New Victorian Premier Jacinta Allan knew about billion dollar cost blowouts four months before the Commonwealth Games was officially cancelled, a state inquiry into the Games chaos has heard.
Ms Allan was told in March the money needed to deliver the 2026 Games had sky rocketed to a staggering $4.5 billion, Department of Jobs, Skills, Industry and Regions secretary Tim Ada told the inquiry on Monday.
Ms Allan has refused to appear before the inquiry despite her previous role as Minister for Commonwealth Games Delivery.
“It is absolutely outrageous that the Premier has continued to say that she was not aware of any cost blowouts around the Commonwealth Games until the weeks leading up to the July 18 cancellation,” Shadow Minister for Tourism, Sport and Events, Sam Groth said.
“It’s time for Jacinta Allan to front the inquiry to tell Victorian people exactly what her involvement was in this and to come clean and stop misleading the public”.
The games were not officially cancelled until July 18, when former Premier Daniel Andrews announced they had been scrapped over fears they could end up costing as much as $7 billion.
An original estimate for the Games delivered by the consultancy firm Ernst & Young suggested the cost of the event would be $2.6 billion.
This proved to be severely optimistic, with the plan to spread the Games across five regional Victorian “hub” cities cited as a major factor in the massively spiralling budget.
“It is clear now, with the benefit of hindsight, that the business case prepared in early 2022 did not reflect the true cost of delivering a sporting program spread across five cities, nor anticipate the significant cost escalation that’s been experienced in the construction sector,” Mr Ada told the inquiry.
Department of Premier and Cabinet secretary Jeremi Moule eventually met with the Commonwealth Games Federation in London on July 17 to tell them Victoria would not be hosting the 2026 Games, just hours before the public announcement.
The inquiry committee grilled Mr Moule about why he needed to take a business class trip to inform the Federation in person, at a cost of over $20,000.
Mr Moule also revealed he had been the one to formally advise former Premier Andrews the Games should be called off.
“Specifically on the issue of cancellation, it was the advice of my department provided by me personally to the Premier that gave the government cause to reconsider the delivery of the games and in fact, whether to host them at all,” he told the inquiry.
Despite a long day of evidence, members of the inquiry committee were still trying to get to the bottom of the chaotic handling of the Games.
“We’re trying to unpick a sandwich here and it’s squashed together,” frustrated state Nationals MP Melina Bath said.
The decision to scrap the event is set to land Victorians with a bill of over $600 million, according to a report in The Herald Sun.
The inquiry in the Victorian parliament will continue with another day of public hearings on October 13.