374,000 to date.
"This year, charity stalls included things like Australian Seabird Rescue, Bay FM, Byron Youth Service, Cancer Council, Playing for Change, The Uncle Project and Westpac Lifesaver Rescue."
Mr Hogan was quick to agree, going so far as to praise Ms Elliot for raiding the motion in the first place.
"I commend the member for Richmond for getting out so much information in such a short space of time. I will certainly not even try to get close to getting out as much information as you have-I applaud it," he told the Parliament.
"This is not only an Australian event; it has become an international event. I have been a few times and not only the artists but many people who are there to appreciate the artists have travelled not only from every state of Australia but from countries all around the world. That is wonderful."
Deputy Speaker Natasha Griggs and former Labor Arts Minister Tony Burke joined the love-in, with Mr Burke describing Bluesfest as "an extraordinary event" that was good for Australian music.
"I think the story of its success is a story about the organisers and a story about the bands, but it is also a story about the crowd. It is a very special crowd at Bluesfest," Mr Burke said.
"Part of making sure Australian music stays strong is to make sure that Australian music festivals remain strong.
"There will always be international headline artists-that is part of getting the crowd there.
"But this also helps provide the critical mass and critical audience for Australian bands-to make sure that cutting-edge Australian music continues to be part of the Australian story."