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Office of Racing Integrity

Dr Rosalie Woodruff MP

Dr Rosalie Woodruff MP  -  Thursday, 2 September 2021

Tags: Greyhound Racing, Office of Racing Integrity, TasRacing

Dr WOODRUFF (Franklin) - Mr Speaker, one of the learning experiences I have had as a member of parliament over the last six years is that unfortunately nothing seems to change in the Office of Racing Integrity. The voices of people who are deeply distressed and concerned about the animal welfare issues continue to get louder. I thank all those people who have stood by the animal welfare concerns for horses and greyhounds who have been and continue to be so badly treated. Their work is so important. They continue to do everything possible to protect animals who through no agency of their own are cruelly treated.

We heard what the minister said this morning. We heard her speak the words of concern about animal welfare not being properly addressed in the review of the racing act. There is no doubt that is a flagrant and disgraceful absence. However, the review of the racing act will not solve the problems that are evident in ORI. The Office of Racing Integrity has had a succession of people stampeding from the office. It is pretty clear that there is, in the words of one staff member who resigned 'a toxic culture, a place where team morale is very low'. This person saw several staff resign because of the way that they had been treated.

These are serious allegations but unfortunately, they are not new. This has all been known to the Liberals in government for the last seven years. They have consistently chosen not to act to appoint appropriate people to be in positions of leadership. We have an appalling record in ORI. The former Racing Integrity and Stewards manager, Tony Latham, is currently under investigation over allegations that he sought to have a fine against a Tasmanian Cup jockey, Reece Nicholson, dropped after the Tasmanian Cup final.

The person before Mr Latham was Mr John King who stepped aside because of a professional standards investigation from Tasmania Police. It does not give us confidence that the newly appointed General Manager and Director of Racing in ORI was until just a couple of weeks ago the political advisor for two ministers, Mr Jaensch and Mrs Petrusma.

This does not speak of the independence that this industry desperately needs. It does not speak of a person who feels empowered to make the strong statements and to demand the direction that the racing industry in Tasmania clearly has to take to protect the animal welfare of horses and greyhounds and to provide safe working conditions for their staff. Having had 20 people resign since 2018, speaks volumes of a system which is in utter disarray.

It is tragic that these are real horses and real greyhounds that are being damaged because of persistent inaction from this Government to stand up for them. It is the job of this Government to have an Office of Racing Integrity that is totally at arm's length, from not just the influence of government but from the influence of the industry.

If we want to have an industry which is sustainable it has to put animal welfare first, and the staff who work in very hard conditions have to be put first too. We cannot be talking about the jobs that are created and the money - the rivers of money that flow to people who gamble without looking at the real cost behind those jobs and rivers of money.

The Greens stand with unions and we stand with the CPSU and the animal rights welfare groups. We do not condone an industry which functions on the basis of animal cruelty and does not put workers' safety first. We cannot justify that just because of the alleged number of jobs that they produce, and I do question the minister's figures. It ludicrous to imagine that number of jobs come from the industry.

The fact is we should be putting, first and foremost, people and animals first and that means tidying up the Office of Racing Integrity. If the minister is serious, the review of the act is one thing, but fundamentally the real priority here is an independent inquiry into Tasracing and the Office of Racing Integrity, and a commitment and demonstrated actions to provide transparency to everything that ORI does. It is no longer good enough it never has been good enough for ORI to hide behind commercial in confidence and to refuse to provide information that ought to be in the public domain.

We will keep pushing for the animals and for the workers for an independent inquiry into Tasracing and ORI.