The federal government must lead the way in salvaging the 2026 Commonwealth Games after Victoria pulled the pin, a federal inquiry says.
A Senate committee looking into Australia’s preparedness to host the 2026 Commonwealth Games, as well as the 2032 Olympic and Paralympic Games, tabled an interim report on Thursday.
The inquiry was reopened after Victoria withdrew from hosting the 2026 Games across regional hubs in June, citing an estimated cost blowout from $2.6 billion to between $6 billion and $7 billion.
The Victorian government later agreed to pay organisers $380 million in compensation.
Seven recommendations are made within the interim report, including for the federal government to take on a facilitation and co-ordination role to ensure the 2026 Games are held on Australian soil.
The committee said that before the end of the year, the federal government should establish a forum to bring together representatives from all three levels of government, business associations and community groups to examine hosting options.
It said that could be done through national cabinet or a “bespoke mechanism”.
The committee also suggested the federal government direct departments to produce low-, medium- and high-funding hosting options and open discussions with Games organisers about hosting prospects, including through a reduced or decentralised Games.
Committee chair and Nationals MP Matt Canavan said it was time for action.
“No one is blaming the federal government for this monumental stuff-up, it’s squarely at the feet of the Victorian government,” he told the Senate.
“But being in government, being the prime minister, means ultimately the buck does stop with you to solve issues.”
The Victorian government was slammed for its refusal to co-operate with the inquiry, limiting its ability to gather and consider evidence on costings, stakeholder engagement and decision-making processes.
The committee said guidelines should also be developed for future major sporting events to make federal funding conditional on notifying the Commonwealth well in advance of decisions to cancel or make major changes.
“The ramifications from the cancellation will outlast this inquiry and the 47th parliament,” the 97-page report said.
“Whether they are located in Victoria, Australia or overseas, councils, community groups, businesses and others that engage with the Victorian government on major events must now prepare contingency arrangements in each instance.”
Committee member and Nationals MP Bridget McKenzie said Australia’s international reputation had been ruined by Victoria’s mismanagement of the Games.
“They were given advice on how to make this more affordable, more attainable, more achievable, and they ignored the advice,” she said.
Premier Daniel Andrews said he wasn’t sure whether he would personally read the interim report, declaring the inquiry a political stunt.
“I’m not taking integrity lectures or probity lectures or behavioural lectures from Bridget McKenzie,” he told reporters before the report’s release.
Commonwealth Games Australia chief executive Craig Phillips told the inquiry last week that organisers were open to delaying the Games until 2027 to give any potential host more time to prepare.
Mr Phillips said CGA was yet to meet with federal Sports Minister Annika Wells or the Queensland and West Australian premiers.
However, he said he planned to present a solution to the Commonwealth Games Federation general assembly when it gathers in Singapore in November.