Daniel Andrews’ shock cancellation of the Commonwealth Games was blasted by a federal senate committee which warned the “monumental stuff up” had damaged Australia’s reputation.
The interim report from a senate inquiry examining Victoria’s decision to cancel the 2026 Games due to staggering cost blowouts stated the Victorian government had not only refused to participate but also worked to muzzle other witnesses.
The committee heard the Premier wrote letters warning against divulging confidential information.
“The Victorian government not only did not engage in the inquiry, but, in the committee’s view, actively worked to hinder the engagement of other witnesses by expressing its broad position on protected evidence about a wide range of witnesses in its letter of 25 August 2023,” the report said.
Nationals Senator and inquiry chair Matt Canavan said the Andrews government had been “running an unprecedented protection racket” to avoid scrutiny by refusing to front up to the inquiry.
Senator Canavan said not only had the Victorian government declined to co-operate, but it had sent “threatening letters” to private citizens and organisations who consulted on the Games preventing them from giving evidence.
“This is a grave interference with the work of the federal parliament,” he said. He added it was a “monumental stuff up” that lay “squarely at the feet of the Victorian government”.
The report also urged the federal government to step in and “salvage” the situation.
It said this could include working with local governments such as the Gold Coast to enter discussions about the prospects for holding the event, including a “reduced or decentralised Games if necessary”.
If the Games were not saved, the inquiry recommended governments adopt new policies to “address the missed opportunities and impacts from the cancellation of Victoria 2026”.
Mr Andrews, who has declined to appear before the inquiry, dismissed the report before it was even published, saying he was “not certain” he would even read it.
Ahead of the report’s release, Mr Andrews tried to brush it off as a “political stunt”.
“I’m not taking integrity lectures, probity lectures or behavioural lectures from (committee member and Nationals MP) Bridget McKenzie. I’m just not. Like not a chance.”
Investing to mitigate the shortfall in infrastructure which would no longer be funded if the Games did not go ahead was among the policy considerations recommended in the report.
The inquiry, which also looked at Australia’s preparedness to host the Brisbane 2032 Olympics and Paralympics, heard from a range of stakeholders including local councils and sporting groups.
During the hearings senators were told regional Victoria had been ignored by the Andrews government, who were dictating Games decisions from its “Melbourne bureaucracy”.