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DIXON BOARD CHALLENGED ON CLAIMS THEY AREN’T TO BLAME FOR ‘RQ DISASTER’

BRIAN NOONAN of GOLDEN BEACH on the SUNSHINE COAST has challenged a statement circulated by sacked RQ Chairman KEVIN DIXON on behalf of the former All Codes Board which denies they left the industry in Queensland facing a financial train-wreck. Mr Noonan writes:

‘FIRST of all, what a load of rubbish!

Con Searle should know better than to endorse this letter supposedly explaining the financial predicament confronting Racing Queensland. Con operates a large and successful business and he would know that the statements made in Kevin Dixon's letter are either incorrect or ‘blue sky’.

There are issues raised in the letter that need correction and clarification.

The loan attached to the construction of stables at Caloundra was paid out by the previous Board from existing cash reserves. This still left free cash in excess of $12 million for the incoming Dixon Board.

The finances of Racing Queensland under the control of the ‘Bentley Board’ have been the subject of detailed examination by the White Inquiry, the Auditor General and ASIC and none of these entities found any reason to doubt that Racing Queensland was not in a good financial position.

The audited financial position of Racing Queensland as at 31st March 2012 and prior to Kevin Dixon taking over and implementing the racing plan devised by the LNP has been published on at least three occasions.

Assets in excess of $96 million last valued in 2009

And, Cash on Hand of $13 million

Kevin Dixon attempts to lessen the serious state of finances by claiming that the cause was a delay in the launch of ‘UBET. How a change of name makes a difference is beyond me.

The rivers of gold that were to come from ‘virtual racing,’ a Keno-type wagering product, has never eventuated and proved a ‘Dixon dud’ from day one. Has anybody stopped to calculate the turnover required to be generated after recovering the considerable start-up capital costs and paying the operating partner 50% of profit? Who will play the electronic game and what percentage will be leached from the normal wagering patron? I will not hold my breath for the feasibility figures to be made public, as my best guess there is as usual - none.

The Kevin Dixon levers referred to that are supposed to reverse the downturn on wagering on the Queensland product are not there, so revenue continues to suffer. Eagle Farm remains closed, other tracks are over-raced and in poor condition and the majority of race clubs are on terminal financial life support. Kevin we need more than levers to overcome the mess that is now Racing Queensland.

Loans to race clubs are brushed over as a below the line item with the explanation that these loans will be repaid some magical time in the future. The loans made should be correctly reported as there is no way any race club is in a position or likely to be in position to repay even the interest, let alone interest and principal. The race clubs were stretched financially before the loans were made and considering the clubs have sold their media rights for a cash injection up front on the contracts in 2011 leaves little free cash currently. I will bet Con Searle has never made a loan that he knew would be impaired before the cash changed hands.

The idea that the clubs can pay back the loans is nonsense. The loans are impaired and are not below the line. No doubt the Administrator and the Auditor General would agree and have reported the financial position correctly.

Reference to the cost of Commissions of Inquiry is a tactical blunder. The White Inquiry was forced on the industry at the specific and unrelenting urging of Kevin Dixon and his supporters. The former LNP Government, reportedly acting on Dixon's representations, gave the industry the Inquiry and Kevin the bill. 

Dixon’s explanatory letter is yet another attempt to rewrite history to suit the political situation. All the spin will not alter the facts.’

 

'SHOW CAUSE' NOTICES MORE PROCEDURAL THAN A FAIT ACCOMPLI

INFORMATION provided by, or regarding, former Flemington Equine Clinic vet Adam Matthews will be in play when five trainers face stewards at a show cause hearing on Wednesday.

MATTHEW STEWART reports in the HERALD SUN that Matthews has been regarded as a key witness in the ­cobalt saga that could result in career-ending disqualifications for Peter Moody, Mark Kavanagh, Danny O’Brien and Lee and Shannon Hope.

Stewards said on Monday it was “not necessarily the case’’ that the trainers would be stood down as a result of the hearing at Racing Victoria headquarters into why they should keep their licences, even though their cobalt charges won’t be heard for months.

