Racing Integrity Bill Speech | 20 April 2016

Posted On: 21 Apr 2016

The Racing Integrity Bill was introduced into the House on 3 December 2015 by the then minister the honourable member for Rockhampton. The objectives of the bill are to establish the new Queensland Racing Integrity Commission responsible for the management of animal welfare and integrity matters within the racing industry; to amend the Racing Act 2002 to reform the structure of the Queensland All Codes Racing Industry Board, including renaming the board as the Racing Queensland Board, and to dissolve the three individual racing code boards, the Racing Animal Welfare Integrity Board and the Racing Disciplinary Board; and, finally, to amend the Animal Care and Protection Act 2001 to provide improved information-sharing capacity and broaden authorised officer powers to investigate and respond to animal welfare matters and breaches of the act related to the racing industry.

The bill proposes to establish a new Racing Integrity Commission which dissolves the existing arrangements and separates the integrity functions of Racing Queensland from the commercial operations into a new separate body. The bill also proposes to implement a seven-member board with three industry members—one from each code—and four independent members. This is seen by a majority of the industry as a move to deliberately shift the power of the board away from input from industry participants. Both of these arrangements were set to be in place by 1 April 2016. However, due to delayed debate of this bill, interim measures were put in place which have already proven why this bill is flawed and should not be passed. The Agriculture and Environment Committee responsible for reporting on this bill were to bring their report back to the House on 1 March. On Thursday, 25 February this date was moved back to 15 March. Despite this delay, the committee could not reach agreement that this bill be passed. May I recognise and acknowledge the significant work of the committee staff on this bill.

As we debate this Racing Integrity Bill 2015, it is important to keep focused on two key words—confidence and integrity. One of them features in the title of the bill. It is critical for Queensland’s racing industry to have integrity in both its commercial and animal welfare obligations. We have bipartisan recognition of this between government, opposition and the crossbench. There is no question about that, so let us hope we do not lose sight of that goal. I refer to the budget 2015-16 Service Delivery Statements. The racing service area objective states— Maintain public confidence in, and ensure the integrity of, the Queensland racing industry.

Yet this Labor government has gone out of its way to destroy confidence in Queensland’s racing industry. If Minister Bill Byrne had bothered to talk to people within the industry instead of hiring accounting types, he would have heard of their grave concerns for the industry. I have travelled the state this past 15 months talking to people within the racing industry, and I have held several round tables where all three codes have been able to have their say—none of this divide and conquer, keep-them-separate agenda witnessed by the Labor government.

Unsurprisingly, a total lack of consultation was mentioned a number of times from participants at hearings and also in documents between the department and the Agriculture and Environment Committee. This is a serious issue. The department admitted that, while no consultation has occurred on the detailed content of this bill, consultation has occurred with the community and industry groups, as part of the COI. Remember this was an inquiry into live baiting in greyhound racing, not thoroughbreds and harness. In another question, when asked about industry consultation, the department replied, ‘Refer to answer above.’ It is this arrogant and offhand attitude that the Palaszczuk government promulgate. If infects every department and associated entities.

Every aspect of the way Labor have handled this inquiry into live baiting in the greyhound industry is disgraceful. They have dragged thoroughbreds and harness into the inquiry and not listened to the very industry they are obliged to support. I note that point 36 in the MacSporran report states – One of the Commission’s most important tasks is to make recommendations that are targeted at restoring public confidence in the Queensland greyhound racing industry.
Why on earth did the Labor government drag thoroughbreds and harness into the investigation and let them languish for over a year, and greyhounds too for that matter? Other Australian states, including the big racing states of New South Wales and Victoria, were also affected by the exposure of abhorrent live baiting practices within the greyhound industry. They did not punish all the codes. They did not take a big stick to harness and thoroughbreds too. They value their racing industry and the hardworking, dedicated people within it. I have spoken with industry and government representatives in both states and asked them what they thought of the way that this Queensland government was dealing with racing’s future. They are gob-smacked a government would deliberately damage such an important revenue stream, not to mention sacrificing countless jobs. Weekly Sunshine Coast newspaper commentator Graham Potter says— My understanding is that the parameters of such inquiries are pre-set to focus on achieving predetermined aims and, I would assume, are legally bound by that particular mandate.
In his covering letter to the Premier of June 1, 2015, when presenting his final report, Commissioner Alan MacSporran wrote, ‘In accordance with Commissions of Inquiry Order (No 2) 2015, I present the report of the Queensland Greyhound Racing Industry Commission of Inquiry’ … and he added his name to the letter with the designation, ‘Commissioner, Queensland Greyhound Racing Industry Commission of Inquiry.’
He continues—
In case you missed it, let me repeat it again. It was a Queensland Greyhound Racing Industry Commission of Inquiry.’ Not a horse racing inquiry. Nothing to do with harness racing.

