(6pm, Thursday 11 April 2013, Pier 8/9 Hickson Road Walsh Bay)
Thank you, Ben [Strout]. Hello, everyone. I'd like firstly to acknowledge the Gadigal people of the Eora nation, the traditional custodians of our land, and to pay my respects to their Elders. I also acknowledge the people of 200 nations who live in our City.
And welcome, everyone, to the program launch for the 2013 Sydney Writers' Festival. Now in its 16th year, it has grown into one of our City's great drawcards, bringing people together, from Australia and the world, to share knowledge, ideas and experience.
Research last year showed that 17 per cent of Festival visitors were from outside Sydney, with the vast majority - 70 per cent - saying they'd come to Sydney chiefly because of the Festival. And not surprisingly, over 90 per cent of those surveyed said that the Festival enhanced Sydney's reputation as a cultural and arts destination.
And why not? There is always such an outstanding roll-call of writers across a richly diverse program.
It is presented in fabulous settings like this and other special places, including our own wonderful Town Hall, where there is a great children's event.
I love the buzz generated in these venues; I love seeing the crowds filling the footpaths and piers around Walsh Bay; I love the sheer variety of the talks on offer; and I love the fact that at least half the hundreds of events are offered free to the public, making it surely one of the most democratic and accessible of world festivals.
It brings together some of the best of Sydney: the physical beauty of its setting; the creativity and curiosity of its people; its strong sense of self, as well as its global identity. It confirms our city as Australia's international gateway, a place engaged with its region, and with the world.
And it gives the lie to the old clichÃ© about Sydney being the Emerald City, all glitz and glamour, but no soul or depth.
Sydney engages with the Writers' Festival in the way it does because ideas matter, because knowledge matters, because we are curious about the world and about the lives of others.
I hope that curiosity always remains a characteristic of Sydney, and of its Writers' Festival. Long may it continue as the vital force that it is.