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Queensland’s Olympic review misses the target

By Scott Prasser - posted Thursday, 25 January 2024

While new Queensland Premier Steven Miles should be congratulated for appointing an “independent review” into the proposed 2032 Brisbane Olympic Games’ venues concerning their “value for money, fitness of purpose, deliverability and community legacy,” its rigour must be immediately questioned.

For instance, the Review is only looking at proposed infrastructure it is not an assessment of the Olympics’ overall costs and benefits to Queensland and especially for Brisbane.

Although its chair, Graham Quirk, is not a Labor crony, being a former successful Liberal Brisbane City Council Lord Mayor (2015-2019), he nevertheless has been a long-term advocate of the Olympic Games. Other review members include a former senior NSW public servant now consultant with infrastructure experience and a management consultant whose firm specialises in sporting events. There does not appear to have a member with clear economic expertise.


Indeed, it is unclear who is providing the secretariat and research support for the review – parts of the self-interested tourism bureaucracy, the discredited Queensland Treasury or is some outside team being brought in to assist? After all, it is the inquiry secretariats which do the necessary research, collect and sift the evidence and help prepare the report.

Further, the review’s timeframe of 60 days is very short if there is to be anything like genuine community consultation. It is unclear to date if there is to be open public hearings or roundtable discussions or is this review, like so much in Queensland, to be conducted behind closed doors?

Although a final report will be publicly released, more importantly is the evidence on which it is based, also going to be released as is best practice with public inquiries?

What makes the Queensland Government’s motivation in appointing this Review suspect is that previously it argued that its decisions about the Olympic Games and infrastructure were based on “expert advice” from its public service.

So, does that the appointment of this Review mean that such advice was wrong or deficient? Or did it just reflect the very problem the 2022 Coaldrake Inquiry into Integrity identified that Queensland’s politicised public service just gives the advice government wants to hear rather than the advice it needs to hear?

The appointment of this ad hoc, temporary, review with limited economic expertise highlights a glaring gap in Queensland’s system of public administration. Since the Palaszczuk Government abolished in 2021 the Queensland Productivity Commission Queensland, Queensland lacks an independent, economically competent body of experts to inform the electorate about the real cost and benefits of events like the Olympics.


Consequently, in Queensland there is no-one to speak truth to the people – to tell us the real facts and figures. Instead, we have to rely on ministerial statements and related spin generated by the government’s media units.

Re-establishing a properly constitute, independent Productivity Commission should be a priority for the Liberal National Party Opposition should in win office later this year.    

And despite Queensland Government’s denials that there will be no interference, is not this Review just a fig leaf to justify the dumping the former Premier’s controversial and increasingly unpopular $2.7 billion Gabba sports stadium expansion?

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This article was first published on Policy Insights.

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About the Author

Dr Scott Prasser has worked on senior policy and research roles in federal and state governments. His recent publications include:Royal Commissions and Public Inquiries in Australia (2021); The Whitlam Era with David Clune (2022) and the edited New directions in royal commission and public inquiries: Do we need them?. His forthcoming publication is The Art of Opposition reviewing oppositions across Australia and internationally. .

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