Australia's Formula 1 grand prix has posted a big loss this year, the country's media reported on Thursday.
The Victorian government said the race had cost taxpayers $49 million, the highest in five years, and more than double what it cost in 2006. Despite the bigger attendance figure for this year's race, sales revenue has continued to go down. The news has prompted criticism from various parties.
"I think it is just outrageous – it has gone past a joke and it is time both sides of politics started to seriously reconsider the ongoing cost of taxpayers bailing out this event," independent state Member of Parliament Craig Ingram told The Age newspaper.
"The cost of $49 million for a car race when as a local member of parliament we struggle to get funding for health services, education, support services for disabled kids at schools, for roads and other infrastructure – I just think there is a whole range of services and other infrastructure which need that sort of money more than a car race," he added.
Peter Logan from the Save Albert Park group told the Sydney Morning Herald that the race was not proving to be beneficial for the tourism business, either.
"Three years ago, the auditor-general found it does not produce the economic benefits the Government has claimed and he found no tourism benefit for Victoria," he said. "This cost of $49 million is just a huge cost on all Victorian taxpayers."
Major Events Minister Tim Holding defended the race, however, saying it was good for Victoria.
"The economic benefit to Victoria far outweighs the cost of staging the Formula 1 grand prix," he was told the Age. "The race was seen by about 12.8 million people in Europe this year and the massive television exposure that the Melbourne Grand Prix receives has helped to build our worldwide reputation as a great place to visit and a great place to live.
"This year's grand prix attracted the biggest crowd in five years and a television audience of 4.6 million in Australia, and with Mark Webber in such good form we expect that next year's grand prix will be even more exciting."
Melbourne has a contract to host the grand prix for the next five years.