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Thursday, 17 September 2015
Page: 7204

Senator RUSTON (South AustraliaDeputy Government Whip in the Senate) (17:11): I, too, rise to make a small contribution on the motion put by Senator Muir to acknowledge the substantial contribution that motorsport makes to not just the economic fabric of our society but also our social culture. I acknowledge the commitment that Senator Muir has made to this particular topic. He is a great advocate for the motoring industry in Australia and in particular for motorsport. I acknowledge that my fellow whip is also a great supporter of motorsport and often comes to work on a Monday morning and tells us of exploits of driving his car very fast up and down hills, which is done of course in a controlled environments and certainly not on the road.

Senator Bilyk interjecting

Senator RUSTON: Through you, Mr Acting Deputy President, Senator Bilyk comes from Tasmania and may well know something about Senator Bushby's driving habits more than I do, because I do not drive on the same roads as Senator Bushby as a general rule. I am sure that he is a terribly law-abiding citizen when it comes to obeying the road rules.

This is a much more serious issue than the fun and frivolity of the last few minutes. The social and economic benefits of motorsport in Australia are quite significant. Apart from the fun that is associated with driving a car very fast in a controlled and safe environment, there are some really huge benefits that go our communities. If you have a look at my home state of South Australia—and your home state, Mr Acting Deputy President Gallacher—motorsport has played a very big role in our state for a very, very long time. In fact it was back in the 1930s that the first Grand Prix was held in South Australia. I do not know whether you realise it, Mr Acting Deputy President, but it was held in Victor Harbor. Whilst everybody was greatly pleased when the Grand Prix came back to Australia in 1985 and was held in Adelaide, everybody also thought that this was the first time that a Grand Prix was held in Australia. But that was not the case. We in South Australia were actually early adopters of the concept of fast Formula One motorsport.

The Grand Prix was a fantastic economic contributor to the South Australian economy, and for most of the 10 years that South Australia had the privilege and luxury of owning the rights to hold Australia's Grand Prix in Adelaide it was a very, very beneficial thing for us to have. It was not just the fact of the expenditure on the event itself. I will admit that in many years it actually cost South Australia money to hold the event. The knock-on impact of the economic activity that was achieved through the event was very, very significant. Many, many times the amount of money that was invested by the South Australian government in getting the event to South Australia was returned to the community through visitation and increased economic activity.

It was interesting to find some statistics on these instances. Every Grand Prix had attendances in excess of 250,000 people, but also the economic benefit of the Clipsal 500, for example, is around half a billion dollars a year for South Australia, so you can see that it makes a very significant contribution.

Regarding the Clipsal 500, there is an interesting anecdotal story. During the Grand Prix one year, the Supercar drivers decided that they wanted to be paid appearance money at the Grand Prix. Until that time, the touring cars had just been a support event for the Grand Prix. So the decision was made that we would tell the touring car drivers that we would not worry about paying them and, if they decided they were not going to come to the Grand Prix, so be it; that was bad luck. Luckily, some reasonable wisdom prevailed and a survey was undertaken of the South Australian public. Very interestingly, it found that in excess of 60 per cent of the people who attended the Grand Prix in Adelaide went because they wanted to see the touring cars, not because they wanted to see the Grand Prix cars. From the information from the survey that was undertaken, and when the FOCA rights for the Grand Prix had become so excessively expensive that the economic benefit that was generated started to be eroded, it became very evident that the touring cars could have the capacity to generate reasonably similar amounts of economic activity in South Australia but without the extraordinary expense of the rights to buy the Grand Prix. So we sent the Grand Prix to Victoria—I think they were quite happy to have it for a while; I am not sure that they still are—and South Australia now has the premier touring car event for Australia, the Clipsal 500.

Whilst we can talk about all these major motorsport events that have an economic benefit to Australia, it is also quite interesting to realise the benefits to the car industry and to car accessory and car part manufacturers across the whole of Australia—and across the whole of the world, for that matter—and also, indirectly, to car sales. You only have to look at the continued competition that occurs between Ford and Holden to realise that there is a benefit there through car sales, but also there are other developmental benefits to cars that occur. Obviously, when you are driving a car at extreme speeds, you have to make sure that they are extraordinarily safe, so the safety components and developmental components that come from racing cars are also extremely important.

As I said, there is huge economic benefit from the big events, but there is also economic benefit that can be generated in our regional communities. I, for one, have been known to be a bit of a petrolhead—I have raced in the Classic Adelaide Rally—but, like Senator Bushby, I always obey the road rules, so I only drive fast when the roads are closed and I have permission to do so. There are economic benefits in our regional communities from things like rallying, off-road buggy racing and the local speedways. All of these smaller motor-racing events have massive individual economic benefit for the communities in which they operate. They also provide the young people in our communities the opportunity to drive fast and do things that all young kids like to do but without the added risk of being on the road. If you look at motorsport, there is far more than the economic benefit that you see from big events. There is such a huge knock-on effect in our local communities in giving our young kids the opportunity to learn how to drive fast in controlled conditions—not on roads—where medical attention is available should an unfortunate situation require it.

As I said, I am a great supporter of motorsport and a great supporter of Senator Muir's motion today to acknowledge the economic and social benefits of motorsport. I commend Senator Muir on his continued and ongoing interest in and support for motorsport in Australia.

Question agreed to.