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State Govt tight-lipped on Commonwealth Games plans

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A State Government move to exclude the public from an Adelaide City Council meeting about the city’s bid to host the 2026 Commonwealth Games has angered some councillors, who say the community has a right to know.

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Last night representatives from the Office of Recreation and Sport briefed city councillors on a “Commonwealth Games Feasibility Study” it plans to undertake to determine the cost and merit of Adelaide hosting the 12-day event.

According to the council’s agenda, the State Government had requested that the study be discussed in confidence as the disclosure of information “could reasonably prejudice the ability of council to undertake/participate in future negotiations relating to hosting a future Commonwealth Games.”

“It is necessary and appropriate to act in a meeting closed to the public as the consideration of… (the item) listed on the agenda in a meeting open to the public would on balance be contrary to the public interest,” the agenda stated.

“At the request of the State Government, this item includes information provided on a confidential basis provided by a public authority.”

While the Government insists that confidentiality at this stage is a requirement of the Commonwealth Games Federation, councillors Anne Moran and Robert Simms argued during the meeting that the information was in the public’s interest.

“I do understand that it is a feasibility study, but at the same time with a project of this size it’s very much in the public interest in terms of wanting the community to get information about what’s in the scope and (to) get a sense of discussions that are being had,” Simms said.

“I think there should be open discussions in the community about this so I don’t support it being held in confidence.”

Moran asked the meeting’s chair, Deputy Lord Mayor Houssam Abiad, if the State Government would proceed with the meeting if the council decided not to discuss the item in confidence, but he said they “probably” wouldn’t.

The council’s director of growth Ian Hill said the State Government would discuss the feasibility study in cabinet “shortly” and it wanted to “canvas some more detailed conversation with… elected members before going to cabinet”.

Both Moran and Simms voted for the council to not exclude the public from the discussion, but they were defeated with the support of all other councillors.

Moran told InDaily after the meeting that the discussion did not warrant confidentiality as there was no costings mentioned.

“They were just testing whether we (the council) were massively against it,” she said.

“They pointed out that other than two cities (that have hosted the Commonwealth Games), on paper the rest didn’t make a profit but there were uplifts for things like public transport and infrastructure.

“One of the councillors mentioned housing and asked if they could use the houses built during the Games for social and affordable housing afterwards.

“They (the State Government representatives) said that in Queensland they had done that.”

Moran said the State Government was planning to undertake a “detailed cost benefit study” as part of its initial investigations into hosting the 2026 Commonwealth Games.

The 2018 Games, hosted by the Gold Coast, cost taxpayers $2 billion from state, federal and local government coffers.

But it was touted at the time that hosting the spectacle would generate $4 billion in economic activity.

Sports Minister Corey Wingard said in a statement to InDaily that Moran and Simms were “either grandstanding for media attention or a bit confused over the processes which were explained to them at the briefing last night”.

“I hope it is the latter,” he said.

“In the spirit of cooperation with a stakeholder who may be impacted by a Commonwealth Games and have advice to contribute, we approached the Adelaide City Council to offer them a courtesy update on the progress of the study, which is yet to be completed.

“It is a requirement by the Commonwealth Games Federation that the feasibility phase of their process is kept confidential at this stage.”

Adelaide is Commonwealth Games Australia’s preferred city to bid for the 2026 Games.

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