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Race boss Walker scolds mayor for Aus GP criticism

Australian grand prix boss Ron Walker has scolded Melbourne’s Lord Mayor for questioning the future of the city’s annual event.

Lord Mayor Robert Doyle wrote in the Herald Sun’s Sunday edition that the Albert Park race is no longer value for money for the Victorian state taxpayer.

He speculated that one possible outcome was that “cranky” Bernie Ecclestone will replace the race by taking “the dollars of either an Asian or oil-rich Middle Eastern state”.

“It’s a sad thing for the mayor of a major capital city to come out so publicly against a major event like the grand prix,” Australian Grand Prix Corporation chairman Walker told local radio 3AW.

He insists that criticism about the $50m taxpayer bill is only one side of the story.

“On the other side … there’s an economic benefit of around $160 million,” said Walker.

“All of Mr Doyle’s hotels, all of his restaurants do a very good trade.  Then of course there’s the tax that’s collected of about $18 million a year.  It’s a huge profit for Melbourne,” he insisted.

Also in the wake of Lord Mayor Doyle’s comments, new Victorian premier Ted Baillieu admitted that the $50m taxpayer bill will need to be reduced if a new deal beyond 2014 is sought.