A senior government official in the state of Victoria has revealed that the region is keen to keep the Australian Grand Prix beyond its current contract, despite the continued rumours about the long-term future of the event.
Losses for the race have ballooned in recent years, with those losses rising to more than $48 million last year, in a move that has led to Lord Mayor Robert Doyle questioning the viability of hosting a race.
However, tourism and major events minister Louise Asher has now insisted that the government is still committed to the Albert Park race but isn't prepared to be 'bunnies' in contract negotiations with commercial rights holder Bernie Ecclestone.
The current deal for Melbourne to host the race comes to an end in 2015.
"We would like to (extend the contract), but we will sit down and we will negotiate about it," Liberal Party member Asher, who helped take the race to Melbourne back in 1996, 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.
"We've inherited a contract that Labor has signed up to, and I just have to deal with it. So my opinion of what might be an acceptable loss is irrelevant because the event is contracted until 2015, so what we're trying to do is manage what we've inherited."
Asher added that there were a number of reasons why the current losses are so high and admitted that the people running the event would need to show what they were doing in order to try and bring costs down.
"When I used to run the event when I was minister previously ... these taxpayer subsidies were A$2-3 million, however, that was operating off a different contract,” she continued. "There are many reasons why the event lost so much last year. One is the contract. Another reason was that attendances were down. Another reason was that revenues and sponsorships and elements like that were also down.
"The (Australian Grand Prix) Corporation will be required to demonstrate to government that it's doing everything to rein in costs.
"Everyone's entitled to their opinion and they can say whatever they like, but there's a significant economic benefit to hosting the event.”