Allan ‘assured officials’ on Games budget before axing

Pulling the pin on Victoria's Commonwealth Games cost the state more than $589 million.

Pulling the pin on Victoria's Commonwealth Games cost the state more than $589 million. Photo: AAP

Victorian Premier Jacinta Allan sought to assure Commonwealth Games officials the 2026 event would be funded before it was canned, an inquiry has been told.

Commonwealth Games Australia chief executive Craig Phillips has revealed he and fellow organisers met in April with Ms Allan, who was then the minister tasked with delivering the event, to discuss cost savings.

“We got the impression that she was very confident the budget would be available,” he told a Victorian parliamentary inquiry on Monday.

Victoria pulled the pin on hosting the Games across regional areas in July, citing its original estimated cost blowing out from $2.6 billion to up to $7 billion.

Commonwealth Games Australia had no indication the 12-day sports event was in jeopardy of not going ahead.

“Hindsight is a terrific thing,” Mr Phillips said.

“If you look back you pick up some signals but beyond that, nothing.”

The state government in August agreed to pay $380 million in compensation to terminate its contract to host the Games.

But Mr Phillips said the Commonwealth Games Federation was yet to receive the payout over fears of a UK tax hit.

“What they’re (the federation) concerned about is a being hit with a very hefty tax bill and so they’re just being cautious at the moment,” he said.

Asked by Liberal MP and committee member David Davis if some of the Victorian settlement would go to paying UK tax, Mr Phillips said it was possible but he was unsure how much.

The tax bill could limit the amount of money organisers can use to lure a replacement host.

Mr Phillips and the federation’s partners director Michael Bushell met with Gold Coast mayor Tom Tate last week as he unveiled plans to hold a “streamlined” 2026 Games for $700 million.

The Queensland government has ruled out supporting a Gold Coast bid, preferring to prioritise the 2032 Brisbane Olympics.

Mr Phillips has twice appeared before a Senate inquiry into the Games’ cancellation, where he confirmed federation could opt for a scaled-down Games and delay the event until 2027 to give any potential host more time to prepare.

Mr Phillips said Victoria’s decision to scrap the Games had impacted the event’s global standing.

“I certainly wouldn’t be overstating that this episode was probably the most challenging time for the movement globally,” he told the inquiry.

“Other games have only ever been cancelled during World War II, so it’s certainly a difficult time.”

Mr Phillips acknowledged the cancellation has reinforced a perception the Games are outmoded and no longer relevant, a claim he rejects.

Volleyball Australia chief executive Andrew Dee also pushed back on Visit Victoria boss Brendan McClements’ suggestion the scrapping of the event had increased interest in people coming to Melbourne and Victoria.

“I expect Victoria for some time will be a place to avoid,” he told the inquiry.

The national sports body alleges the Victorian government reneged on an “good-faith undertaking” to host the 2025 beach volleyball world championships at Torquay in October last year.

The state government has previously said a non-binding expression of interest was revoked but no contract was signed.

Adelaide was last week named host of the 2025 event.

The inquiry continues.


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