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Office of Racing Integrity

Cassy O'Connor MP  -  Thursday, 2 September 2021

Tags: Greyhound Racing, Office of Racing Integrity, TasRacing

Ms O'CONNOR (Clark - Leader of the Greens) - Mr Speaker, I move -

That the House take note of the following matter: the Office of Racing Integrity.

It is pretty clear to the casual observer and to the Greens that the Office of Racing Integrity is broken and it has been broken on the Liberal Government's watch. This is the body that people who are concerned about animal welfare look to, to uphold animal welfare standards across the three codes in the racing industry. But what we know is that the Office of Racing Integrity is in utter disarray and all of us who care about animals are really worried about this. Twenty, or thereabouts, Office of Racing Integrity staff have resigned since 2018. Many of those positions have yet to be filled. According to the CPSU and staff who have blown the whistle, morale at ORI is at an all-time low.

What we have now is a whole lot of questions about the administration of ORI, its interaction with Tasracing, its oversight by DPIPWE and of course, ultimately about the minister's role in the decline of ORI. We have the former acting racing integrity and steward's manager, Mr Tony Latham, under investigation over a shocking race that happened at the Tasmania Cup. We asked questions about this incident last year. On a Saturday night when a harness racer won race 7 in the Tasmanian 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 really shocking viewing. The harness racer was fined $3000 for his actions, but walked away with around $45 000 in prize money. The second and third place getters appealed the win, but this was dismissed. At the same time you had this double standard, another harness racer who I have spoken to, Gavin Kelly, was fined for refusing to have the whip. He was being fined for not being cruel, for refusing to be cruel, by stewards at the Office of Racing Integrity.

As a consequence, obviously of the concerns raised around that Tasmania Cup win and a fine that was then laid on the jockey, the rider, Reece Nicholson, it is alleged that Tony Latham sought to have the record of that fine removed. We understand this matter is now under investigation. I do not want to prejudice the investigation, but it sure does point to some issues within the Office of Racing Integrity. We also know Mr Latham's predecessor in the position, John King, has stepped aside while facing a professional standards investigation by Tasmania Police. It does not get any better smelling, because the new general manager and head of ORI and director of racing until a few weeks ago was a political advisor to two Liberal Government ministers, ministers Jaensch and Petrusma, and this new general manager apparently is starting this week. We would like to know what was the selection process, for example, to fill this important position given a high level of disfunction at the Office of Racing Integrity.

While all this is happening, animals are dying on the track or near the track as a result of the cruelty inherent in the racing industries. It has just been reported the seventh beautiful greyhound has died this year, the seventh. We have here an integrity body in which the Greens can no longer have confidence. We believe there is now a high level of distrust within the community about the way the Office of the Racing Integrity is being run and has been run down.

We understand it is Labor's position to defend the racing industry and that is fine, but for the Greens it is all and only about animal welfare. Of course, we have huge issues with the horse racing and the greyhound racing industries because of the abject cruelty that underpins the industry. This is despite the fact that we know there are plenty of trainers, owners and riders who absolutely love their animals and treat them with enormous respect and care. But at the heart of this industry, animals are made disposable ultimately. When the minister talks about greyhounds being euthanised, it is not euthanasia because it is not a good death. It is a premature death. Those greyhounds have been killed because they are part of this industry.

There were questions that were not answered this morning by the minister, because she hid behind the secretary of the Department of Primary Industries, Parks, Water and the Environment, Tim Baker. We want to understand what is happening with the DPIPWE investigation; why the minister is not taking personal responsibility for what is happening at the Office of Racing Integrity; and how long the minister and the secretary of DPIPWE have known about the issues staff have been raising about the level of dysfunction there.

We did not get an answer to a question asked this morning by Mr Winter about whether Mr Latham is still either at ORI or Tasracing or in DPIPWE. There is no clarity around that whatsoever, and that is highly unsatisfactory. There needs to be transparency about this. It is a government-funded agency. The people who are working for it are paid for by the taxpayers, their job is to uphold integrity in the industry and we are not seeing integrity being upheld. That drags everyone in the industry down, and it only heightens our concerns about the stewards' capacity and ORIs capacity to uphold animal welfare standards as the community expects them to do.