The Melbourne Cup is about everyday people and not celebrities, Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews says, as a number of stars shun the race that ‘stops the nation’.
Pop star Taylor Swift revealed last month she wouldn’t be going ahead with a planned performance, while actress Lana Condor pulled the plug on her attendance last week, with both citing scheduling issues.
There is speculation that Tuesday’s race is losing popularity amid well-publicised animal cruelty revelations.
“The Melbourne Cup is not about so-called big celebs visiting us,” the premier told reporters in Melbourne on Thursday.
“It’s about ordinary, hard-working Victorian families who will be there in record numbers and many hundreds of thousands more who will watch the race that stops the nation.
“The Spring Carnival is an extremely important part of our major events calendar.”
Mr Andrews is not attending the event himself, but said that has nothing to do with police bracing for more protesters outside Flemington Racecourse.
Activists from the Coalition for the Protection of Racehorses are planning to make themselves heard outside the gates each day of the week-long Melbourne Cup Carnival, as well as during Monday’s Melbourne Cup parade.
The group said it’s been inundated with support since ABC’s 7.30 program broadcast footage last week of racehorses being sent to a slaughterhouse and allegations of animal cruelty at the facility.
Mr Andrews stressed horse welfare is taken “very seriously” in all codes of racing, pointing to Racing Victoria this week announcing a $25 million boost to fund an expanded welfare program.
Victoria Police acting commander Tim Tully said the force was prepared for demonstrations and appealed to protesters to remain peaceful.
“I don’t think there’s any issue out there if people do protest and do it safely without causing any disruption or engaging in any violent activity,” he told 3AW on Thursday.