Commonwealth Games Inquiry Establish – Debate Contribution

Melina BATH (Eastern Victoria) (10:44): I am very pleased to put my name and the Nationals’ name to Ms Crozier’s motion 139, which moves for there to be a select committee of elected parliamentarians in this place to do our work. That differs very much from the amendment by the former Minister for Commonwealth Games Legacy and current Minister for Water and Minister for Regional Development, who would like to see a bypass of scrutiny from this house, from elected members, to send it to the Victorian Auditor-General’s Office. I only on Monday had a very informative meeting with the Auditor-General’s Office to do with the disability inclusion and the important work that the Victorian Auditor-General does.

I support their work in its various forms wholeheartedly, but this house needs to do the work that the house of review is supposed to do. What Ms Shing is offering can already be done. We do not have to ask the Clerk to write to the Victorian Auditor-General. It can be done simultaneously with an investigative inquiry by this chamber.

We have heard very eloquently from my colleague Ms Crozier about the importance of scrutiny. I often find that when the Premier gets backed into a corner and gets uncomfortable and he is pulling at his shirt collar with his finger, he often talks about members of Parliament being irrelevant – that is his word. I know he is getting a bit itchy and titchy when he starts to talk about ‘You people out there’ – it is often the Liberals and Nationals – and ‘You people, you’re irrelevant’. Well, that says to me, first of all, that he is under pressure. Secondly, it says to me that he would like to see such autonomy as he desires to fulfill his focus. Many millions of people went to the election and decided that they wanted to put their money on Mr David Limbrick, they wanted to put their money on One Nation, they wanted to put their money on Mr McCracken or they wanted to put their money on me, and they put that number in the election box. The Premier wants to say, as we have heard today, ‘No, you don’t need to do it. We’ll send it off to VAGO.’ Well, I support VAGO in its entirety and the work that it does, but this house needs to do that work. And there are multiple questions on that work.

It is very important work that we do in committees. And let us be honest, there is work, particularly by the crossbench and the opposition, that we do that is what I will call pet projects on issues that are very important. I have raised issues that are very important that have gone through committees. We saw the government hold only recently a select committee inquiry into a particular area. So this work is vital for scrutiny, for integrity and for the unpacking of decisions that are made behind closed doors, which the general public cannot see. Some of those questions relate to this. Some of those questions relate specifically to the Commonwealth Games. It was on the table in 2022, in an election year; it was taken off the table only two weeks ago post that. It was on the table with a $2 billion cost estimate; now that has blown out somehow to $6 billion – billion with a B. And even Ms Shing just spoke about it then.

How much will Victorian taxpayers have to pay to break this Commonwealth Games host contract? How was the Andrews government’s $2.6 billion cost estimate so far off apparently the actual cost – nearly triple the initial estimate? What external parties conducted these cost estimates? How much has been spent on the Commonwealth Games to date? What will happen to the public servants employed to organise these Commonwealth Games? Will there be redundancies? Why was the 2026 Commonwealth Games organising committee advised just recently that there were sufficient funds available? And why did the government not discuss the funding situation with the committee jointly to find a positive solution? There are multiple questions. People will say, ‘But this is what you do.’ The reason we are doing it is for fiscal responsibility in this government and fiscal responsibility as a Parliament. The issue of rising costs of living and the issues of homelessness and housing stress are crucially felt in my Eastern Victoria electorate, particularly after conversations – I regularly have conversations – with people at the very front line that supply and meet with those vulnerable people all the time.

I have spoken recently about Sarah Copland, who is a pastor in a church. She is a dynamic woman with a dynamic team. They issue Foodbank support on a regular basis. The impact on their community is increasing at an alarming rate. We see it from one census to the next – we see homelessness and it is given by electorate. We see in the Morwell electorate in Latrobe Valley an 85 per cent increase in homelessness. Pakenham has had a 113 per cent increase in homelessness, and we have got a rally, I think today, on the steps to talk about that.

We want to see, and the Victorian public want to see, time lines of capacity, of bricks and mortar going into the ground for social and affordable homes. We have heard it and we hear it: we are getting $1 billion and 1300 homes apparently. Spread across, that equates to somewhere over $700,000 per home apparently. But we want to be able to ask people and to interrogate government members, bodies and departments and to listen to the community. One of the key things about our work in our committees – select or joint or standing – is letting people have their voice. There are many people, again, in that Eastern Victoria Region – many sporting clubs – that want to be able to have their voice.

I believe that there is a lot of ‘You need to be quiet’ going on behind closed doors, that people and councils are being told, ‘You need to be quiet or you won’t get your fair share.’ We need to see and to enable people who are prepared to come to the fore and have those discussions – but they need to be positive discussions. We cannot wind back the clock. This has been a debacle and a disastrous decision – and a political one at that – but the Victorian community needs to see the positives that can still be salvaged from this. I endorse the comments in relation to Ms Crozier on the international reputation damage. I will leave her comments to stand with the time I have left, and I say ditto from the Nationals.

The other thing in speaking to people locally is that it is what they have not got: there was a promise of $3 billion in economic activity, in small business, in tenders and in international tourism. How can this house, this committee, support our local people to re-establish and reinvigorate that loss? How can we hear from them? Because what we will hear is that the government has got it covered. But what we need to hear is those solutions and recommendations from grassroots organisations, businesses, industry, community groups and sporting groups.

The other group that I do feel sad for is our professional and amateur sporting groups and the athletes that would have competed. I know I have some fantastic athletes in the Eastern Victoria Region, and I have not spoken with them, but they are from high jump – as we know, very talented people – women’s skeet shooting, basketball, a tremendous chap in universal trench shooting and swimming in a variety of forms. It is a crying shame that they do not get, in 2026, to host, celebrate and endorse. This inquiry needs to go through, and I thank the crossbench for having discussions with this side – with Georgie and our people.