- Australian Grand Prix
Support for Australian GP ...but not at any cost
The ongoing saga surrounding the long-term future of the Australian Grand Prix, which took another twist yesterday when FIA boss Jean Todt said it was a vital part of the Formula One calendar, has taken another twist with comments that the local authorities will not be taken for a ride in negotiations.
Mounting losses borne by taxpayers have led to calls for the race to be scrapped when the current contract expires in 2015, or at the very least for the contract to be renegotiated on more favourable terms.
Louise Asher, the state's tourism and major events minister, said the commitment to the grand prix remained but confirmed a better deal would be sought. "We'd like to [extend the contract] but we'll sit down and negotiate about it," she told Reuters. "There's no doubt about it that the Victorian government would want to secure the Grand Prix … it's just that we're not going to be bunnies in contractual negotiations."
In a touch of local politicking, Asher, whose Liberal party was elected in November, blamed the previous Labour government for the escalating losses which in 2010 approached $45 million. "We've inherited a contract that Labour has signed up to, and I just have to deal with it."
Asked what kind of deficit would be acceptable, Asher said her opinion was "irrelevant" in the short term because the current contract was binding. "What we're trying to do is manage what we've inherited."
She explained the spiralling losses were fuelled by falling spectator numbers and a reduction in sponsorship. "The [organisers] will be required to demonstrate to government that it's doing everything to rein in costs."
But Asher made clear she thinks the race brings considerable benefits to Melbourne. "Victorian tourism's had to really fight for everything we've achieved. Sydney's got the harbour and Brisbane's got the Great Barrier Reef, and we've had to brand ourselves by events or being a city of things to do.
"We've really had to work hard at brand Melbourne up, and particularly for internationals to know Melbourne exists and want to come to Melbourne and also for the interstate people to actually view Melbourne as exciting again."