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A senior Victorian public servant says he was told then-premier Daniel Andrews didn’t want him to tell his own minister that the government was hiring lawyers to assess its options for the doomed Commonwealth Games.
Tim Ada, secretary of the Department of Jobs, Skills, Industry and Regions, last month revealed he was directed not to inform then Games legacy minister Harriet Shing that lawyers had been engaged to provide advice on abandoning the 2026 regional event.
Victorian secretary of the Department of Jobs, Skills, Industry and Regions Tim Ada (right).Credit: AAP
At Tuesday’s parliamentary inquiry hearing into the cancellation of the Commonwealth Games, Ada said he was told in a phone call with the state’s top public servant, Jeremi Moule, that the direction was from then-premier Daniel Andrews.
“It was put to me that it was on the direction of the premier [then Daniel Andrews],” Ada said.
He said he took his obligation to keep his minister informed very seriously, but that he considered the direction to be lawful and reasonable after seeking assurances that Shing would be informed “contemporaneously” or “parallel” to him – which he thought could be as quickly as within an hour.
“I’d assumed from the conversation that it would be contemporaneously with me being told, so whether that was that hour,” Ada said. “I don’t know why it took some days for Minister Shing to be told.
“This, I think, has been the only time I’ve had a conversation like the one that I had.”
The Department of Premier and Cabinet last month confirmed Moule had told Ada not to inform Shing that lawyers had been hired.
Andrews and now Premier Jacinta Allan, who was then responsible for delivering the Games, knew on June 14 that law firm Arnold Bloch Leibler would be engaged that day. Ada was informed on June 19 and Shing learned of the development on June 22.
Both Andrews and Allan have declined to appear before the inquiry to answer questions about the Commonwealth Games cancellation.
Allan on Tuesday told journalists it was Andrews who told her to inform Shing.
“It was literally only a matter of days,” she told ABC Radio on Tuesday morning.
The opposition earlier referred Moule, secretary of the Department of Premier and Cabinet, and Ada to the Victorian Public Sector Commission for investigation over the direction. But the commission on Tuesday said it had no power to investigate.
“The Victorian Public Sector Commission has no own motion power of investigation in relation to the conduct of a public sector or service body head, and therefore is unable to undertake investigations of this nature,” a spokeswoman said in a statement to The Age.
A separate inquiry by the Senate, which is investigating the cancellation, as well as Brisbane’s preparedness for the 2032 Olympics, will publish a second interim report on Wednesday.
Dean Yates, a partner at EY, the lead consultant on the 2022 business case, repeated his view that significant time and confidentiality constraints limited the firm’s capacity to undertake its work.
“Desktop research was all we could do in the timeframe,” Yates said.
“If we had more time, we would’ve spoken to more stakeholders, we would’ve visited a few more venues and I suppose, summing it up, we would have been able to do more due diligence than we were allowed to do.”
Peter Benson, deputy secretary of sports and experience economy at the Department of Jobs, Skills, Industry and Regions, said the department was comfortable with the risks identified in the business case even though it found the Games may only bring a 70¢ return for every $1 spent.
By June this year, bureaucrats were warning the risks were likely to be fully realised.
The government announced it was cancelling the Games on July 18, claiming costs had escalated from an initial $2.6 billion to up to $7 billion.
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