Steve Dickson MP, State Member for Buderim
Member for Buderim

Speeches

RACING INTEGRITY BILL 2015 SPEECH

I rise to speak to the Racing Integrity Bill 2015.

The objectives of this bill are to: establish a new Queensland Racing Integrity Commissioner responsible for the management of animal welfare and integrity matters within the racing industry; amend the Racing Act 2002 to reform the structure of the Queensland All Codes Racing Industry Board including renaming the board as Racing Queensland Board, and to dissolve the three individual racing code boards, the Racing Animal Welfare and Integrity Board and the Racing Disciplinary Board; and amend the Animal Care and Protection Act 2001 to provide improved information sharing capacity, and broaden authorised officers’ powers to investigate and respond to animal welfare matters and breaches of the act relating to the racing industry.

The former racing minister introduced this bill in December last year in response to the recommendations from the commission of inquiry into greyhound racing which investigated allegations of live baiting and other acts of animal cruelty in the greyhound industry. The commission of inquiry was set up following exposure by the ABC television program Four Corners of the abhorrent practices of live baiting in the greyhound racing industry in three eastern states: Victoria, New South Wales and Queensland. While the greyhound live baiting scandal also affected Victoria and New South Wales, it was only Queensland’s Labor government’s response that exposed the whole racing industry—meaning not only the greyhounds but also harness racing and thoroughbreds—to a level of downturn that has set the whole racing industry on an unsustainable footing. The Labor government’s response to the live‑baiting scandal in the greyhound racing industry has been to punish the industry in its entirety for seemingly no other reason than pure political spite. Rather than dealing with the issues decisively within the greyhound code aided by an experienced all codes racing board, they pulled the rug out from underneath the entire racing industry.

As I have said in this House before, just four years ago the racing industry was left in an absolute shambles by the previous Labor government. The former LNP government worked hard to clean up Racing Queensland and to ensure an open, transparent and accountable industry on a sound and secure footing for the future. Some of the key initiatives included governance reform. We set up a new All Codes Racing Board along with three code‑specific control boards to give each code a greater say. We have introduced integrity reforms. A new Racing Integrity Commissioner, and a new Racing Disciplinary Board was set up. There was a new approach to the provision of racing facilities by refocusing the Industry Infrastructure Strategy and its expenditure of $110 million over five years. There was targeted financial support for country racing after Labor had destroyed it. We were delivering the 30‑year $4.5 billion new wagering agreement partnership with Tatts, now UBET, that will significantly benefit this industry. We were also delivering Australia’s first $10 million race day in 2016 on the Gold Coast with a seven‑year partnership agreement between Racing Queensland and the Magic Millions.

Central to all of these initiatives and programs was the appointment of a new Queensland All Codes Racing Industry Board, QACRIB, and the three code‑specific boards through a transparent selection process at arm’s length from the government. That is right, it was a transparent selection process that was above reproach. Our selection panel consisted of Peter Arnison, the former governor of Queensland; Bill Carter, the former judge of the Supreme Court; and Jim O’Sullivan, the former police commissioner of Queensland. That is right; it was a transparent process, which is in stark contrast to the past appointments where the directors of the boards of Racing Queensland were shrouded in mystery and open to claims of cronyism. That is in stark contrast to the recent appointment process which has not only left the industry rudderless for over a year but is marred by controversy with an interim chair linked to the racing minister’s former business interests and with one of the board members forced to resign only two days after making a highly inappropriate remark in a public forum.

At a time when we are debating the integrity and accountability in racing, a dark cloud now hangs over the racing minister’s own integrity in appointing members to the Racing Queensland Board. There is no doubt that the former Labor government drove the Queensland racing industry to the brink of destruction and the current government seems hell‑bent on doing exactly the same. I have said this before and I will say it again: those opposite still see the racing industry as a political plaything. The racing industry in Queensland and the 30,000 people who have worked in this proud industry deserve better than this Labor government is actually delivering. At the very least they deserve to be consulted on the bill that will determine their future.

The committee found that the Department of National Parks, Sport and Racing did not consult with industry stakeholders or the public in relation to the content of the bill. Their report stated that, as a result, turf clubs, animal owners, jockeys, breeders and trainers and the bodies representing them were excluded from the bill’s development. The committee found—

Consultation with the racing industry, community organisations and individuals should have been an intrinsic and routine part of the policy and legislative development process for the Racing Integrity Bill. Regrettably the Department of National Parks, Sport and Racing did not consult with community or industry stakeholders or the public in relation to the provisions in the Bill. As a result, racing industry participants such as turf clubs, animal owners, jockeys, breeders and trainers, and the bodies representing them, were excluded from the Bill’s development.

The Racing Integrity Bill appears uncosted and will no doubt put more strain on the already stretched budget. With both the Queensland government and Racing Queensland struggling to control their finances, we are now facing the prospect of having to implement a bill which no‑one can put a final figure on and which no‑one guarantees will actually benefit the whole of the racing industry. In a bill that is 317 pages long one would think that there would have been space to outline a specific cost relating to the Racing Integrity Commission.

The committee found that—

Based on the submissions to the committee, the costs for government to implement the Bill are a key issue for the racing industry. The information provided in the explanatory notes to the Bill on costs to government to meet the requirements in section 23 of the Legislative Standards Act 1992 do not allay the concerns of the industry. In the absence of clear information about the assessment of implementation costs for government, it is difficult to gauge whether the anticipated benefits of the Bill are worthwhile.

The bill has achieved the seemingly impossible, with the Queensland racing industry coming together as one strongly opposed to the new Racing Integrity Bill. The bill has been criticised from all angles, with 148 submissions to the committee. The most common criticism relates to the Labor government’s proposal to establish a new seven‑member board with three industry members, one from each code, and four independent members. ‘Independent’ means that these four so‑called independent members of the proposed Racing Queensland Board should have no relevant connection to the racing industry for the past two years. The Thoroughbred Breeders Queensland Association has come out strongly against the proposed board structure and said—

To suggest that only three of the seven members should have racing experience is ludicrous, and could potentially lead to serious mismanagement issues.

As we have seen, this appears to be a deliberate move to shift the power of the board away from being driven by industry participants. Racing Australia boss John Messara and senior Turf Club representatives also criticised this part of the proposed legislation, saying that it is impractical to have four independents sitting on a seven‑person board. It is unsettling to think that four non‑racing related board members would hold the majority and therefore determine the future of Queensland racing. And who do they answer to? To the industry to which they have no established links. This Bill should be opposed because of its lack of information concerning costing and its complete lack of consultation with the industry. This is not good enough. 

Posted in: Speeches

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Steve Dickson MP, State Member for Buderim