Bitterness over a decision to award Sydney with a new $50 million US Studies Centre has reignited the old feud between Sydney and Melbourne.

Melbourne noses are out of joint over decision to establish the centre in Sydney, with some promoters of the unsuccessful Melbourne now fuming over their treatment at a dinner in Sydney to announce the decision and claiming the Melbourne establishment will “never forgive Howard if it turns out this bidding process was a sham.”

The executive director of the Australian American Association of Victoria, Tony McAdam, says he was taken aback by the “ungracious Sydney triumphalism” at the black tie dinner on Tuesday, attended by the Prime Minister, Rupert Murdoch and other power-brokers. That’s why McAdam says he jumped onto the stage and made an impromptu speech.

“I didn’t even identify myself. I just felt Melbourne and Victoria weren’t getting any recognition at all,” he told Crikey today.

“We’ve been very active. A great effort had been made by Melbourne University and the VC and the Treasurer and it hadn’t been mentioned. I said I hoped they still remember that Melbourne is Australia’s most elegant city.”

McAdam said he wished Sydney well, but details of its bid remained sketchy and he’d suspected for time that the decision was a fait accompli.

In the Herald Sun this morning Melbourne University vice chancellor Glyn Davis also fired this shot across the bows:

In supporting the local bid, the NSW Premier proclaimed Sydney as Australia’s only global city and no one begged to differ. Although the city of Melbourne is home to outstanding universities museums and libraries, a thriving publishing and information industry and some of the best biomedical research in the world, it struggles to be heard as a player in the contest of ideas.

Melbourne campaigners say the decision was a direct snub to their city’s Australia America Association, which was founded in 1941 by Sir Keith Murdoch and boasts as its patron Dame Elisabeth Murdoch.

The Federal Government’s $25 million funding of the centre was given to the New York-based America Australia Association, of which Rupert Murdoch is a patron. It then decided where the centre would be established.

The Prime Minister also announced at the dinner on Tuesday that donations to the new centre would be fully tax-deductible.


Christina Buckridge, Corporate Affairs Manager at Melbourne Uni, writes:  Crikey’s “carefully selected” quote from University of Melbourne Vice-Chancellor Glyn Davis in the Herald Sun was not related to the award of a US Studies Centre to Sydney, as a scan of the full article would clearly show. The only comment made by the University on the outcome of the selection of a US Studies Centre has been to wish the University of Sydney well in achieving the important aims of this significant national institution. The aim of the article was simply to remind Melburnians of the need to make sure their voices are heard in national debate. The final sentence in the article says it all. “We do not want to talk only with ourselves; a great city of ideas such as Melbourne should be part of a continuous discussion, a lively and informed voice addressing a national audience.”

Tony McAdam, executive director, Australian-American Association of Victoria, writes: I would just like to add a few comments and clarifications regarding Misha Ketchel’s piece titled “Bunfight at black tie dinner over Melbourne-Sydney rivalry”. While I am correctly quoted there are general attributions which I don’t agree with and I would like to clarify the record. I do feel, as do many people in Melbourne who have been involved in the bid for some months, that Melbourne was given short shrift and I was rather dumbfounded when Melbourne hardly rated a mention on the evening in question, especially as it was the only substantial bid other than Sydney’s. That said, I and my organisation feel that it is a great project and the Centre, wherever it is, will be very good for our national appreciation of the United States and its culture. I and my colleagues in Melbourne wish the University of Sydney well and very much hope that it sees the Centre as a national institution and not just a Sydney one.