Thursday, 9 August 2018
Mr GEPP (Northern Victoria) (18:22:18) — It is with pleasure that I also rise to speak on the Racing Amendment (Integrity and Disciplinary Structures) Bill 2018. Like the previous speaker, I also am a consumer, and an active one, of the racing industry. I have been a fan of the racing industry for many a long year, including owning a couple of horses myself, or certainly a part share rather than one outright. Generally the hair that last crosses the line is the bit that I own.
Mr Mulino — It all counts.
Mr GEPP — It does all count indeed, Mr Mulino. But it is with great pleasure that I do rise to speak on this bill because the racing industry contributes so much to all of Victoria, including almost $3 billion to the Victorian economy. Some 29 000 people are employed directly around the state, and when you factor in participants and volunteers that number expands to some 114 000 people across many areas, particularly in regional areas, which is probably a good segue at this point just to talk a little bit about what it means to my electorate of Northern Victoria Region.
I will come back to the purpose of the bill about maintaining those standards of integrity in Victorian racing, but of course northern Victoria has a great and proud history and heritage, whether it be thoroughbred, harness or greyhound racing. For example, just in the last month it has been my pleasure to announce a number of different grants across the region to our many racing clubs, such as $83 000 to the Shepparton Greyhound Racing Club for works and upgrades at the Kialla Raceway; $54 000 to the Mildura Racing Club for their most recent cup day event, which was a great success; and $6500 to the Cobram and District Harness Racing Club to support their Community Pink Ribbon Ladies Day.
It is important that we acknowledge the importance of the racing fixture, the calendar, not just in terms of professional sport but in bringing those communities together. I will just talk very briefly about the Cobram Harness Racing Club, the work they did on the Community Pink Ribbon Ladies Day and how that has such a spin‑off benefit to the broader community. Of course we have many other tracks around Northern Victoria Region, be it for greyhound racing at places like Bendigo’s Lords Raceway and Kialla Park in Shepparton; harness racing, a great tradition in northern Victoria, at places like Mildura, Bendigo, Cobram, Boort, Gunbower and Echuca, to name a few, but importantly in Kilmore, which is home to what is probably one of the greatest ever harness racing horses in this state’s history, Popular Alm; and of course there are many thoroughbred racing tracks right across northern Victoria, and they are critical to that local economy.
It is important when we have such a big industry that it does possess the highest possible standards of integrity, and that is what this bill ensures. It puts in place the right framework to ensure that integrity is at the forefront. We see and hear all the time about criminal elements et cetera that seek to infiltrate professional sport — and it is not just harness racing, greyhound racing or thoroughbred racing; we are talking about cricket, football and any number of different sports — so it is really important when we have an industry as big as this one in our state that we have got the right framework in place. We believe that this bill will provide an independent oversight of the performance of integrity‑related functions by the various industry regulatory bodies to ensure that integrity is not compromised by commercial interests or other factors.
Mr Ondarchie in his contribution referred to some of the more recent examples of issues in our racing industry which we do not want repeated, and we believe that these measures will strengthen those arrangements to, as best as we possibly can, weed out those undesirable elements that often try to infiltrate not only racing but other professional sporting arrangements. This bill will provide for an independent, robust and transparent disciplinary framework that will, we believe, hold industry participants and regulatory bodies to account. It is one thing to actually put the framework and rules in place, but it is also important to be able to hold those who are to apply the rules and regulations to account for their own performance.
The bill will amend the Racing Act 1958 and establish the Victorian Racing Integrity Board and the Victorian Racing Tribunal. It will limit appeals to the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal to appeals on penalty and occupational licensing decisions. It will not close off other aspects in terms of criminal pursuit through our legal system. The bill will also clarify, importantly, the racing integrity commissioner’s board of inquiry powers and provide the commissioner with a statutory immunity. It will clarify the powers and functions of the Greyhound Racing Victoria board with regard to the licensing and regulation of industry participants, greyhounds and racing clubs. It will also vary the number of Greyhound Racing Victoria board members and provide the board with the power to delegate various functions to the chief executive officer.
These important reforms come from the government’s response to a review it commissioned in 2015 which was undertaken by Mr Paul Bittar — the review referred to as the Bittar review. The government has accepted the recommendations from that review in principle, subject to consultation with affected parties across the industry, so there will continue to be ongoing consultation.
This bill is the result of the government’s consideration of the original review and the additional feedback that we received from a wide range of industry participants, controlling bodies and other affected parties. Some of those stakeholders include — I think it is important to put on the record the consultation that has occurred — the three controlling bodies in Victoria for racing, being Racing Victoria, Harness Racing Victoria and Greyhound Racing Victoria; the Victorian Jockeys Association; the Australian Trainers Association; the Victorian Trainers and Drivers Association; the Greyhound Owners Trainers and Breeders Association of Victoria; the independent chairpersons of the Racing Appeals and Disciplinary Boards of the controlling bodies; the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal; and the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. So there has been widespread consultation throughout the process, giving us confidence that the framework that we have put in place will certainly meet the requirements for a stronger, more rigorous framework and regulation. Importantly that also includes that stakeholder accountability.
Some of that feedback, for example, has come from Giles Thompson, the CEO of Racing Victoria, who is reported on 19 June as saying:
We welcome the Racing Amendment (Integrity and Disciplinary Structures) Bill that has been tabled within the Victorian Parliament today and see the changes as enhancements for Racing Victoria in our ongoing role of administering the rules of racing and protecting the integrity of Victorian racing.
And there are others that I could talk about.
This bill builds on the important reforms that have been undertaken by the government to modernise the governance structures of the three controlling bodies, and of course the government amended the Racing Act in 2015 and 2016 to strengthen governance arrangements for Harness Racing Victoria and Greyhound Racing Victoria.
I could go on for the next 6 minutes but I will not, suffice to say that I understand I probably have not dealt with some of the issues that Mr Ondarchie raised. We will go into those in committee. On that basis I will conclude by saying that I really do believe that the depth of this bill, the frameworks that have been put in place and the strengthening of those integrity measures are important for such a big industry in this state and particularly in my electorate of Northern Victoria Region.
I commend the bill to the house. I congratulate the Minister for Racing and his staff who have put this comprehensive package together after exhaustive consultation.
Sitting suspended 6.33 p.m. until 7.33 p.m.