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How early did bureaucrats working on the Commonwealth Games know the event was in deep trouble? That’s the question being asked by Geelong locals this week.
As revealed by The Age, Treasury officials learnt in April that the cost of running the now-cancelled sporting shindig had blown out to double the $2.6 billion figure quoted to them a mere year earlier. More recently, according to the state government, the figure had grown to at least $6.2 billion.
The Geelong office building bureaucrats had their eye on.Credit: Joe Armao
On top of the yet-to-be-determined compensation bill for scrapping the Games, CBD can confirm taxpayers are on the hook for $70,000 linked to a lease that came to nowt for an office close to the Geelong waterfront.
The option fee was paid as bureaucrats sought to move into a larger space when their work shifted up a few gears. But when it came time to ink the contract during the first half of this year, with an August 1 start date, high-ranking bureaucrats appeared to get cold feet, we’re told.
The signing date was pushed back several times, a source who knows a thing or two about the negotiations told CBD.
“To me, the end result was known by the upper echelon and not by everyone else trying to get things done,” the source, who was not authorised to speak publicly, said. “We honestly feel like the writing was on the wall.”
The building’s owners declined to comment. A government spokesman said the organising committee signed a document in May to start negotiations on a three-year lease for the space in Brougham Street. A contract for the lease was never signed.
Life would be simpler if the same could be said for the contract for the Games themselves.
ON THEIR GUARD
Many illustrious journalists star in this year’s shortlist for the Kennedy Awards, NSW’s journalism gongs, which were announced last week. However, CBD has learnt that over the years a certain digital masthead has played a part in making the field a little less crowded.
Guardian staff have practised something of a boycott since 2015, several Guardianistas say, due to a spectacular blunder that clearly struck a nerve.
That year, Guardian photographer Mike Bowers was awarded the gong for outstanding photographic essay, trophy and all. But the wrong name had been sent to the trophy engraver.
The actual winner was Nic Walker, a Fairfax photographer who had swept the competition with a series on schoolies kids in Bali. When Bowers was announced as the winner, a video featuring Walker’s work started playing but was promptly cut “to minimise embarrassment for all concerned”, the Kennedy Foundation said afterwards.
Credit: Illustration: John Shakespeare
It took five days for the foundation to muster up the courage to inform Bowers and his employer of the screw-up.
There were no Guardian finalists in the 2016 awards and no gongs either in 2017. A Guardian Australia spokesperson told CBD there was no boycott, and it was up to staff if they wanted to submit entries, but former staff say it was considered a faux pas among the ranks to enter.
That feeling has since significantly softened. There was one Guardian shortlistee in 2018 and a win in 2019, but many staff members still don’t bother submitting to the awards. As famously put by The Australian Financial Review’s Michael Roddan, they are the Bogan Walkleys, after all.
Melbourne media circles breathed a collective sigh of relief on Wednesday, when the ABC announced it would scrap its plan to implement a national Sunday night news bulletin, which was set to be broadcast out of Sydney.
City of Melbourne Deputy Mayor Nicholas Reece.Credit: Luis Ascui
Among the many who had made their displeasure known about the cost-cutting measure were the premiers of South Australia and Western Australia, Peter Malinauskas and Roger Cook.
But none were so colourful as City of Melbourne Deputy Mayor Nicholas Reece, who dialled up the Sydney-Melbourne rivalry in recent remarks, railing against the proposed change.
Last week, at a book launch about the life of Edmund Finn, the pioneering Melbourne journalist who wrote under the pen name Garyowen, Reece said the founding fathers of Victorian journalism would be turning in their graves if they were around to witness the loss of media activity from Melbourne to Sydney.
“The Ultimo Untouchables at ABC HQ in Sydney have no idea what is happening in the rest of Australia,” he said.
Reece argued that if the ABC were hellbent on forging ahead with a national weekend TV news bulletin, it should broadcast out of Melbourne, the country’s fastest growing capital.
Reece got his wish. ABC managing director David Anderson told the national broadcaster’s employees on Wednesday morning that the proposed change to the Sunday night national bulletin would be reversed, after audience feedback was taken on board.
ABC managing director David Anderson.Credit: Alex Ellinghausen
When contacted by CBD after the decision was announced, Reece described it as a “victory for people power”.
“Well done to ABC management for coming to their senses on this one,” he said.
“Now we just need Channel Ten and SBS to introduce local weekend broadcasts, and then we might be finally free of news reports about hailstorms in Sydney and the latest intrigues at Barangaroo.”
With the ABC’s change of heart, we’re glad there is one less thing keeping Reece awake at night.
Victorian Labor state secretary Chris Ford is off to the private sector, taking up a role with global engineering firm Arup to work in its economics division.
Ford was a key figure in auditing Labor memberships following allegations of industrial-scale branch stacking first brought to light by this masthead in June 2020. He also spearheaded last year’s successful state election campaign for Labor.
There is no word on his replacement yet, but a deal between warring factions in Victoria means the post is expected to go to a candidate from the Right. Labor’s new state secretary will be determined by the party’s administrative wing.
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