Gold medal veil: Brisbane Olympics laws passed despite secrecy concerns

Queensland has passed laws to set up the Brisbane 2032 Olympics organising committee without changing clauses that shield federal politicians from integrity oversight and could keep documents secret.

Dec 03, 2021, updated Dec 03, 2021
Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk (left) and AOC President John Coates (right) are seen after a media conference announcing Queensland's bid to host the 2032 Olympics in Brisbane. (AAP Image/Darren England)

Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk (left) and AOC President John Coates (right) are seen after a media conference announcing Queensland's bid to host the 2032 Olympics in Brisbane. (AAP Image/Darren England)

The Brisbane Olympic and Paralympic Games Organising Committee (OCOG) will oversee the sports program, athlete and official accommodation, and cultural and sporting events such as the torch relay and opening and closing ceremonies.

Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk says the board will be responsible for the most memorable moments of the games in 10 year’s time, which confidential commercial deals will ensure come “at no cost the taxpayer”.

“The International Olympic Committee and private commercial revenue, including domestic sponsorship, ticket sales and merchandise will ensure all activities associated with the organising committee are delivered on a cost-neutral basis,” she said in a statement after the laws passed on Thursday.

“I know the Organising Committee will deliver an unforgettable and unifying Games for Queensland, Australia and the world.”

There could be more than 20 OCOG members; at least half must be women, and one must be Indigenous.

The prime minister and premier will choose four independent directors each, and also jointly appoint another five directors, while the Brisbane lord mayor gets a seat and will appoint another member.

The state’s Crime and Corruption Act applies to the board, but not to any members who are federal MPs or senators.

The corruption watchdog warned last month that there was no apparent reason to justify that exemption “particularly so given the absence of an equivalent Commonwealth integrity body with jurisdiction over members of the Commonwealth parliament”.

The Australian Olympic Committee (AOC) chief executive, Paralympics Australia president are guaranteed seats along with Olympic athlete representative and swimmer Bronte Barratt and Paralympic athlete representative and 13-times medallist Kurt Furnley.

The laws allow any Australian members of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), who haven’t reached the age limit, or local members International Paralympic Committee Governing Board to be appointed.

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A spot is reserved for AOC president John Coates as well with a seat guaranteed for the AOC’s “President or Honorary Life President”.

Mr Coates moves into the role of AOC honorary life president, which he created himself, when he retires as president next year.

Another concern about the laws is a clause shielding committee documents “communicated in confidence” by or for the AOC or IOC from Right to Information applications.

The government said the clause was justified given the “sensitive nature” of some documents such as marketing information, and a similar law was in place for the Sydney 2000 Olympics.

Queensland Information Commissioner Rachael Rangihaeata raised concerns about the clause, but the government has not changed it.

Ms Rangihaeata warned the clause is “inconsistent” with the 2008 Solomon report, which recommended that RTI exclusions be limited.

“In this case, the explanatory notes (for the bill) do not provide a compelling case to justify an exclusion from the operation of the RTI Act,” she said in a submission on the laws last month.

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