By Rachel Eddie
Senior government minister Harriet Shing says she was not informed for a week that Victoria was seeking legal advice to abandon the 2026 Commonwealth Games, in evidence that an opposition MP characterised as “bullshit” in a fiery hearing probing the cancellation on Thursday.
Shing, who was minister for the Games legacy, Premier Jacinta Allan and then-premier Daniel Andrews on July 18 announced Victoria was withdrawing from the event at five regional hubs, claiming the projected cost had almost tripled to up to $7 billion.
The premier’s office engaged law firm Arnold Bloch Leibler more than a month earlier, on June 14, which both Allan and Andrews knew that day.
But Shing, who had continued to tout the Games in parliament the following week, on Thursday said she was only informed by Allan as the then minister for delivering the Games on June 22.
That is despite Tim Ada, secretary at the Department of Jobs, Skills, Industry and Regions (DJSIR) discovering days earlier on June 19 that the cancellation was a possibility.
Shing told parliament on June 20 the $2.6 billion budget was “about making sure that we can deliver the Games of a lifetime”.
Opposition MP David Davis, a member of the upper house committee probing the Games cancellation, said Shing must have known the $2.6 billion budgeted was “bullshit” but withdrew the comment in a fiery exchange.
“Let’s just be really clear, I stand by the answers that I’ve given in the parliament,” Shing said on Thursday. “If you’ve got an allegation, then put it.”
Davis replied: “My allegation is simply that you’re not being direct and honest with the committee.”
He said it was unbelievable that her department did not inform the minister – one of two responsible for the Games – and put on record that he did not believe it.
“It’s just not credible.”
Shing has previously repeatedly told journalists she was informed “in the days leading up to” the July 18 announcement that lawyers had been called in. Her evidence to the inquiry was that Allan, then the minister for delivering the Games, informed her almost a month earlier on June 22.
Shing acknowledged there were regular briefings about cost pressures in the months prior.
The inquiry has previously heard that Allan was briefed in March that the estimated cost of delivering the Games had reached $4.5 billion, almost $2 billion above the budget.
Upper house president Shaun Leane, who was minister for Commonwealth Games legacy for six months last year, also addressed the parliamentary inquiry on Thursday and said he had not seen the original January 2022 business case.
A Senate committee and the Victorian Auditor General’s Office are also probing the cancellation.
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