Which begs the question, did the MacSporran Commission exceed its powers by implicating all three racing codes and, if so, ARE THE RECOMMENDATIONS OF THE MACSPORRAN COMMISSION, EVEN LEGAL IN THE FIRST PLACE?
It certainly is a question that needs an answer because, in spite of going through government records, I cannot find any amendment expanding MacSporran’s original mandate.

I shall now take a few moments to reflect upon the journey that has brought us to this bill. On 16 February 2015 ABC’s Four Corners program aired footage that was purportedly taken some six months earlier of trainers using live animals to bait greyhounds. Understandably, this footage sickened all who saw it and raised concerns about illegal industry practices. On 2 March 2015 the then minister, the honourable member for Rockhampton, ordered a systems review into the industry. After some urging from the LNP, this review was upgraded in April to the Queensland Greyhound Racing Industry Commission of Inquiry. The commissioner heading this inquiry was Alan MacSporran QC, who completed his final report on 1 June 2015. It contained 15 recommendations. Three of those recommendations were related to governance of Queensland’s racing industry and the remaining 12 were related to the welfare of greyhounds. What surprised me and a host of other people was that the only recommendation acted upon by the Palaszczuk government—recommendation No. 2—was the immediate sacking of the racing boards: thoroughbred, harness and greyhounds.

As I have reported to this House on a number of occasions, these sackings were executed in a most humiliating and disrespectful manner towards experienced and well-respected individuals. Minister Byrne could not even give these people the dignity of making the calls himself; he got his staff to do it. Just 24 hours after MacSporran handed his report to the Premier these individuals were callously dumped all under the guise of the live baiting scandal in the greyhound industry. Why the rush? MacSporran did not say there was a hurry to abolish the boards, but he did say in recommendation No. 1 that a new statutory authority, the Queensland Racing Integrity Commission, or QRIC, be created as soon as possible.

Here we are in the middle of April, almost 11 months since the MacSporran report was tabled. What excuse does the minister and this revengeful Palaszczuk government have for the delay? Then there is the time line through the summer break with final submissions due on 27 January. In yet another cruel twist, interim acting CEO Mr Hall sent letters to regional and country racing clubs in December demanding back payment of public insurance moneys. He then retracted that when it became apparent he had made a mistake, but it did expose Labor’s true intent: to cripple our clubs with enforced payments and force them to close. The enormous stress this placed on countless individuals, many of whom were volunteers, just before Christmas was unforgiveable. Obviously that does not move the minister. She does not seem to care what happened to these poor people before Christmas. Meanwhile the industry remained at a standstill—leaderless, rudderless and uncertain of its future.

In late November last year with industry frustration growing to palpable levels and an invisible, non-communicating minister, members of the industry wrote to the minister and the Premier. I quote from a letter from thoroughbred owner Ian McCauley to the Premier on 30 November 2015 which states—

It has become obvious to me that your instructions to the Honourable Bill Byrne are at the core of this deep apprehension, and in some cases fear, that exists across the whole of racing in Queensland.
We are almost mid 2015/16. What do we have? We have a government appointed Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, no board members to assist them and a depleted management team of doubtful capability.
There is no industry confidence that this group can reinstate Racing Queensland to the status it held nationally and internationally before the greyhound revelations earlier this year … Looking back in hindsight I cannot but wonder if the outcome was predetermined.

