Melbourne based event industry veteran Simon Thewlis, one of the key people involved in the Save Victorian Events campaign that ran during the pandemic, appeared before the Senate Inquiry into Australia’s preparedness to host Commonwealth, Olympic and Paralympic Games on Monday 28th August, to give an event industry perspective of the Commonwealth Games debacle.
In his testimony Thewlis said the lack of understanding by the Victorian government of events and the events industry, was central to the failure of the games to proceed and the need for the matter to be included in the Inquiry.
“The reason why we are all here today is because the Victorian government didn’t value, respect or properly utilise the unique skills, experience and capabilities that Victoria’s event industry has. The very things that built Victoria’s reputation as a place that consistently delivers world class events.”
“It was astonishing that the chiefs responsible for critical areas such as Strategy, Planning, Delivery Coordination, Games Services, Culture, Ceremonies and Governance – as well as the CEO – all, to our knowledge, had little to no real operational experience on major events.” He said.
Chaired by Nationals senator Matt Canavan the Inquiry was originally set up to assess Australia’s readiness for the 2032 Olympics and Paralympics. However, it was the Commonwealth Games testimonies that grabbed national media attention, from TV and print news outlets, to specialist media such as the Australian Financial Review.
The day started with Commonwealth Games President Ben Houston announcing that a $380 million settlement included a confidentially clause that restricted what the organisation could say.
“We didn’t ask for it, we didn’t suggest it,” he said. The Andrews government did not attend, so could not be asked how the clause came into being.
Thewlis used the success of the 2006 Melbourne Games to highlight the stark difference of utilising professional event skills. “In contrast – a CEO who had a vast amount of major event experience. He brought in many key people who’d successfully delivered the Sydney Olympics. It was a very strong team so not a surprise that Melbourne 2006 was viewed as the best Commonwealth Games up to that point. They also ran to budget.”
“For half of the pandemic DJPR [Department of Jobs, Precincts and Regions] tried to argue that the event industry wasn’t even an industry. Then they thought that they could do themselves what our industry actually does – ending in a shambles.” He said
When asked which other event industry voices were heard at the Inquiry, Thewlis told EventOrganisers.com.au he didn’t know of any “I believe I was the only event representative there.”