Racing Victoria chief steward Terry Bailey added the show cause hearing would not be open to the media “at this stage’’, saying such action might compromise their cases at the Racing Appeals And Disciplinary Board.

Bailey explained show cause notices with the potential to stand down charged persons before their hearing was a new rule, “that came out of the Damien Oliver (betting case) where there was criticism he had not been stood down’’.

Before any decisions on the trainers’ fate, Kavanagh’s son Levi has applied for a trainer’s licence. Bailey wouldn’t speculate on the reasons behind the move, and said the application would proceed via the normal channels.

RVL integrity head Dayle Brown said in June the trainers would not be stood down or given show cause notices. But Brown said on Monday more evidence had been gathered since he made that statement.

The Australian Trainers’ Association said on Monday it opposed the potential for the trainers to be stood down “given the huge disruption to the trainers, their horses, staff and owners’’ and it was not clear what had changed since Brown’s comments in June.

Brown said analytical tests had continued and expert evidence had also arisen. He added that the recent statement of Flemington Equine head vet Tom Brennan, where Brennan altered previous statements to stewards, would be “discussed’’ on Wednesday.

Brennan was stable vet for Kavanagh and O’Brien when horses they trained returned ­illegal cobalt levels last spring.

Both stables have since parted with Brennan and Flemington Equine. There is no link between Moody and the Hopes and Brennan.

Last week Brennan told stewards he had received $3000 from both Kavanagh and O’Brien for “vitamin complex’’ that Brennan said neither he nor the trainers knew contained cobalt.

Kavanagh has denied ­making any such payment.

NSW stewards interviewed Brennan’s former colleague Matthews last week. RVL stewards, who had interviewed Matthews six weeks earlier, were present.

Neither NSW nor RVL stewards have revealed the ­information provided by Matthews, who had previously ­refused to answer stewards’ questions, citing illness.

It was alleged during the ongoing Sam Kavanagh hearing in NSW into positive tests to cobalt and caffeine in Kavanagh’s horses that Matthews had provided drenches to trainers in return for payment in his TAB betting account.

Bailey said on Monday Matthews “was still a person of great interest to us’’ and information “regarding’’ him was of interest to the cobalt cases.

Asked again to clarify what had changed since Brown’s comments in June, Bailey said: “Well, the spring carnival is upon us, for one.

“And it’s a key part of our role to protect the integrity of the sport. This is clearly a matter of great public interest.’’

 

COBALT - THE DRUG SCANDAL THAT THE RACING INDUSTRY HAD TO HAVE

LAST Friday, the Victorian racing community was stunned when stewards issued show-cause notices to the five Victorian trainers facing cobalt charges.

PATRICK BARTLEY reports in THE AGE that the notices, to be heard on Wednesday, require these five trainers to demonstrate why they should be allowed to continue training until their cases are heard by the Racing Appeals and Disciplinary Board.

While there has been an immediate outcry that the trainers could be stood down before their charges have been heard, it would not be the first time this has happened.

In NSW and Western Australia, trainers Darren Smith, Sharron Taylor and Sam Kavanagh were immediately stood down from training after their horses returned cobalt positives. Subsequently, Taylor was disqualified for two years, Darren Smith for 15 years, with his appeal dismissed just last week, and Sam Kavanagh's inquiry resumes on Monday.

But in a variation on Paul Keating's famous line about the recession Australia had to have, this is the drug scandal Australian racing had to have.

The industry is clearly in crisis and the cobalt saga has exposed endemic cheating across the country.There are cobalt positive swabs across every Australian state involving all three racing codes: thoroughbreds, standardbreds and greyhounds.

The number of trainers involved is now approaching 30 but even more damning is the recent revelation about the involvement of veterinarians and senior racing officials.

As sad as it is to see such a scourge on the industry, this has presented a real opportunity to make changes and clean up the industry. A former senior police investigator, who previously worked to stamp out corruption, told Fairfax Media: "The only way to clean up corruption was to fully expose the underbelly."

