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Harness Racing - Use of Whips

Cassy O'Connor MP  -  Tuesday, 16 March 2021

Tags: Horse Racing, TasRacing, Animal Welfare


Last time we asked you a question it was in relation to a ban of whips in horse racing on animal welfare grounds and in line with community expectations. Since then, local harness racer, Gavin Kelly, has been slapped with a $1000 fine for refusing to use a whip on his horses during races. What is going on in your portfolio that a harness racer who makes an ethical decision not to use a whip gets targeted by stewards? Why would the so-called Office of Racing Integrity target a participant in the racing industry for not using a whip? What is your position as minister on the situation Mr Kelly is now in? Do you agree if you had done the right thing and moved to ban the use of whips, this targeting of an ethical harness racer by your agency would not have happened?



Madam Speaker, I thank the member for her question. The Government takes animal welfare extremely seriously. That is why we are investing more money than ever before into animal welfare. I listened to Mr Kelly's interview on ABC this morning. I have been briefed on this matter and the matter is before the Tasmanian Racing Appeal Board.

Yes, it involves Mr Kelly as a harness driver being fined to comply with the directions of a steward who asked him to carry a whip for safety reasons. On 19 December 2020 at Mowbray, harness driver Gavin Kelly was issued a verbal direction by stewards to carry a whip when driving. On 29 December 2020 at Devonport the stewards held an inquiry with Mr Kelly because he failed to carry a whip during the race. Mr Kelly was charged under the harness racing rules for failing to comply with the direction of a steward to carry a whip when driving in all races. The steward stated that he did not have to use the whip but that he must carry it for safety reasons. With that hearing date set I cannot comment on that appeal right now.

As far as whips in racing, Harness Racing Australia originally announced on December 2016 that it would ban the use of whips in harness racing and training from 1 September 2017. HRA has reaffirmed its commitment to the removal of the use of whips in harness racing but the original implementation date was not deemed to be achievable. Harness Racing Australia approved restrictions to the whip rule on 21 June 2018 which were implemented from 1 September 2020.

On 12 June 2020, Harness Racing Australia approved further restrictions to the use of the whip and the type of whip that can be used. The whip can only have a wrist action now and there can be no forearm or shoulders. The rule came into effect on 20 September and was fully supported by Tasracing. Harness Racing Australia is continuing to review its rules into the use of the whip and Racing Australia is also continuing to review -

Ms O'CONNOR - Point of order, Madam Speaker. I am interested in hearing what has happened at a national level but the minister cannot hide behind the failure to act in a speedy way at a national level. I want to understand -

Mr Barnett - Come on.

Madam SPEAKER - Order, Mr Barnett.

Ms O'CONNOR - Please address the question of why the Office of Racing Integrity's stewards targeted Mr Kelly.

Madam SPEAKER - Thank you, it is a very interesting point of order but it is not a point of order.

Ms HOWLETT - There is an appeal going on at the moment and I cannot comment on that appeal. What I can tell you is that Tasracing and the ORI will continue to work with the governing bodies nationally to work out better implementation of the whip.