Grand Prix

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By: Brenda


I regularly drive through the Grand Prix track in the mornings during peak hour, ready to start the day. A couple of months before and after the grand prix I watched workers prepare for the race; I saw men and women who were collecting a wage, I saw people who were not on welfare, I saw people who are paying tax (as both parties have discovered, there are a lot of people who are not; the rich employed aren’t in any hurry to part with their money, and unemployment at the poorer end of town is much higher than the quoted figures), I saw people who were spending money locally for about four months of the year – These shopping strips need all the support they can get.

Then I read the letters to the paper, many of whom I suspect are retirees, opposing the Grand Prix. They state that the cost is too high and would be better used elsewhere, such as in health and welfare. This is a valid point of view, but I believe it is based on simplistic, short-sighted accounting, as they don’t mention that a significant part of the cost of the Grand Prix is in wages, a part of which goes back to the community in taxes, and they don’t mention that the cost to the community of people being on unemployment benefits is much more than the cost of the benefits themselves.

The unemployed struggle to pay rent or a mortgage and the social problems that flow on to themselves and their families are immense; family breakdowns occur, mental health problems escalate and sadly, at times, people in desperation resort to criminal activities. The social costs are immense (Malcom Gladwell had a good article on this in the New Yorker called ‘Million Dollar Murray’)

Some suggest that the Grand Prix should move to a purpose built circuit. This is not an alternative, as the construction would be a one-off affair, ongoing work would not be provided.

It would not be as successful, the organizers know this, as the current position showcases Melbourne for overseas viewers. If the Grand Prix is not held in Albert Park, it will not be held in Australia at all.

I have visitors from Europe who do not visit during the Grand Prix, but know about Melbourne because of it. They and their friends always want to be driven around the track and have a picture taken in the Pit Lane, next to the presentation area (I also have visitors from interstate attending the Grand Prix, and no, they do not get freebies).

Other arguments state that a motor race should not be held in a park. Albert Park was originally a swamp area that was drained in the 1800s to provide sporting facilities for the area starting with rowing, which was popular at the time. The whole area is a sports precinct; complete now with an aquatic centre, a golf course, a driving range, football stadiums, cricket ovals and basketball facilities among others (it also hosts polo games and numerous fun runs).

Yes there is some disruption to the basketball players, but do they remember what the facilities were like before the Grand Prix? One family said it was disgusting; they had to play in what she described as third world conditions.

Yes there is some noise, but it is nothing compared to the noise I hear daily (or rather nightly) and disruptions for races of a much longer duration are well known to occupants along the beach – This is the area we live in. Incidentally, a young psychologist I know bought a flat specifically because it overlooked the track.

If we lose the Grand Prix (first held in Albert Park in 1956, later losing it to Adelaide would cost Victorians a lot more than keeping it would [as we will have added significant burdens to health and welfare systems]) the park itself will likely deteriorate significantly as with the current clime there is insufficient money for such activities (currently, it has never looked better).

I know this is an unpopular view, or is it? A comment was made in a local facility in favor of keeping the Grand Prix, three people immediately agreed, but two added that they would normally not have the courage to mention their views as they could suffer a backlash at work. One person spoke in favor of getting rid of it because it hurt the trees.

An Italian gentleman once displayed a Ferrari flag on his garden plot and was told to take it down as it “offended some people”.

Those who oppose the Grand Prix have a right to do so, but just because they are well-organized and politically active does not make theirs the only voice that should be heard.

Let’s hear it for the battlers Vroom, Vroom.

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