It is strange that you instructed Minister Byrne to sack all Queensland boards, and then within 24 hours of your appointment of an acting CEO of Queensland Racing he was able to furnish you with a damning assessment of its financial status. On this basis you instructed Minister Byrne to sack all Queensland boards.
You will be aware that after 6 months in the job he has yet to produce a 2015/16 budget, an Action Plan or any Forward Strategy paper. Many in the industry are aware that the damning report he made to you came from lower management before any review from the CEO and the 4 boards—remember you sacked them. I understand that you have since also removed the staff who prepared the report.

I further point out that the figures that were hastily scraped together by a person who got his marching orders once the government had what they wanted from him have been denied me, despite asking for them to be produced during estimates last year and on other occasions.

At an industry rally at Doomben on 16 December 2015 hundreds of people who rely on racing for their livelihoods came together to express their opposition to aspects of the Racing Integrity Bill that was introduced into the parliament on 3 December 2015. They unanimously agreed upon the following resolutions and QRUG was born. Resolution No. 1: the industry rejects the proposal to implement a board with a majority membership of non-industry knowledgeable people. Resolution No. 2: the industry requires the government within a month to appoint a board under the current structure with appropriate input from industry. Resolution No. 3: until a board has been implemented and given sufficient time to assess the current situation and devise an agreed strategy no changes are implemented. Resolution No. 4 was a motion of no confidence in Mr Hall. The government ignored all of their resolutions.

The Agriculture and Environment Committee, which is charged with reporting on this bill, has undertaken the following processes: an invitation to provide written submissions—the committee accepted 148 written submissions and I understand about 20 were rejected—the convening of a public briefing for one hour by the Department of National Parks, Sport and Racing on Friday, 11 December; further written briefings were sought from the department; and they convened a four-hour public hearing on 17 February this year.

I would like to thank the Agriculture and Environment Committee for permitting me to appear on 17 February and, in particular, the research director who gave me the courtesy of inquiring whether I was intending to seek leave to do so. It is my understanding that some government members wanted to block my attendance at this hearing but they were unsuccessful. In another move that further raised the issue of openness and transparency, committee members did not receive their numerous papers for the hearing until around 8 pm, just 13 hours before the hearing. It reminds me of estimates last year when Minister Jones deliberately stalled question on notice replies and then denied any knowledge of it.

As the hearing got underway, the aggressive bullying manner of the acting chair, the honourable member for Logan, intimidated well-meaning witnesses who came prepared to put forward their case in their own words. People came to be given a fair hearing, but, sadly, this is so typical of the way Labor have treated this industry and the people within it—all stick, no carrot, and certainly no respect. The member for Logan brusquely told each person to give a brief statement, yet some had prepared 10-minute presentations as no directions as to the length of their opening statements had been given to them. Where did it say that presenters were only to give a brief summary? Were they warned they would face a grilling and be treated in such a confrontational manner? Of course not. They would not have turned up if they had.

The acting chair verballed some witnesses, tried to put words in their mouths and extract answers under duress. He cut off one witness from Toowoomba after three to four minutes. He was talking about his family’s generational involvement in racing. The honourable member for Logan was removed from the Agriculture and Environment Committee the same day. That is two ministers, two or more committee chairs and committee members in 12 months.
Mr Power interjected.
Mr DICKSON: Madam Deputy Speaker, I rise to a point of order. The member for Logan needs to sit in his seat if he is going to comment on this bill. Madam DEPUTY SPEAKER (Ms Farmer): Order! I thank the member for his advice. I am perfectly capable of giving the member that advice myself.

