2 August, 2023 11:06
Legislative Council of Victoria, Melbourne.


David ETTERSHANK (Western Metropolitan Region):

I rise to make a brief contribution on Ms Crozier’s motion and the proposed amendments from the government. Can I say just in hindsight I have really enjoyed previous Commonwealth Games. I worked at the Commonwealth Games in 1982 in Brisbane as a driver for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. I had a hoot. It was fantastic. It was really good. The Queen attended. The entertainment was led off by an entertainer maybe not so famous now by the name of Rolf Harris, and I have to say the afterparty that was held for the people who worked in the media and for all of the games administrators and managers was fantastic if you were poor, like I was. One aspect of it was the hostesses who were dressed up like they were in a 1920s speak-easy, with trays of cigarettes, because the function was sponsored by Rothmans tobacco. I guess I raise Rolf and Rothmans because times change and priorities change as our society changes.

If we fast-forward to the 2006 games, they certainly had their moments, with all of those fantastic metal fish floating down the Yarra River. It was sort of like, in hindsight, a bit of an anaemic version of the 2000 Sydney Olympics. But again, it did not have anything like the sort of excitement, engagement and sense of the Commonwealth that there was in 1982. In 2018 on the Gold Coast, I think half of Melbourne did not necessarily notice it, and God knows we love our sport here in Melbourne. But I guess the point I am trying to get to here is that in looking at this $6 billion cancellation – if it was a $6 billion cancellation – was it more of a mercy killing than a strategic change? And more importantly, how do we ensure that the people of Victoria get to understand what happened. The one thing we all share is that sense of ‘What the! How did we get to this situation, and how do we get an explanation of it?’

Before I proceed I do want to take a moment to acknowledge the disappointment of the athletes, who will be denied a significant opportunity to compete and to compete for a home crowd. I think Richard Burton said that life is not a rehearsal, and for athletes with a very finite life in their chosen sport, with a few prominent exceptions – thank goodness for the lawn bowls – for most of them this is a rare opportunity that they have lost. So our sympathies go out to them for losing that opportunity. And likewise to regional Victorians – those in small businesses across the state were obviously looking forward to the opportunity for some growth and some business. Likewise, I can understand their disappointment.

So we now have this claim from the government that the cost of these games has blown out to $6 billion or thereabouts. If that is correct, then I think that most Victorians would support the cancellation. It is not worth $6 billion. We just cannot afford it. It would be insane to proceed. And I think most Victorians would like to understand. If we think about this in that old context of bread and circuses, I guess the saying might go, ‘If you’re short of bread, you need to think about how much you spend on circuses.’ So again, was this a good decision and was this an understandable decision? That is what the people of Victoria want to know: how did this happen?

Today we are presented with two options: a potentially politically motivated inquiry by people in this place, which could easily become self-serving but may not, or an independent inquiry by our highly respected Auditor-General with the greater powers of inquiry that come with that statutory office. Now, it has been put to me – and I do not know whether it is correct or not – that the Auditor-General does not have those powers. Ms Crozier just said that to me a minute to go, and look, if that is the case I am concerned. But again, I have received advice to the contrary and I do not know which is correct.

I guess I am interested in the proposition that was put forward by Mr Limbrick, which is that the two are not necessarily mutually exclusive. The terms of reference are the same and the subject matter is the same, but the inquiry participants, in terms of who is at the top table, would obviously be different. So this is a question of whether we risk a political sideshow on one hand – to put it bluntly– or we allow a dive into the numbers by an independent organisation that has demonstrated skills in audit and investigation and that exists for just such a purpose. If we want real answers rather than political pointscoring, I feel that the Auditor-General path should be preferred in the first instance. As Mr Limbrick suggested, once we have received the Auditor-General’s report we as a chamber would be in a position to decide whether or not we wish to pursue this investigation further. Accordingly, the votes of Legalise Cannabis Victoria in this chamber will reflect in the first instance the amendment from the government to refer this to the Auditor-General.

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