A few in the press ranks and some racing officials have publicly questioned the show-cause notices, arguing that they were issued to prevent the hearings from colliding with Melbourne's spring racing carnival. They should not undermine Racing Victoria's integrity department with such frivolous suggestions, as the show-cause notices relate to the image and integrity of racing.

Cobalt is a necessary trace element but if present in excess is a banned drug. At high levels, it is a poison that can cause death from heart failure. The science of cobalt is also clear – Australia's 200 micrograms per litre threshold cannot be exceeded unless the rules are breached. Oral supplements are poorly absorbed and not a factor. Normal intravenous supplements produce high readings for only a couple of hours.

This means the only way a horse gets over the threshold is if the animal has been treated on race day or given a massive cobalt dose before race day. Whichever way you look at it, this is cheating with a banned drug.

Let us not forget that the levels involved here range from 290 mcg/L to 670 mcg/L, massive elevations over Australia's threshold of 200, which is twice the international threshold.

 All five trainers face the charge of presentation – that is, bringing a horse to the races with a prohibited substance in it.

Peter Moody has publicly said he would accept the presentation charge as it is almost indefensible. Many believe if the presentation charges are included in the show-cause proceedings, allowing the trainers with a confirmed cobalt positive to keep training is prejudicial to racing's already tarnished image.

The former police investigator also said that for integrity officers to clean up endemic corruption, they needed full support from officials and government. It is telling that in the current cobalt investigation there has been widespread co-operation and sharing of intelligence between Racing NSW and Racing Victoria integrity stewards. Victorian Racing Minister Martin Pakula has been kept informed of RV's investigation as has racing's integrity commissioner Sal Perno, and both are believed to be happy with the progress of RV's integrity department headed by Terry Bailey.

Fairfax Media spoke to RV chairman David Moodie, who expressed full support and confidence in the department.

Perhaps Melbourne Racing Club chairman Mike Symons could follow Moodie's lead. Symons was quoted on Saturday as saying he was stunned by the stewards' show-cause notices. "How can the stewards shut up shop and not explain why they have delivered these notices?" he said.

MRC is the second biggest racing club in Victoria, a position of power that should not be used to influence integrity matters. Symons, like Moodie, needs to demonstrate full support for RV, Bailey and his team as they are doing their best to expose and clean up the cobalt mess.

If anyone really wants to understand what has been happening with cobalt in racing then they need to follow the NSW inquiry involving Sam Kavanagh.

Kavanagh, a young man hoping to salvage a training career at some time in the future, made many frank and honest admissions about illegal practices in his stable. Without those admissions the bi-state investigation would not be where it is today.

However, the admissions were sufficiently damning that NSW stewards hit Kavanagh with another 16 charges. 

Kavanagh's evidence has clearly rattled some Victorian trainers, with Damien Sheales, lawyer for Sam's father, Mark Kavanagh, and Danny O'Brien, labelling Sam Kavanagh "an admitted liar".

As we approach Wednesday's show-cause hearing, with others possibly changing evidence already given to stewards, there may well be more than one admitted liar in the cobalt affair.


 

STEWARDS ISSUE 'SHOW CAUSE' TO FIVE TRAINERS IN COBALT SCANDAL

THE racing industry has been rocked with Racing Victoria's stewards issuing "show cause notices" to all five trainers involved in the cobalt scandal that is decimating Australian racing.

PATRICK BARTLEY reports for FAIRFAX MEDIA that the notices that were decided upon by stewards and legal counsel for Racing Victoria will require all five trainers - Peter Moody, Danny O'Brien, Mark Kavanagh, Lee and Shannon Hope - to show cause why they should not be immediately stood down from training pending their cobalt investigations.

The show cause notices have been issued in part because of new evidence this week provided to Racing Victoria stewards from veterinarian Tim Brennan. On Monday of this week Brennan recanted old evidence and said he had sold "vitamin bottles" to Mark Kavanagh and Danny O'Brien.