Mrs STUCKEY: Labor members might be used to directing people and bossing them around, as they obviously did to the honourable member for Cairns, but it was highly embarrassing for non-government committee members and for all participating and watching in the Legislative Assembly. Ms Breen from Noosa sent me her email to the minister in which she stated—
I’m very disappointed and angry to hear back from multiple attendees that the above enquiry Govt committee representatives were deploying unacceptable bullying and intimidating tactics to the persons presenting to the committee. This is shameful and not the way to ensure everyone can speak to get their point across …

Ms GRACE: Madam Deputy Speaker, I rise to a point of order. I think we have given the member enough leeway. She is coming in here and reporting on what happened or what did not happen in relation to the committee process, but I think these are matters that are best dealt with in other areas if there are allegations to be made. I think this is irrelevant to the bill. The member should come back to the content of the bill. If there are issues in relation to the conduct of committees, there are other avenues in the standing orders under which they can be processed. Madam Deputy Speaker, I ask for your indulgence to bring the member back to the bill and to cover issues in regard to conduct in other avenues available to this House.

Madam DEPUTY SPEAKER: There is no point of order, but I will be asking the member to make sure that she does remain relevant to the bill. However, I think there is plenty of precedent for actually discussing the committee process.

Mr POWER: Madam Deputy Speaker, I rise to a point of order. I found what the member for Currumbin said highly offensive and I ask that she withdraw.

Madam DEPUTY SPEAKER: The member finds your comments offensive and I ask you to withdraw.

Mrs STUCKEY: I withdraw. The line of questioning was clearly trying to trap witnesses at the hearing into answering loaded questions about integrity issues.

Mr POWER: Madam Deputy Speaker, I rise to a point of order. I find this highly offensive and I ask that the member withdraw.

Madam DEPUTY SPEAKER: I am sorry. I did not actually hear what the member for Currumbin said since your last request for a withdrawal. Could you refer me to what the offensive comments were? I am sorry that I did not hear them.

Mr POWER: She was continuing to allege that I was bullying the witnesses, which I find offensive.

Madam DEPUTY SPEAKER: The member finds your comments offensive and he asks you to withdraw.

Mrs STUCKEY: I withdraw. It is no surprise when the Labor committee members only followed the minister’s orders. The minister’s comments on radio 4TAB were sowing seeds of doubt about integrity matters across all three codes. No wonder the questions asked of presenters were skewed towards hypothetical integrity issues. I heard the minister boasting of the new committee chair’s racing credentials on radio 4TAB. She said, ‘Glenn is certainly very interested in this area and he’ll make a fantastic chair of that committee.’ She said, ‘Glenn is a manager of a, what do you call them, syndicate manager of a syndicate of racehorses and his racehorse is called Honey Toast. And he’s very much involved, has it trained in Toowoomba which I’ll be visiting next week.’ The minister even admitted to backing her colleague’s horse, which could be perceived by some as a conflict of interest by the Minister for Racing.

Ms GRACE: Madam Deputy Speaker, I take gross offence to those statements and I ask that they be withdrawn. This is getting ridiculous.

Mrs STUCKEY: I withdraw. I quote the minister from radio 4TAB. She said, ‘I backed it on the Sunshine Coast up there and it didn’t make it.’

Ms GRACE: I ask that the member withdraw the comments, Madam Deputy Speaker.
Madam DEPUTY SPEAKER: The member has asked that you withdraw those comments.

Ms GRACE: I find them offensive and I ask that she withdraw.

Mrs STUCKEY: I withdraw—’But I believe Ben Currie, the same trainer, did it very well with Love Sky.’ The minister said, ‘Glenn is certainly very interested in this area and he’ll make a fantastic chair.’

Ms GRACE: Madam Deputy Speaker, I rise to a point of order. There are no buts after the withdrawal.

Madam DEPUTY SPEAKER: I ask the member to unequivocally withdraw.

Mrs STUCKEY: I unequivocally withdraw.

Madam DEPUTY SPEAKER: If the member persists with the same comments, then this question may be asked of her again.

