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Tuesday, 13 March 2012
Page: 2734


Mr KELVIN THOMSON (Wills) (22:25): I wonder how many Australians and, in particular, how many Victorians saw last week's TV documentary about the life of Tamara Ecclestone, the daughter of Formula 1 boss Bernie Ecclestone. When the Grand Prix first came to Melbourne, the reported cost was $1.5 million. By 2011 it had skyrocketed to $50 million. Bernie Ecclestone is very adept at securing taxpayer money, not just in Victoria but around the world. The British government built a new dual carriageway to his racetrack at Silverstone and demanded Formula 1 be exempted from the EU's ban on tobacco sponsorship. Russia recently agreed to build a circuit for Mr Ecclestone and then charged itself $280 million for the privilege of letting him use it.

The writer George Monbiot says that, in 2004, the consultancy firm McKinsey insisted that the desperately poor Indian state of Andra Pradesh, where millions die of preventable diseases, cough up £50 million to £70 million a year to support Formula 1. The state's chief minister had lobbied the Prime Minister of India to exempt Ecclestone's business from the national ban on tobacco advertising.

The Ecclestone family's offshore trust, Bambino Holdings, saves Mr Ecclestone, by his own account, in excess of £2 billion in tax. As George Monbiot accurately puts it: this is socialism for the rich; capitalism for the poor. Those at the bottom, like quite a few of my constituents, are subject to the rigours of the free market. Those at the top are pampered and protected, which brings me back to the documentary about Bernie's daughter Tamara. In it she sets out to prove that she is not a 'pointless, quite spoilt, really stupid, vacuous, empty human being'. As George Monbiot says, her attempt is not entirely successful. She is shown supervising the refurbishment of her £45 million home in London, which includes commissioning a £1 million bathtub carved from Mexican crystal, an elevator for her Ferrari, her own nightclub, a bowling alley with crystal studded balls, an underground swimming pool complex and a spa and massage parlour for her five dogs. Of course she has her own daily massage, and her busy day includes taking the dogs to Harrods to have their hair sprayed and their nails painted. The day is not complete without a private plane to fly her across the Channel to an exclusive party in Europe, but she cracks it when her stockbroker boyfriend meets a group which includes a former girlfriend, and she leaves the party in a huff. If you have not seen the documentary I cannot recommend it too highly.

I want to suggest to my fellow Victorians in general and to the Victorian government in particular that there are better ways of spending $50 million. For example, for the last two years, northern Victoria has been hit by serious floods, with extensive damage to tourism businesses in places like Echuca, Kerang, Rochester and the like. It would be a boost for flood-affected northern Victoria to put money into tourism projects along the Murray River or into building new schools. My electorate has been screaming for a high school for Coburg for years. It is not good enough that it still has not happened. The Grand Prix money could build and run this high school and others desperately needed as a result of Melbourne's rapid population growth.

Or it could go to towards undergrounding powerlines in bushfire prone areas. The Victorian government said it would implement all of the recommendations of the Victorian Bushfires Royal Commission but now says it cannot afford to underground the powerlines even though the royal commission makes clear that it is risky and crazy to have our electricity assets above ground on days of high bushfire risk. One thing I am absolutely sure of: there are better ways to spend $50 million, year in and year out, than bankrolling Bernie's billionaire bogan. I might add that in the past week a lot of Australians would have been pretty disgusted to learn that the reason Gina Rinehart—estimated personal wealth $17 billion—was out there in 2010 with the placards protesting against the mining tax was so that she could provide more of, in her own words, the life of privilege given to her outrageously spoilt children: private jets, endless overseas holidays, multimillion dollar homes with water views and so on. It is disgraceful that she should begrudge ordinary, hardworking Australians—and, seriously, when was the last time she picked up a shovel?—a share in the mineral resources which are owned by all Australians, a share which the Australian government seeks to provide through higher superannuation and retirement incomes, lower taxes on small business and important nation-building infrastructure projects.

The SPEAKER: Order! It being after 10.30 pm, the debate is interrupted.

House adjourned at 22:31