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Racing Industry - Allegations of Corruption

Cassy O'Connor MP

Cassy O'Connor MP  -  Wednesday, 29 March 2023

Tags: TasRacing, Office of Racing Integrity, Corruption

Ms O'CONNOR (Clark - Leader of the Greens) - Mr Deputy Speaker, I rise again tonight to talk about Tasmania's racing industry, and the corruption in the heart of its integrity body and the Racing minister's failure to ensure a clean industry and high animal welfare standards.

As members know, this morning in parliament we presented some very graphic images that were collected by animal welfare advocates over the past couple of years. I know every member in this place would have seen those images and been saddened and revolted, no matter where you stand on this issue. They painted a too real picture of a grim circle of death within the worst parts of Tasmania's racing industry.

I acknowledge there are plenty of good people in the industry who are just passionate about racing, and they love animals. However, there are a few very bad eggs, and they are being enabled and facilitated by a corrupted Office of Racing Integrity.

The photo that we showed this morning showed ex-pacers who had reached their use by date being led to their death, to be shot and butchered by notorious greyhound trainer, and Ben Yole's mate, Anthony Bullock. The one picture that really sticks with me is of that skinny horse, its ribs showing, wide-eyed with terror. It knew what was coming because horses are sentient beings.

Anthony Bullock, who was revealed this morning as the owner of the Ben Yole horse that won the last race at the now infamous Burnie Cup, was the one who put the $500 bet on in the minutes before his long-odds, non-performing horse, trained by his mate Yole, driven by his mate's drivers, stitched up the win. It was that bet that made Bullock that night a tidy $11 000. It dropped the odds so much that the race caller twice mentioned it during the race. Written In Silk: for anyone who saw the photos this morning, it seems more like Bullock and Yole's relationship is written in blood.

I note the comments made by the Director of Racing on ABC radio yesterday morning in response to that now infamous race at Burnie where he claimed that the stewards did conduct reviews of the races, but were unaware of the betting plunge until the ABC article. The plunge was noted by the race caller during the race, as was pointed out by Mr Winter in his question this morning.

Mr Bullock and Mr Yole have both flooded race fields with so many animals they just cannot lose. They both have around 100 dogs or horses at their properties, which they drag to the track on a regular basis. They have both also received very favourable treatment by the state's racing regulator, the Office of Racing Integrity. We argue that this cowed, corrupted, integrity entity is protecting the likes of Ben Yole and Anthony Bullock because they are too big to take on and too big to fail.

Just like his mate Yole, when Bullock was found not to have a kennel licence last year, ORI refused to stand him down from racing. Just as ORI found that those horses in dusty paddocks up there at Ben Yole's stables at Sidmouth eating their own manure was perfectly acceptable too.

After the last few days, the dark corrupted heart of the racing industry has been exposed. ORI has dismissed - or overlooked, we would argue - allegations of animal cruelty and dodgy practices and worse, and they have potentially silenced whistle-blowers. For anyone who heard Gavin Kelly on the ABC's Leon Compton show yesterday morning, he said:

They wield so much power and they use it. The ORI let you know they have all the power and they use it. It's scary.

ORI, like its minister, has lost public confidence. Whatever your view is of racing, one thing is clear, while massive questions hang over the Office of Racing Integrity, it should not be in charge. Just as Ben Yole should not be racing right now, ORI should not be in charge. Those integrity functions should be contracted out to Victoria. How can anyone be confident that ORI is doing its job overseeing not only harness racing but all three codes?

Right now, most people in the industry and welfare organisations are really worried and they are demanding as much transparency as possible. We need clear air and independent oversight. That extends to any investigation. Whistleblowers need the comfort that this independent investigation will protect them and protect their interests because people are really worried.

We will have some questions again for the minister tomorrow about the review that she set up. I believe Mr Ray Murrihy is a person of high integrity but he did look into Ben Yole's practices in 2018. There is a story here from January 2018 where former Sydney steward Ray Murrihy was 'called in to head an inquiry into betting activities on several Tasmanian harness races last year'. Five years ago, Mr Murrihy was given the job of looking in to Ben Yole's practices. Nothing happened and nothing was changed. That is not on Mr Murrihy. That is on Government - the same Government we have now, a Liberal Government. They have appointed the same person who looked into these practices five years ago and nothing changed. It is not good enough.

In my last few moments I want to say this: we now have an upper House inquiry, which again exposes itself to potential conflicts of interest when you have a former racing minister on the inquiry and a person chairing the inquiry who has deep, long-standing connections to the harness racing industry. The clean participants in the industry and animal welfare advocates and Tasmanian taxpayers deserve so much better than what they are being dished up by this minister and this Government and this parliament at the moment.