We’ve swapped a dragon for a panda.

Written by

Andrew Millar


April 18, 2008

Two articles in the local paper caught my eye this week because of the obvious irony.

Firstly was a grandiose headline on Thursday’s page 11… ‘Rudd pandas to our wishes.’ An appalling pun to start with, but the article goes on to say that the two Chinese pandas promised to the Adelaide Zoo would ‘not fall victim to budget cuts’.

Apart from the fact that I doubt anyone was aware we were promised two outsized teddy bears for our zoo, our Prime Minister now makes headlines for not cancelling the deal. So an event that isn’t going to happen makes headline news.

Spin makes your head spin at times.

But I read on and my head spins for another reason. Apparently we are renting the animals from the Chinese government for 10 years at a cost of $10 million. Add to that fee, the cost of building a special enclosure to house the black and white overgrown guinea pigs, quoted at $5 million, and you have a substantial amount of money spent on boarding a couple of bamboo eating tourists.

Sorry, but if someone asked me, I’d say Pandas are not that interesting.

And here is where the second article comes into the story.

A day earlier the paper announced that the Federal Government’s Minister for the Arts, Peter Garrett, had cut the funding for the planned Adelaide performance of Wagner’s Ring Cycle in 2011. Funnily enough, the funding needed by the State to stage this world-renowned performance is $15 million.

Does that figure ring a bell?

The State Opera first staged the Ring Cycle in 1998. It followed up 6 years later in 2004, where it played to sell out audiences. The economic benefit to the state was then calculated at $14.2 million. Even if you are a complete opera ignoramus, you can see the benefit to the State’s hotels, restaurants, taxis and so on. Most of this was tourism dollars as Adelaide’s Ring Cycle was beginning to credibly establish itself among the few cities in the world to stage ‘Der Ring des Nibelungen’. In short it was beginning to put us on the cultural map and we had a chance to cash in on our tenuous grasp on the title of ‘The Festival State’.

Now Wagner’s dragon will be seen no more in Adelaide. In its place will sit two fuzzy, lazy quadrupeds with little or no magic about them.

Apparently there are about 250 Pandas in zoos around the world. There are only a small handful of cities that staged ‘The Ring’.

Mr Rudd, I don’t think it was our wishes you were pandering to. And, once again, South Australia loses another international attraction.

I guess we’ll just have to bear it.