It’s been fifteen years since Captain Jeff Kennett, and his corporate turn-around team took the reigns in Victoria and started the State on the road to recovery. It’s been thirteen years since Mr. Kennett applied his marketing genius to spruce up the State’s fleet of car number plates. Replacing the dowdy Garden State with the racy On the Move. And it’s been eleven years since Mr. Kennett and Ron “Major Events” Walker gleefully announced that they’d stolen the Australian Grand Prix from the people of Adelaide.
It was a heady time to be a Victorian as we saw our fortunes revive and imagined a glorious future trampling all over the lesser states on our way to the big showdown with New South Wales. Sadly though it was not to be. The sybaritic Sydney strumpet took the big prize and the people of Victoria, not wanting to see their Premier quaffing the bubbly and gorging on the Ritz Crackers and Coon cheese at the Sydney Olympic official buffet, while they glumly sat at home thinking about what might have been, rightly ejected Mr. Kennett in 1999 before the invitation list could be finalised.
All these years later, and the Melbourne Grand Prix continues without Mr. Kennett. But it’s a far cry from the glory days. The initial crowds of 401,000 have dwindled to a reputed 300,000 last year, and the red ink, initially an easily overlooked pink puddle of $1.7 Million is now a $21 Million deep, taxpayer-subsidised crimson sea.
News this week that the sponsor of the celebrity air-head race had reneged, left the Victorian taxpayer groaning, until race organisers pointed out that by subsidising this event as well, the taxpayer would be saving money.
Victorian taxpayers are saving money by footing the bill for this year’s Formula One Grand Prix celebrity race, a race organiser has claimed.
Phew! Lucky for that then. But even these sort of economic miracles do not seem to be helping the Prix.
Mr. Kennett himself has been forced briefly back into the limelight to warn that the race needs to be tarted up a bit, and Grand Prix chairman Ron Walker has felt the need to remind the Victorian taxpayer of the international exposure the event brings.
If you had to advertise Melbourne to 360 million people in 132 countries, it would cost you $100 million if you had to pay for the television advertising. But we get it for free
Last time I looked at an international Grand Prix telecast, there was a half hour intro showing the cars doing burn-outs on the starting grid, while Murray Walker enthused about the smell of rubber burning, and then bang, they were off, skittishly weaving down pit straight toward the first bend. There were no enticing shots of Ipanema Beach or the Costa del Sol, and I’d hazard a guess that any European F1 junkie watching the telecast from Birmingham, Chemnitz or Lyon wouldn’t be getting up early to watch footage of green trams trundling down Swanston St, or little penguins bodysurfing at dusk.
In fact the only Melbourne natural wonders that make it onto these telecasts seems to be the blonde trackside entertainment, which admittedly would be reason enough to fly half way around the world, if it wasn’t for a damaging rumour to the effect that they had already been taken by Shane Warne.
Eleven years and tens of millions of dollars later, the satisfaction of doing the dirty on Adelaide is starting to wear off. There are cheaper things to subsidise than this: Opera, Lesbian theatre groups, Violent Lefty Protesters all of them adding a far more cost effective dash of taxpayer subsidised cultural colour than the now out-of-fashion Bogan culture that the Grand Prix attracts.
Not only that, but there’s the sheer inconvenience of having to wait in bumper to bumper traffic as the sealed off roads surrounding the track squeeze the frustrated Melbourne motorists into fewer lanes than is reasonable to impose on anyone but residents of some third-world toilet.
The message is clear. We’ve had enough now. No more re-directed tram routes thanks. No more F18 flyovers setting off car alarms over the city, and no more Save Albert Park fusspots. Join with me friends and let’s send a clear an unequivocal message to the good people of Adelaide. We’ve finished with it now. So bloody well come and take it back!