A RECENT interim report finds the state government rushed the decision to host the 2026 Commonwealth Games.

An inquiry into the handling of the cancellation of the 2026 Commonwealth Games has been hampered by a lack of access to key documents, an interim report tabled in the Legislative Council on Tuesday, April 30, found.

The report notes the committee has exhausted most avenues open to it in obtaining documents relevant to its inquiry, for which the state government has made a claim of executive privilege.

“The government is accountable to the parliament and, through the parliament, to the people of Victoria. It should not set the conditions by which it is held to account,” said the committee chair, David Limbrick.

For the matter to be progressed further, a production of documents motion would need to be agreed upon by the House, according to the report.

The Legislative Council Select Committee of nine members, including three MPs each from the Government, Opposition and crossbench, is examining the July 2023 termination of the contract to hold the Commonwealth Games in Victoria.

This includes the assessment of the business case used to support the decision to host the Games, potential failures in governance, the impacts of the contract termination on Victoria, the Victorian Government advice received, the potential of undue influence by the executive, the timeline, progress and budget of the Victorian Government’s regional infrastructure and housing build, and the impact on community, social, amateur and professional sport in Victoria.

The committee found the timeframe agreed upon between the Victorian government and the Commonwealth Games Federation to negotiate the hosting of the 2026 Commonwealth Games was too short.

“It is possible that if the government had taken the time to produce a more considered business case, it may not have gone ahead with its decision to host the Games in the first place. This would have prevented the loss of over half a billion taxpayer dollars,” Limbrick said.

The inquiry found that the cost of hosting the Commonwealth Games across multiple cities in regional areas was underestimated and led to big operational cost increases.

It also found the business case miscalculated the potential infrastructure costs due to a lack of information provided by the government, which led to completing the business case through desktop research.

A member of the Select Committee on the Commonwealth Games Bid, the Gippsland Upper House MP Melina Bath said the interim report tabled confirmed that the state government had attempted to evade scrutiny at every turn.

“The state government has declined to provide key documents about the Games on the grounds of executive privilege, which is a slap in the face to regional Victorians, who will ultimately wear the $600 million cost of the disastrous decision to cancel the event,” she said.

“Jacinta Allan, former premier Daniel Andrews and former major events minister Martin Pakula all refused to appear before the inquiry and should be held in contempt for failing to deliver the explanation owed to the Parliament and Victorian taxpayers.

“Compelling evidence provided by sporting organisations and businesses across Gippsland revealed the enormous impact of Labor’s ‘cruel’ decision – the state government built expectation, sporting organisations rallied, small businesses ramped up and planned and then the rug was pulled out from underneath them.

“This interim report has found Labor failed dismally to exercise basic due diligence by grossly underestimating costs to hold the Games in its shoddy business case.

“Yet, unbelievably, certain Ministers and agencies are still claiming immunity – something the committee refuses to accept.

“There is absolutely no accountability and no regard for what the government has done to regional Victoria’s reputational damage, lost opportunity for the athletes, tourism, business and civic pride.

“Labor is still dangling a carrot in front of regional Victorians by claiming $2 billion of desperately needed legacy projects will be delivered but we have no detail, no timelines, and no reason to believe this government will keep its promise.

“The Nationals will continue to demand better for regional Victorians, hold the Allan Labor Government to account for its failures, and make sure Gippsland and the Latrobe Valley receive the sporting and housing infrastructure they need.

“My sincere thanks also to all of the secretariat, our committee members and indeed the witnesses and those people who made submissions to this inquiry.”

The interim report is an overview of the evidence received by the committee so far. It makes 23 findings. The inquiry is still in progress. The Committee intends to hold further hearings and will make recommendations in its final report due by April 2025.