Ms O'CONNOR question to MINISTER for RACING, Ms HOWLETT
On Saturday night in Hobart a harness racer won race 7 in the Tasmania Cup after whipping his horse heavily for the duration and using a cruel practice called hocking, where he kicked the horse repeatedly in its Achilles throughout the race. The last 400 metres of the race on the night made for shocking viewing. This harness racer was fined $3000 for his actions but walked away with around $45 000 in prize money. The second and third placegetters appealed the win but this was dismissed.
On your watch a harness racer can flog and kick a horse, be fined for cheating and still take the prize money, while another harness racer, Gavin Kelly, was fined for refusing to be cruel. Animal cruelty and cheating has not only been rewarded, it has now been encouraged for future races. How do you explain this?
Madam Speaker, I thank the member for her question and her concern. I am aware of the charges that were laid against the driver of the Tasmania Cup winner, Bullys Delight. I attended the race meeting at Elwick and have spoken to a number of harness racing participants who have also expressed their concerns to me. It is crucial for all racing codes that integrity is maintained for the welfare of racing animals and to provide confidence in the Tasmanian product.
The Acting Director of Racing has directed a steward to conduct a further investigation into the charges laid. I am pleased that the Office of Racing Integrity has engaged highly regarded ex-Racing New South Wales chairman of stewards, Mr Ray Murrihy, to lead the inquiry.
As minister it is not appropriate that I comment on any matter that is subject to investigation or inquiry. I should also note that the RSPCA has been working at a national level with Harness Racing Australia and the board to improve rules around whip use. It should also be pointed that yesterday I spoke to a board member of Harness Racing Australia. I have a meeting with them scheduled for next week. I will make sure that Tasracing, the Office of Racing Integrity and I work with the national body to ensure we have stronger rules around the use of whips.