Thursday, January 27, 2011

Why Lord Mayor Doyle's like a stopped clock

Melbourne Lord Mayor Robert Doyle (pictured) isn’t one of my favourite people [1, 2]. But even a stopped clock shows the correct time twice each day. Like last weekend, when he made a thoughtful, insightful, pragmatic comment: that the Australian Grand Prix [AGP] in Melbourne’s Albert Park has run its race [3]. His reason’s the event’s massive and increasing fiscal losses: A$249M since 1996, including A$50M in 2010. Doyle intended his comment to open a public debate on the event’s future. Predictably, Doyle’s comment was opposed by AGP chairman Ron Walker – who pointed to the world-wide media exposure the event gives to Melbourne and Australia [4], though without any estimate of the size of the benefit, if any, that exposure results in, say by tourism or trade. Last Monday, after meeting with Victorian Premier Ted Baillieu for two hours, Walker announced the AGP’s costs would be cut [5]. Makes one wonder what Walker’s been doing all these years while the event’s annual losses have been rising exponentially. I bet that if Walker had been spending his own money rather than taxpayers’, he’d have managed the AGP’s finances more prudently and responsibly. If the AGP’s not cancelled altogether, the best way of improving its fiscal performance would be to abolish all Albert Park spectators – analogous to this classic Yes Minister scene about the hospital without medical staff [6]. Abolishing spectators would massively cut infrastructure, promotional and other costs whilst allowing Walker’s sacrosanct global media exposure to continue. Ho hum.

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