The Victorian Premier, Mr Baillieu, has announced that Melbourne is to cancel the Grand Prix. He cited "budgetary constraints" as among the factors that had led him to "pull the plug" on the celebrated race.

Mr Baillieu said he had agreed a "variation" to the existing GP contract with Formula One boss Bernie Ecclestone. The new deal states that the Grand Prix will be suspended though Mr Ecclestone will still be paid.

Mr Baillieu described the new arrangement as "a coup for Victoria". He said it would be "a marvellous step towards making the state greener."

According to figures released today, in recent years Mr Ecclestone has been receiving $30 million dollars in licensing fees per Grand Prix. Mr Baillieu said this figure would "naturally have to rise to keep in line with inflation, as Bernie very rightly points out." The diminutive race supremo has reportedly asked for a further $100 million to license the Grand Prix not to run.

Reacting to claims by critics of the race that he was "breathtakingly greedy", Mr Ecclestone was defiant. "We can all do with an extra quid or two, can't we?" he told reporters.

Mr Ecclestone said he was "disappointed" that the Grand Prix would no longer be run in Melbourne, but not half as disappointed as he would be if his demand for increased payment were not met. He did not think this would be the case, though, as he had found Mr Baillieu "a pushover - that is to say, a very flexible negotiator."

Mr Ecclestone said his disappointment at the suspension of the race would not be allowed to interfere with his business philosophy, which he said had always been "dog eat dog and take what you can get." His principles, he added, were based on "never giving sumfink for nuffink." After all, he continued, "it's a hard cruel world out there, innit?"

Mr Baillieu believes that up till now the Grand Prix has been "great value" for Victoria "but all good things must come to an end." Asked how increasing the licensing payment to Mr Ecclestone would accord with the "budgetary restraints" he had cited as a reason for cancelling the race, the Premier explained that "it is precisely because of that extra expense that we will have to exercise budgetary restraint in other areas."

Environmental groups and Albert Park residents have welcomed the decision to terminate the Grand Prix. Said one yellow-ribboned veteran of the "Save the Park" campaign: "It is wonderful to think that this beautiful stretch of public land can now be returned to its original function as a place for dog-walking, birdwatching, same-sex encounters and other community activities."

24 January 2013

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