Commonwealth Games inquiry bid sparks argy-bargy over government scrutiny

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The Victorian Greens are making a bid to reduce Labor’s control of parliamentary committees amid robust negotiations over whether an inquiry should be held into the scrapping of the 2026 Commonwealth Games.

Georgie Crozier, the leader of the opposition in the upper house, on Tuesday moved a motion to establish a new parliamentary committee to probe the Games debacle. The motion cannot pass without the support of either the Greens or Legalise Cannabis.

Greens leader Samantha Ratnam (right) is yet to confirm her party’s position on the opposition’s motion to establish a parliamentary inquiry into the cancellation of the Commonwealth Games. Credit: The Age

Greens leader Samantha Ratnam said the opposition’s proposal had merit and that the minor party was considering its position.

However, Ratnam said the Andrews government should instead relinquish control of established upper house investigative committees .

“The Greens have long held concerns about the fact we don’t have non-government chairs for key investigatory committees,” Ratnam said on Tuesday.

She said existing committees – if they were not dominated by the government – should be able to scrutinise decisions such as the cancellation of the Games without the need to establish a new select committee.

“If we don’t reform the system of scrutiny and accountability in this parliament, we’re going to get more and more proposals for these special committees before us,” she said.

Premier Daniel Andrews and Deputy Premier Jacinta Allan cancelled the Games two weeks ago, claiming the estimated cost of hosting the event across five regional hubs had surged from $2.6 billion to at least $6.2 billion.

The Department of Jobs, Skills, Industry and Regions was on Tuesday preparing to finalise severance pay in the coming days for about 150 Games staff who have lost their jobs.

Executives were expected to receive four months’ pay, in line with their contracts, compared to just four weeks for lower level employees, an industry source with knowledge of the negotiations between the department, Victoria 2026 and the public sector union told The Age.

The source, speaking anonymously because they were not authorised to discuss the matter publicly, said the public servants would still be eligible for other government roles.

The Greens and Legalise Cannabis in March teamed up to vote against a Coalition bid to investigate the Andrews government’s treatment of the anti-corruption watchdog, in exchange for Labor relinquishing its majority control of the integrity and oversight committee.

That committee, now chaired by Greens MP Tim Read, was then able to bring former IBAC commissioner Robert Redlich before a public hearing to air his concerns.

There are 13 upper house Coalition MPs in the Victorian parliament’s 40-seat Legislative Council, meaning the opposition needs to lock in another eight votes to establish the Games inquiry.

Independent MP Moira Deeming, Adem Somyurek of the Democratic Labour Party and One Nation’s Rikkie-Lee Tyrrell confirmed to The Age that they would support the motion.

Jeff Bourman from the Shooters, Fishers and Farmers Party and Liberal Democrat David Limbrick both said the fiasco deserved some form of inquiry.

Animal Justice MP Georgie Purcell, Legalise Cannabis and the Greens were all still considering their positions.

If successful, the inquiry would investigate “the potential failures in governance, probity and procurement processes in the Victorian government’s bid, contract, and termination of the 2026 Commonwealth Games”.

It would also look at the impact on Victoria’s reputation, advice the government received, political interference and the progress of $2 billion worth of legacy infrastructure the government said it would still spend on the regions.

Crozier said it would get the answers the Andrews government refused to give “including who is responsible, what it will cost and how it all went so wrong”.

The Victorian government is still in negotiations with the Commonwealth Games Federation and Commonwealth Games Australia over a yet-to-be determined compensation bill for scrapping the Games.

Opposition Leader John Pesutto said Victorians deserved proper scrutiny of the humiliating cancellation.

“We hope and trust that the crossbenchers see, as we do, the importance of this upper house inquiry,” Pesutto said on Tuesday.

“I think the Greens do understand that. They’ll have their own considerations to work through. But everybody knows what’s at stake here and how much Victorians are depending on us getting to the bottom of this.”

If the inquiry is established, an interim report would be tabled by April next year ahead of a final report by April 2025.

Allan, the former minister for Commonwealth Games delivery, said it was a matter for the Legislative Council.

“I won’t cut across any deliberations that the Legislative Council may be considering.”

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