Mrs STUCKEY: Thank you very much. I will refer members to the radio 4TAB interview on 29 February. They will be able to read all 30 minutes of it and hear how the minister backed her new chair. I want to make it clear that I am not in any way impugning the character or the reputation of the honourable member for Gladstone, and I congratulate him on Honey Toast’s win at Toowoomba last weekend. However, the appointment of an MP with current racing involvement to chair this parliamentary committee does raise the question of hypocrisy and double standards here. Why doesn’t the minister feel the same way about the new board members having current racing credentials? Why is it such a good thing that the honourable member for Gladstone has a thoroughbred syndicate yet board members cannot?

Mr BUTCHER: Madam Deputy Speaker, I rise to a point of order. I do find this offensive because this has nothing to do with me and my horse and what we are talking about in this bill.

Madam DEPUTY SPEAKER: Does the member find these comments offensive?

Mr BUTCHER: Yes, I do.

Mrs STUCKEY: I withdraw. As we continue to talk about integrity and double standards, I wonder if members opposite have listened to the hundreds of racing participants voice their opposition to the bill and the way that their industry has been treated by this Labor government. If they have, they should vote against this bill. During the same radio 4TAB interview I just mentioned, the minister attacked all three codes of the industry, accusing them of having serious integrity issues.

Ms GRACE: Madam Deputy Speaker, I rise to a point of order. I take offence to the comments. They are misleading and I ask that they be withdrawn.

Madam DEPUTY SPEAKER: Does the member find the comments personally offensive?

Ms GRACE: They are offensive. They are misleading.

Madam DEPUTY SPEAKER: I ask the member to withdraw.

Mrs STUCKEY: I withdraw. Could I seek some clarity? If I am quoting a direct interview from a radio when I have direct quotes, am I not able to—

Madam DEPUTY SPEAKER: If the member finds the comments offensive, you are asked to withdraw.

Mrs STUCKEY: Thank you. Once again, I refer honourable members to the radio 4TAB interview on 29 February, where the minister talked about issues in all three codes and dragged them into the industry. She did not sound at all like an industry champion to me, and I ask members to listen to that. She actually attacked industries on air and suggested that every week she receives integrity issues about them—

Ms GRACE: Madam Deputy Speaker, I rise to a point of order. I find the comments offensive. They are misleading. I did not attack the industry on air and I ask that they be withdrawn.
Madam DEPUTY SPEAKER: I ask you to withdraw the comments.

Mrs STUCKEY: I withdraw. The minister is misleading the House because this is very clearly explained in the interview.

Ms GRACE: Madam Deputy Speaker, I rise to a point of order. I find the comments that I am misleading the House personally offensive and I ask that they be withdrawn.

Madam DEPUTY SPEAKER: I ask that you withdraw.

Mrs STUCKEY: I withdraw.

Madam DEPUTY SPEAKER: We could continue with this but, given that we could spend the next half hour toing and froing, I would ask the member to consider how this may roll out if that continues.

Mrs STUCKEY: I am trying very hard to give a true and accurate representation with direct quotes, but they are being rejected by the minister herself. I am going to move on to chapters 2 and 3 of the bill which relate to the new Queensland Racing Integrity Commission and its functions. The costing of QRIC remains a huge worry for the racing industry, and the minister has acknowledged that it is a concern to the industry. She did refuse to tell us how much it will cost. She said that millions of dollars had been put aside and that it will not cost more than it did previously, but then she would not tell us what it cost.

The industry have already had cuts to prize money and race meetings, especially if you live in Toowoomba, a region that has been unfairly treated to say the least. On 29 February, Minister Grace told radio listeners that she knows the overall racing figures and that they are not as bad as predicted—surprise, surprise. The minister said, ‘I’ve had a half yearly report on how we’re tracking and we’re doing a little bit better than the $28 million loss.’ Last December Ian Hall said on radio with David Fowler that he would release the figures, but he did not do that and he left Racing Queensland on 31 March, taking a small fortune in salaries since June 2015 with him. That was another slap in the face for the industry.

