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No Confidence in the Minister for Racing

Cassy O'Connor MP

Cassy O'Connor MP  -  Tuesday, 28 March 2023

Tags: Office of Racing Integrity, TasRacing, No Confidence Motion

Ms O'CONNOR (Clark - Leader of the Greens) - Mr Speaker, what is this Government afraid of? Why can we not have the substantive debate? Until confidence is tested, properly tested, how can this Government say the House has confidence in this minister? The Greens do not. Labor clearly does not. The racing industry does not. Animal welfare advocates who we represent in this place do not have faith in this incompetent minister.

Yet again, we have the Government giving cover by refusing to allow this debate to proceed beyond the seeking of leave. This House clearly, apart from one vote - and that is probably yours, Mr Speaker - does not have confidence in this minister. This minister is incompetent. This minister has failed to do her job. It took excellent investigative reporting, the courage of whistleblowers and national media embarrassment for this minister to do anything like her job.

What was her initial response? To put out a media release and ask the Office of Racing Integrity to investigate itself. In fact, 24 hours after the Greens first called for a thorough independent investigation, we will now have an independent investigation.

This minister is incompetent. We have many questions we believe she needs to answer. Why is former Liberal staffer Justin Helmich, Director of Tasracing, still in that position after so many integrity and probity issues have been raised?

Why is Ben Yole busy getting ready to fill the races for this coming Friday night's harness racing? Why has his licence not been suspended? Why has ORI not been able to take him on - in the same way that they did not take on Anthony Bullock, who was operating without a kennel licence?

The Office of Racing Integrity is corrupted. It is unable to take on the big players in the racing codes. That is a fact.

We now have evidence from whistleblowers, people who have contacted the ABC, people who have contacted Labor, and people who have contacted us, of allegations about Ben Yole going back two years: allegations of race fixing, of team driving, of animal cruelty, and of horses eating their crap. For two years, multiple whistleblowers, industry insiders and animal welfare advocates have raised complaints and deep concerns with the Office of Racing Integrity - and nothing changed. Nothing happened until there was an investigative report.

Even then, this incompetent minister, who is more concerned with fashions on the field than she is with the industry's integrity -

Mr Ferguson - You always go a step too far.

Ms O'CONNOR - It is a statement of fact.

Mr SPEAKER - Ms O'Connor, as I have said before, this question is of seeking leave. It is not the argument on the substantive motion. If you could keep your comments to yourself.

Ms O'CONNOR - That is interesting, Mr Speaker. You did not pull up minister Ferguson when he deviated right off track on the seeking of leave.

Mr Ferguson - You are just being mean. Withdraw it.

Ms O'CONNOR - That is fine, I hear you. Mr Speaker, I certainly will not withdraw the statement of fact. This minister is more concerned with fashions on the field than she is with the integrity of the racing industry and the welfare of the animals within it. On this minister's watch, the racing industry has been brought into disrepute.

Mr Barnett - You are the cockroach.

Ms O'CONNOR - I heard that, minister Barnett. It is okay for you to say something like that, is it? You called me a cockroach. I ask you to withdraw it immediately.

Mr BARNETT - I withdraw.

Ms O'CONNOR - What a hypocrite. Clearly, this Government, which has a rot at its heart, will not let the parliament test confidence in this incompetent minister. Again, we will have another protection racket for this minister who has a problem not only with competence, she has a problem with the truth. We know there was misleading about why the former CEO of Tasracing left. Then there was the fib she told at the press conference yesterday, when she said on the Hansard last Thursday that she would deal with the BOTRA group that day. Asked a question by journalists, she said, 'Yes, yes' and they sought clarification, so you made the call on Thursday, 'Oh no, I did it today'.

Ms Ogilvie - There was not any fibbing.

Ms O'CONNOR - No, it is just this reflex to be dishonest. You are a minister of the Crown. Your commission from the Governor says trusty and well beloved. It is a great honour and responsibility to be a minister of the Crown. It is not about attending fashions on the field. It is making sure your portfolio is administered with integrity, that you are competent and capable, and that you are not fobbing off all these questions as operational matters.

It is a fact that the Office of Racing Integrity is a failure. Complaints go into ORI and then they go nowhere. The big players in the industry like Ben Yole and Anthony Bullock literally get away with murder on animal welfare issues.

This minister is not capable of holding this portfolio. It is very clear that she has lost the confidence of the industry. She certainly does not have our confidence.