New South Wales’ state opposition leader Barry O’Farrell (pictured) has told Richard’s F1 that a newly-elected government he leads would not actively seek to take the Australian Grand Prix away from current hosts Melbourne, whose contract to host the race runs out in 2015.
As opposition to the event’s continually-increasing costs continues to simmer beneath the surface, other venues have been floated – such as a permanent facility at Avalon, south of Melbourne, or the city of Geelong – should Albert Park elect to discontinue hosting the Grand Prix.
And with O’Farrell set to win by a landslide at this weekend’s state election – a result that would see the rival Labor Party’s government toppled after sixteen years of largely
inept and corrupt rule, he is set with the difficult task of rebuilding the state’s economy, which has been left substantially in the red.
O’Farrell reiterated his hopes that New South Wales would be able to attract bigger marquee events across the spectrum of sport and culture, as he told us this morning while meeting voters during his statewide campaign.
“A further $40 million has been committed to the Major Events Fund,” he told us this morning.
And as for the questions as to whether his government saw the Grand Prix as part of this framework?
“No,” was the reply, but he gave more interesting answers when pressed a little further.
“When Jeff Kennett [the then-Premier of the Victorian Government, which led the bid to take the Grand Prix from Adelaide to Melbourne in 1996] secured the Grand, his logic was that if the income earned from an outlay of, say, $10 million matched or bettered this figure, then it would logically make sense.”
And would that logic extend to a state government he would lead?
“Absolutely,” was his answer, although clarified with the caveat that this would apply to any major event the state would seek to secure.
As ever, a concern about the high promotional fees that the Bernie Ecclestone-led Formula One Management group reportedly charged – a figure shrouded in secrecy under an Act specifically implemented by the Victorian government – was at the forefront of his mind.
“I have my own views about Bernie Ecclestone,” Mr O’Farrell said and smiled, without expanding any further on that view!
One area that he was very vocal about was the current state of Sydney’s motor racing circuit at Eastern Creek, the state-owned facility which was opened in 1990 that has played host to the 500cc motorcycle Grand Prix series, the A1 Grand Prix and which – until the event was moved to a temporary Homebush street circuit – a round of the V8 Supercars Championship.
“Something needs to be done to improve Eastern Creek,” he told us. “I travel there to watch the drag races from time to time, and the facility sits idle for over 200 days a year.
“This is meant to be Sydney’s premier motor racing facility,” he added.
[Original image via Daly Telegraph]