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Grand Prix cost Vic taxpayers almost $60m

Homegrown racing ace Mark Webber’s retirement has been blamed for a drop in Melbourne’s Grand Prix attendance, as the state’s cost of hosting it rose to almost $60 million.

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Formula One event organisers attributed a $2 million downturn in sales revenue at this year’s race to Webber bowing out of the event in 2013.

“When we’ve got an Aussie in the field, sales go up,” Tourism Minister Louise Asher said on Wednesday.

“Obviously I’m very, very confident that in 2015 with Daniel Ricciardo performing so well, that we can get increased sales for 2015.”

The 2014 Formula One event cost Victorian taxpayers $59.97 million, up from $50.67 million last year.

While sales revenue dropped, expenditure went up $7.5 million because of the fee paid to Formula One.

Ms Asher said the government would have preferred if the cost to Victoria to stage the event was not so high.

But she added the contract to host the event, which runs to 2015, was negotiated by the previous Labor government.

Last month the Napthine government secured the Formula One Australian Grand Prix until 2020 with a “better” contract, Ms Asher said.

“Under the contract we have signed the subsidy will not be as great,” she said.

Ms Asher said the event still delivered significant economic and tourism benefits.

An Ernst & Young report showed the F1 alone generated up to $39 million in economic benefits and up to $36 million in promotion.

“I’m completely convinced the grand prix is excellent value for the state of Victoria,” she said.

Victorian taxpayers subsidised the 2013 Australian Motorcycle Grand Prix to the tune of $11.27 million.

Organisers blamed a $5 million drop in ticket sales for that event on Casey Stoner’s retirement.

Australian Grand Prix Corporation boss Andrew Westacott said event costs had been kept to an “absolute minimum”.

Dr Napthine said the contract Labor signed showed the opposition could not be trusted in managing major projects.

Opposition Leader Daniel Andrews said Labor did not make any mistake with the contracts and the government bragged earlier this year the Grand Prix deal would be cheaper.

“Well, I don’t know that this $60 million price tag is in fact cheaper,” he said.

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