Build an art gallery, James

From a plebeian perspective, one of the misfortunes of the Packer fortune is that Kerry and his son James grew up with an abiding love of casinos and gambling instead of art galleries ...

I know I can't be the only person pulling my hair out at the almost constant invocations that Sydney needs another casino to aid it in the savage fight for international tourist dollars, like ummmm, that's the only thing that'll attract people to one of the cleanest, safest, most beautiful cities in the world.

Just last month, Lonely Planet named Hobart one of the 10 best cities to visit in the world, thanks almost exclusively to the establishment of the Museum of Old and New Art (MONA) created by another dude who knows something about gaming - David Walsh.

According to Fairfax Media's Craig Platt: "The most recent figures from Tourism Tasmania show the popularity of MONA, with 25 per cent of all visitors to the state, more than 200,000 people, heading to the museum in the year ending June 2012. It ranked as the second most-visited attraction in the state, behind the Salamanca Markets."

From all accounts, Hobart is a beautiful city but I very much doubt it has the diversity of cultural and recreational activities available in a metropolis such as Sydney, which boasts almost 25 times the population.

However, the vision of Walsh, to create a world-class art gallery has put the city on the map for tourists; a slightly more humble version of what the Guggenheim Museum has done for Bilbao in Spain.

For a different spin on attracting tourists, consider Cancun, Mexico, where 40 per cent of the 750,000 visitors who go there to dive descend on one of the more incredible and inventive museums I've seen - the MUSA, or Museo Subacuático de Arte.

An underwater installation, it features more than 400 pH-neutral, permanent cement sculptures in the National Marine Park of Cancun, Isla Mujeres, and Punta Nizuc.

Check it out, it's stunning - and it's helping to save other reefs in the area from degradation by funnelling divers away from the more sensitive, natural dive spots.

Aaaaaanyway, James Packer says he is passionate about Sydney.

A fortnight ago, he wrote: "I am a believer in the power of Sydney. When Sydney is prosperous, the rest of the country benefits economically.

"A world-class landmark resort on Sydney Harbour can be the catalyst to help turn the city around, just as Crown [Casino] assisted in the turnaround of Melbourne."

He also believes that "to allow us to invest in a quality product and make the project commercially viable, our proposal includes VIP-only gaming".

There's a couple of assumptions here that I'd challenge and the first is that Sydney needs "turning around". The other is that the best way to ensure the viability of a world-class landmark resort is through VIP-only gambling.

I'm guessing a lot of the rancour directed at Packer and his proposal stems from these two assumptions.

A lot of people believe in the power of Sydney - by last count there were about 4.6 million of us - and though I'm sure every one of us would have a suggestion as to how the city could be improved, I doubt many feel it is floundering because it lacks a big, shiny new six-star hotel for rich tourists.

A lot of Sydneysiders also feel disenfranchised and that people in government simply do deals to enrich the elite.

There are also a lot of people in Sydney (and Australia) who are tired and disgusted by gambling - of the sports betting on TV, the endless odds shouted at us by commentators, the poker machines in pubs and clubs and the insinuation that to have a "classy" night out you need to be bent over green felt, waiting for a dealer to show you a heart.

Some of these objections are illogical - but it's just the vibe of the thing: 4.6 million Sydneysiders get to look at a big, shiny new six-star hotel for rich tourists that most of us will probably never stay in, Packer gets his casino for his even richer gamblers and we have to sit in the park and eat $25 fish and chips (if we can afford the parking).

So here's a suggestion.

Sydney already has a few good art galleries but, having visited many others overseas, I'd hesitate to call them "world-class" or "landmark" - so why not build one?

Sure, there are already proposals for the Barangaroo site to include a national indigenous cultural centre, so why not augment this? Poach a shit-hot curator, throw in a few "world-class", "landmark" artworks, design a stunning exterior or interior, create an international must-see collection?

I reckon if James Packer put his mind to delivering this - a place all of us could visit and be proud of - we probably wouldn't begrudge him his hotel if he stuck it on top.


The Cancer Council NSW has launched a new campaign to encourage men to talk with each other about their health. Having had a small role with the Men's Health Committee designed to brainstorm ideas for the campaign, I gotta say I'm stoked with how hard CCNSW has gone.

Check it out ... I reckon this'll get people talking.

The point?

Compared to women, Australian men are 84 per cent more likely to die of cancers that are common to both. That is 6,900 more male deaths in Australia per year.

Shit Mates Don't Say asks blokes to fix the fixable. Thirty per cent of cancers can be prevented so CCNSW are asking men to take their health into their own hands and make some simple changes.

Have a regular game of footy with your mates, swap the greasy burgers for lean meats or barbecue some prawns, don't drink as many beers, and if something is up, talk about it.

There is some shit men just don't say, but talking about health concerns is the first step to doing something about it. So get on it, talk about it and do something about it – simple preventative measures and regular checkups can save lives.

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