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Thursday, 1 March 2012
Page: 2603

Mr DANBY (Melbourne Ports) (12:56): Bernie Ecclestone received $55 million per annum for the Melbourne Grand Prix and he has warned that, if the cash handout is cut, Melbourne will lose the Grand Prix. Attendance figures for the Melbourne Grand Prix are low. Ecclestone admits that the Albert Park event is the least viable of all grand prix around the world. The Grand Prix Corporation estimated that 7,000 fewer people went to the Formula 1 in 2011 than in 2010. They claim 111,000 people. In fact, only 68,000 people turned out for last year's race. At $55 million, that is around $800 per person. I think it would be better for Mr Baillieu, the Premier of Victoria, and Ron Walker to stand in the Bourke Street Mall and distribute $100 bills to Melburnians—it would cost less. Perhaps they could spend it on the numerous problems the Baillieu government said it was going to fix.

Mr Ecclestone has been subject to investigation by Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs about his control of the so-called Bambino trust. The trust, based in Liechtenstein with Mr Ecclestone's former wife, is a £3 billion trust. The investigation is occurring due to a trial in Munich last year of Gerhard Grabowski, a German banker who denies tax evasion and denies receiving bribes worth £28 million from Bernie Ecclestone and the Bambino trust. The German prosecutor said the money was paid to ensure that Ecclestone remained in charge of Formula 1 after the sale by Grabowski to the new owners in 2006. A High Court judge in England has said that the payments by Formula 1 to Mr Ecclestone were a bribe. The beneficiaries of the Bambino trust are Mr Ecclestone's daughters, who, as seen in what was truly one of the most out rageous programs shown on British television, in a three-part series in this time of great poverty in the United Kingdom, spent incredible amounts on having internal staircases in their walk-in wardrobes, three hair salons in one house and a parking court because 100 cars have to park there and they did not have a parking garage. This is fine use of Victorian taxpayers' money! Why are we sending $55 million of fungible money to the Bambino Trust? So two-storey indoor wardrobes can be built by the bambini? It is outrageous.

It is outrageous that Victorian taxpayers are spending $800 per person attending this highly unpopular race. As I said, why doesn't the Premier stand in the Bourke Street Mall and give out $100 bills? It would be a better use of the Victorian taxpayers' money, in my view. It is scandalous that the Victorian press, particularly the Melbourne Age, has failed to highlight this investigation in Germany. This is a public trial. It has been in every German and English newspaper. The money that Ecclestone took—the bribe, in the words of the judge—should be imprinted on the mind of every Victorian taxpayer. Every time they see $55 million of their money being used to fund the Melbourne Grand Prix, when Mr Ecclestone says, 'Give us every dollar or I'm out of here,' they should say, 'Bye-bye. Adios, Mr Ecclestone. We're better off without you.' I think the fact that this money is being used by Mr Ecclestone to bribe German bankers is an absolute scandal that the Victorian taxpayer should not tolerate, and this parliament, if people in the Victorian media are not speaking up, has to speak out long and hard to condemn it.

I am not against Melbourne's major events; they are one of the things that distinguish our great city. I attended the tennis with the South Korean ambassador. I thank him very much for taking me to the women's final. It was much shorter than the men's final, but we were probably grateful not to be there until three o'clock in the morning. The Grand Prix in Albert Park has always been unpopular. The FA18 flyover at Albert Park was cancelled last year, quite wisely, by the Department of Defence. There has not previously been a case where the Australian Department of Defence has been used to boost a private event. Flying very low over an extremely crowded urban area is, for safety reasons, something aircraft of a military persuasion should not be involved in. This whole Grand Prix is now a complete farce. The Victorian taxpayers have had enough of it. I am pleased to see that at least the Herald Sun has said something about it. Let us put an end to it. Adios, Mr Ecclestone. (Time expired)