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"Not going to happen": Lucas declares false start on SA Commonwealth Games push

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The State Government has flatly refused to reconsider hosting the 2026 Commonwealth Games, deflating a renewed lobbying push for the 10-day event to be held in Adelaide.

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Commonwealth Games Australia today launched a new campaign for the games to be hosted in Adelaide with a drop to News Corp and a press conference with athletes, based on the findings of a study CGA commissioned from PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC).

The PwC study found that while putting on the Games would cost the state government $1.1 billion, the event would generate a $2.5b economic boost to the state.

But Treasurer Rob Lucas this morning told InDaily that the government had not changed its mind since it officially shelved plans to bid for the Games in September last year.

“Not going to happen,” Lucas said today.

“We won’t be bidding for the Commonwealth Games in 2026.

“Whilst we note the revitalised lobbying campaign, it’s not going to change the government’s position in relation to the Commonwealth Games.

“The reasons we outlined at the time remain the same … the costs would significantly outweigh the benefits and we see much more important needs for economic stimulus over the next couple of years.”

A report by Deloitte, commissioned by the State Government in March 2019, found the total cost of hosting the games could reach $3.5 billion, with the projected long term economic boost only between $380 million and $1.2 billion.

Significant infrastructure upgrades, including a new city arena in the railyards, along with additional security, road closures and new hotels, drove the high cost of the project.

Lucas criticised the quality of the new study cited as the basis for the new lobbying campaign, saying it would not influence the government.

“With great respect to the committee and their study, they’ve not had the opportunity to go into the level of detail that the state government did,” he said.

“We looked at it seriously, we spent a considerable amount of public money investigating it, and in the end we announced our decision at the end of the year.

“The government’s not going to be changing its mind as a result of further lobbying that’s being done as we understand it, or another study which has been done on behalf of the lobbying group.”

Lucas declined to comment on Commonwealth Games Australia hiring lobbyists Pyne & Partners to spearhead its Games push.

The firm was started by former Defence Minister Christopher Pyne, former leader of the state’s moderate Liberal faction with close ties to the Marshall government, and his former chief of staff Adam Howard.

In a media release this morning, Commonwealth Games Australia said they “recently re-engaged with the Marshall Government to discuss the potential bid”.

In 2019, Sports Minister Corey Wingard said a bid for the games did not stack up financially.

“We have always said there was a mountain of work that needed to be done to get SA ready for the type of games we would want to hold by 2026,” he said.

“Unfortunately, the cost to the taxpayer was too high to bring the Games to South Australia by 2026, but we remain open to potential bids in 2030 and 2034 as key initiatives from the State Sporting Infrastructure Plan are rolled out.”

Since the government’s decision to shelve the bid in 2019, the state has taken a series of economic hits from the summer’s bushfires and COVID-19.

This week’s federal budget also confirmed that the SA economy will have to adjust to a GST write-down of more than $1.3 billion next year.

Lucas said the current economic headwinds mean the government cannot invest in an event that will not take place for six years.

“We need to look at the projects that give us the maximum bang for the buck … and we’re going to need to projects that are actually going to be able to help us over in particular the next couple of years,” Lucas said.

“So clearly the Commonwealth Games which is in 2026 is not going to provide any sort of economic stimulus over the next couple of years as we emerge from COVID-19.”

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