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Melbourne Grand Prix “wildly inflates” attendance

By March 23, 2024March 25th, 2024No Comments

Politicians and journalists have drunk the Grand Prix Kool-Aid.

They continue to spruik the economic benefits of hosting the Grand Prix in Melbourne. In a recent media release, Steve Dimopoulos, the Victorian Minister for Tourism, Sport and Major Events, claimed: “The event is an epic boost for local jobs, visitation and our economy”.

This is not true.

Victorian taxpayers have so far paid $1 billion. And the bill keeps growing. The Grand Prix is now costing Victorians more than $100 million each year.

The Grand Prix is not an economic boost for Victoria. This has been proven time and again by independent cost-benefit analyses, first by the Victorian Auditor-General, and then later by Rod Campbell (now of The Australia Institute).

Even Bernie Ecclestone, the man who negotiated the deal in the first place, agreed the Grand Prix was ripping off Victorians.

Yet the government continues to commission its consultants (Big Four consultancy EY) to undertake “utterly discredited” economic “impact studies”.

EY’s report estimated that the economic impact in 2023 was “$268 million, including $144 million in direct expenditure”. EY’s “impact studies” use a multiplier formula that conveniently ignores the costs.

In 2023, the car race cost $198 million to stage, including $101 million in government subsidies. This is not an economic “epic boost” for our state. Instead it is a drain on resources that could have been spent on health, education and public transport.

The new Australian Grand Prix boss, Travis Auld, told John Stensholt at The Australian: “We had 440,000 people at the event last year (over four days) and that’s 50 per cent higher than we had in 2019. So the growth has been enormous”.

These claims about record number of attendees have been repeated over and over again, but rarely challenged. We all accept the spin.

As the Age columnist Greg Baum noted: “When it comes to fake news, the Grand Prix Corporation makes Donald Trump look like an apprentice.”

What other event adds 67,500 “credentialed” persons (like staff, drivers, teams etc) and 35,000 freebies (many for schoolchildren who don’t attend) and then claims “record” attendances?

Travis Auld also claims this year there will be 130,000 attendees each day of the car race. Did journalists fact check this claim before publishing it?

Figures obtained under freedom of information show the 2022 figures included more than 42,000 hospitality workers over the four days. Source: FoI


For years, community group Save Albert Park has maintained the Australian Grand Prix Corporation wildly inflates the number of people who attend and watch the car race to exaggerate the benefits of hosting the car race, including the claim that the race showcases Melbourne to the world.

In the early years of the race, Melbourne was showcased via signage around the track. However, this signage has now largely been replaced with advertisements for Aramco, Saudi Arabian Oil Group, and other multinational companies.

As for the exaggerated claims about the numbers who come to Melbourne to attend the Grand Prix, the race doesn’t bring in anywhere near the number that the corporation, state government and journalists routinely claim.

It’s disgraceful we don’t know exactly how many people attend the car race.

“It’s disgraceful we don’t know exactly how many people attend the car race”

Unlike Victoria’s other major events, including the AFL grand final, the Melbourne Cup, the Australian Open tennis, the Boxing Day test match and Taylor Swift concerts that scan all tickets so they can publish exact figures, the Australian Grand Prix Corporation refuses to release precise crowd figures. They claim scanning all tickets poses a “national security risk”.

Those who drink the Grand Prix Kool-Aid swallow this nonsense.

The Office of the Victorian Information Commissioner has not. It’s ordered the Grand Prix Corporation to hand over internal working documents on how the number of attendees at the event are calculated.

How long can we allow the Australian Grand Prix Corporation to continue spending our money without accountability and transparency? When will our state government put the brakes on this lunacy?

Our government cancelled the Commonwealth Games, blaming state debt. It indicated this decision was “fiscally responsible”. What about “fiscal responsibility” for the Grand Prix?

First published in The Klaxon on 23 March 2023

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