In February, Mr Fowler asked the minister about the $28 million loss and whether the figure could have been released, suggesting that $5 million was perhaps the amount of money that could have been announced as being saved. The minister again told him that she was hoping to release figures when they became a little bit clearer ‘particularly as the tracking to sustainability document is what I call a living document’. Considering all the banging on this Labor government has made about cost blowouts supposedly caused by the LNP, you would think they would have a handle on the figures and reveal the cost of QRIC. One commentator from the Sunshine Coast said, ‘The current bill has the racing industry paying for all costs. I know the government have said they’ll pay some or all, but as you know that is not what the bill said. Where is this amendment?’ This is a quote from someone from the Sunshine Coast. They continued, ‘Also because this proposed new commission takes in more than just the racing industry, this commission needs to be properly costed and its powers set out in a completely new act.’

They also stated, ‘It needs to not be subject to ministerial interference. It needs to be truly independent of any government. A review of any adverse actions by the commission against any individual or entity needs to be reserved to the courts. The act needs better consideration as it will be far reaching. For that reason it needs to be a stand-alone bit of legislation but further thought out by all.’

What of the poor staff who have spent the summer break wondering their fate? What of their futures? I look forward to hearing more from the minister about that. As I said earlier, the committee could not agree on the passage of this bill and found it did not meet its requirements. It stated—
According to section 23 of the Legislative Standards Act 1992, the explanatory note for a Bill must include, in clear and precise language:
(e) a brief assessment of the administrative cost to government of implementing the Bill, including staffing and program costs but not the cost of developing the Bill.
The explanatory notes for the Racing Integrity Bill 2015 fail this requirement. In fact, they breach the act. The notes provide no assessment of the administrative cost to government of implementing the bill. Instead, the notes advise that the cost of implementation will require funding from the department to address the costs associated with the establishment of QRIC, the transfer of staff from Racing Queensland and the department to the commission.
The committee asked the department to provide it with a brief assessment of the likely administrative cost to government of implementing the bill including staffing and program costs. The committee also requested an estimate of the ongoing costs of QRIC, once it is established, an estimate of the additional costs associated with the integrity system for the racing industry proposed in the bill compared to the current racing industry integrity system, whether the department estimated the percentage increase in costs that will be incurred by racing clubs under the new administrative arrangements and who will pay for the use of police and animal welfare officers in carrying out their roles under the provisions proposed in the bill. In addition, they asked—
A number of submitters to the committee’s inquiry have expressed concern about the costs of the measures contained in the Bill, and that there are no limits or oversights of the costs that can be incurred and passed on to the industry by the proposed Commission. Can you explain how the department will ensure that the Commission is operated efficiently and that its costs are kept to a minimum?

Honourable members well ask, ‘What was the response from the department to this detailed series of questions that have all three codes of Queensland’s racing industry concerned?’ It was a brief four lines and it goes as follows—
As per the Department’s previous advice to the Committee, matters relating to the costs of the Queensland Racing Integrity Commission (QRIC) and the potential costs passed onto the industry are operational matters to be directed to the minister. The Racing Integrity Bill does not dictate the cost of the QRIC.

Does that not just take the cake? Direct your question to the minister, who will duck and weave on costings. The department was prepared to take a question on notice about costs at the 11 December committee hearing and then took over a week to send their reply, which is pretty much the same as this: a non-answer. So much for transparency! So much for integrity! So much for confidence! This Labor Palaszczuk government has an agenda alright: to do untold damage to the racing industry. I find it very perturbing that the cost of QRIC could not be confirmed and questions asked by opposition members during committee meetings were deemed outside the scope of the bill even though the legislative standards say they have breached it.

The contempt of the Palaszczuk government for those who work in Queensland’s racing industry, whether they be strappers, jockeys, volunteers, bookies or stablehands, is absolutely disgraceful. Time and again this government has fobbed off genuine questions about costs and been told

Welcome from Jann

As the State Member for Currumbin since 2004 we have achieved much together to make the place we call home an even better and safer community.

It truly is an honour to serve the caring and connected residents of Currumbin.

Your thoughts and concerns matter to me and I look forward to continuing to be a strong voice on your behalf.

My electorate office staff and I are here to help you with state government issues.

Kind regards

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