Richmond MP Justine Elliot doesn’t mince words when she wants to attack the government on its shortcomings. But she displayed a softer side in Parliament on Monday, when she delivered a eulogy of sorts to Bluesfest and its director Peter Noble.
Her motion was seconded by fellow Bluesfest fan, shadow finance minister and manager of opposition business, Tony Burke.
Mrs Elliot used the occasion of the event’s 25th anniversary to congratulate Bluesfest on its continued success, socially, economically and artistically.
She also highlighted Bluesfest’s green credentials and informed the house it had won the prestigious Rolling Stone award earlier this year.
She lauded Peter Noble’s many accolades and commended him for founding the Boomerang Festival of Indigenous art and music, which took place at the Bluesfest site for the first time in October last year, and for appointing high-profile Bundjalung woman and consummate festival director Rhoda Roberts to head it up.
‘Economically, Bluesfest is a major contributor to the Byron shire. 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,’ Mrs Elliot said.
She added that fundraising for charities had raised $130,000 for the 2004 Boxing Day tsunami alone and that the annual guitar raffles had brought in over $374,000 to date.
‘Bluesfest brings enormous economic benefits to Byron Bay and, indeed, to the northern rivers. And it is a great support for many organisations,’ Mrs Elliot told the house.
‘Bluesfest is also one of the most highly awarded festivals in Australia.
‘In 2005 and 2006 Bluesfest won the Helpmann Award for Australia’s Best Contemporary Music Festival. Between 1994 and 2010, Bluesfest has consistently been awarded Rhythms Magazine readers’ poll for Australia’s Best Music Festival.
‘The awards Bluesfest has won are unprecedented for a regional event. Bluesfest has also been nominated by the international concert magazine Pollstar in 2005 and 2006 as one of the top five finalists in the International Venue of the Year category, alongside major festivals such as the Montreux Jazz Festival.
‘Bluesfest is viewed as one of the world’s great music festivals – something that we are very, very proud of,’ she said.
But Mrs Elliot didn’t stop there, plugging the event to the members of the house and actively encouraging them to attend.
‘The event has now grown to a point where artists from every continent appear. People make the pilgrimage from all around the world to attend the Bluesfest each year. It has an incredible reputation. For those who have been to Bluesfest, you know exactly what I mean. You know how special it is and how important it is,’ she added.
‘If you have not been and are interested in going to Bluesfest, then please make the trip to it next year. It is a unique, iconic and very special festival. It is one that we are very proud of in the northern rivers. I am very proud to have it in my electorate.
‘I would certainly welcome everyone from all sides of the house to come along to see what the beautiful north coast has to offer. When it comes to Bluesfest, we have an outstanding festival – one that we are all incredibly proud of,’ she told the members.
Mrs Elliot closed by saying, ‘I would again like to acknowledge the great work that Peter Noble does and has done as director over the years to put us on the world stage with Bluesfest.’
After such high praise it was perhaps unsurprising that Mr Burke reserved his right to speak.