Mardi Gras chair David Imrie received a string of abusive and threatening phone calls last week after it was announced New Mardi Gras was to be partially funded by the NSW Government.

And hundreds of irate Daily Telegraph readers and a few wellwishers left their comments on the paper’s website last week, also blasting the decision to spend taxpayer money on the 30-year-old event that injects an estimated $30 million into the Sydney economy every year.

I had not anticipated any of this, but it does show that homophobia is alive and well and it reinforces our purpose, Imrie told Sydney Star Observer.

I guess what surprises me most is that even the people on the homophobic fringe would prefer that the NSW Government did not invest in income for the NSW economy, did not invest in building the economy simply because it is something that they are bigoted against. It’s bizarre, it’s like the dark ages.

But Imrie said the abusive phone messages would not deter him or the organisation from pushing forward to produce a 2009 festival stronger than any previously seen.

And, he said, the comments only reaffirmed the reason for Mardi Gras’ existence.

But it was not only Daily Telegraph readers who reacted strongly to the funding move. NSW Opposition leader Barry O’Farrell has also blasted the decision.

If [NSW Premier] Mr Rees wants to prioritise funding, some of the announcements he’s made in the recent days would be further down the list for most people of this city and state, O’Farrell said.
But in a political tug-of-war, Greens MLC Lee Rhiannon issued a statement condemning O’Farrell’s comments.

If the leader of the opposition cannot publicly declare his party’s support for the Mardi Gras it sends a damaging message about the Liberal’s policy stance on relationship equality and other key sexual diversity rights campaigns, she said.

The religious right faction in the Liberal party was active in the recent local government election, and its members including upper house MP David Clarke still wield considerable power.

New Mardi Gras and Events NSW will work together to encourage greater national and international participation in the parade by developing new marketing strategies through Tourism NSW. There are also plans to secure broadcast coverage of the event again.

The exact funding amount is unknown, but Sydney Star Observer understands it is worth hundreds of thousands of dollars and will help further cement the organisation’s profitability which has been declining since its 2002 collapse.

The event only survived thanks to a financial and community rescue package put together by ACON, the NSW Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby, Queer Screen, Pride and Sydney Star Observer.

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