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Tasmania a land of 'dregs, bogans and third-generation morons', Leo Schofield says

ABC News logo ABC News 5/04/2015
Leo Schofield says 10 years spent living in Tasmania left him feeling bitter and depressed. © Giulio Saggin/ABC News Leo Schofield says 10 years spent living in Tasmania left him feeling bitter and depressed.

Tasmania is a land of "dregs, bogans and third-generation morons", according to well-known Australian cultural identity Leo Schofield, who said a decade spent living in the state left him feeling bitter and depressed.

Mr Schofield, a longtime restaurant critic and festival curator, was speaking to ABC News after an article published in Fairfax Media today quoted him as saying his experience in Tasmania "was probably the unhappiest episode of my life".

"I think I came very close to either a nervous breakdown or suicide. I just started to fall apart," he told Fairfax.

The 79-year-old, who set up a Baroque festival in Hobart, said Tasmanians had no respect for their heritage buildings or the environment.

He finally decided to return to New South Wales after the Tasmanian Government cut the festival's funding by 25 per cent, to an offer of $300,000.

He had been looking for a significant increase for the 2014 festival from the $400,000 the Government had previously provided.

The Baroque festival has since moved to Brisbane after a group of arts organisations offered additional cash to secure the event for the city.

He said the rejection hit him hard and his daughters convinced him to return to Sydney.

"I was in a bit of a bad way, and she [my eldest daughter] and her two sisters come down and effectively intervened and gave me a ticket and said 'get back up to Sydney, we don't want this to keep going'," he said.

"I was on anti-depressants and drinking rather too much and not in really good shape, I must say.

"It was a terrible blow when we were informed, not even officially or through a direct source, that the Government was going to whack 25 per cent off the grant that we had for the last one."

Mr Schofield said the whole experience left him feeling bitter and depressed, and he stood by his comments that Tasmanians were bogans who did not like mainlanders.

"Well, it's not difficult to see," he said.

"Look at Australia's Biggest Bogans and see where most of them come from on that television show.

"There's almost sometimes a celebration of mediocrity evident in some areas, and a feeling we're absolutely perfect as we are and we don't want anyone coming here telling us how to do anything."

Premier Will Hodgman said Mr Schofield was out of touch.

"Leo Schofield's comments are derogatory, ignorant and right out of step with what the vast majority of people are saying about Tasmania," he said.

Mr Hodgman also refuted Mr Schofield's claim that the Government had chosen to cut the funding to his event.

"The Government is a strong supporter of the arts and while we were disappointed that Mr Schofield chose to leave the state after being offered the exact same amount of public funding for his event, there is much more to celebrate and look forward to in Tasmania," he said.

Schofield spat the dummy: Tourism chief

Luke Martin from the Tourism Industry Council of Tasmania hit back at Schofield accusing him of "blatant mistruths".

"I think it's a bit of petulance coming through and I guess a bit of settling some scores against the state," he said.

"It think it was quite an extraordinary outburst and to do this in a national newspaper like this it is really a bit unbecoming."

Mr Martin said Mr Schofield had a very positive influence on the state and his comments were disappointing.

"Leo's got a bad case of sour grapes and it's unfortunate because he did actually make a really positive contribution to Tasmania for a long time," he said.

Mr Martin said Mr Schofield was alone in his assessment of Tasmanians.

"Sydneysiders are coming down to Tasmanian in unprecedented numbers and... they see something down here that's quite exciting," he said.

Asked if he had any plan to live in Tasmania again, Mr Schofield replied:

"No, no, no, no, no, I'm very happy back in the bustling metropolis of Sydney, back in Potts Point where I've lived for many years anyway, and where there are many people happy to see me, where elsewhere maybe they're not."

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