In a saga that is already threatening to rival the likes of Neighbours and Home & Away in terms of its longevity, Australian politicians are continuing to agree and disagree with one another over the future of Melbourne on the annual F1 calendar.

The whole debate was sparked by a letter written by Melbourne Lord Mayor Robert Doyle, openly questioning whether the race still offered value-for-money for Victoria tax payers in the wake of mounting losses in recent years and suggesting that the state might be wisest not to sign a new contract with Bernie Ecclestone's Formula One Management (FOM) company once the current deal expires in 2015 [see separate story - click here].

Never one to shy away from a fight, Ecclestone swiftly hit back by calling Cllr. Doyle's bluff in asserting that 'we don't need Australia', and last week, federal MP Michael Danby - whose electorate includes the Albert Park area - argued that due to 'rising costs, dwindling crowds, fed-up local residents [and] an ambivalent Melbourne mayor... the government should cut its losses and walk away'.

Victoria Premier Ted Baillieu is similarly adamant that costs must be significantly reduced in order for the Australian Grand Prix to remain viable, but the Herald Sun newspaper claims that seven of the nine Melbourne City councillors 'want to keep the annual event despite [Doyle] saying its time is up' and that the majority are in fact in support of its retention.

"I want it to be here as long as possible," affirmed Cllr. Carl Jetter, with colleague Kevin Louey concurring that F1 is 'unlike other sporting events' and 'enhances Melbourne's name'.

The Australian Grand Prix moved to Melbourne from Adelaide in 1996.



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