Dr Brennan, has told Racing Victoria investigators that two Flemington horse trainers paid him $3000 each to purchase vitamins, which were later shown to contain the banned substance cobalt.

However, the notices have been issued against all of the trainers because of the potential perception that the interests of racing might be being harmed by them continuing to train, especially during the lead-up to the spring carnival.

Many in the industry are applauding this move by stewards as, earlier this week, Lee and Shannon Hope's RAD Board hearing was scheduled to conflict with Melbourne's spring racing carnival - beginning just the day before the Caulfield Cup.

This conflict prompted leading industry people to call for the cobalt hearings to be delayed to avoid taking the limelight away from the carnival.

However many believe that the industry's reputation is almost irretrievably tarnished because of cobalt and any further delay would be disastrous.

With the issuing of the show cause notices finally the industry will be trying to bring these damaging cases to a head.

This is not the first time trainers have been stood down in Australia's long running cobalt crises. In Western Australia and New South Wales trainers Sharon Taylor, Sam Kavanagh and Darren Smith were all immediately stood down after cobalt positives because their continued training was thought to be prejudicial to the image of racing.

This week Dr Brennan, embroiled in cobalt positives in two states and facing multiple charges in Victoria and New South Wales, will voluntarily stand down from practising as a racehorse veterinarian from 1 August until his charges are heard.

Should the trainers stand down after the issuing of show cause notices would have a massive impact on the racing industry. All five trainers would command nearly a thousand horses to be relocated if the show cause findings are upheld.

Moody commands 120 horses in his stable at Caulfield of a morning has over 300 horses on his books all year round.

All five stables are in the top 20 in Australia and it would mean the relocation of hundreds of horses with owners now having to select new stables for race horses that are being primed for the Caulfield and Melbourne Cup carnivals.

Some would say this relocation now is better because it takes away the uncertainty if these trainers face disqualification in the middle of the upcoming spring carnival.

 

TOP TRAINERS COULD BE STOOD DOWN AFTER DAMNING VET EVIDENCE 

HIGH-PROFILE trainers Mark Kavanagh and Danny O'Brien could be stood down and their licences revoked after veterinary surgeon Tom Brennan revealed this week he sold vitamins to the pair that later were found to contain cobalt.

PATRICK BARTLEY reports in THE AGE that as the cobalt crisis continued to rock the Australian racing industry, internal and external pressure is now being exerted on investigators to stand down those involved after Wednesday's revelations.   

O'Brien and Kavanagh, along with fellow trainers Lee and Shannon Hope, are facing possible three-year bans after Racing Victoria stewards charged them earlier this year on 29 counts relating to the administration of the banned substance cobalt.

Racing Victoria chief steward Terry Bailey said he would not comment on the rule until he and his panel had gone through the vast amount of evidence the investigation had gathered.
Under Victorian and Australian racing rules there is provision for stewards, under certain circumstances, to stand down a licensed person prior to their hearing.

Currently Mark Kavanagh's son, Sam has been stood down by NSW stewards before his  hearing relating to the alleged use of cobalt.

Brennan told Racing Victoria investigators the two Flemington trainers paid him $3000 each to purchase vitamins, which were later shown to contain the banned substance cobalt. Fairfax Media understands the bottles were on-sold for $1000 each. They can usually be purchased for just $15. 

Brennan also admitted he disposed of an exercise book used by the Flemington Equine Clinic to record postage, including "Express post that recorded detail of the two bottles being posted to Sam Kavanagh."
The vet denied knowingly administering cobalt and said he asked who the veterinarian was who supplied the substances, and was assured that they did not contain any prohibited substances, including cobalt.

Brennan has agreed to stand down from providing veterinary services to racehorses in Victoria, effective August 1, pending the hearing and determination of the charges against him.

He admitted he had failed to provide full and frank evidence during the Racing NSW stewards inquiries into elevated cobalt concentrates.

Brennan's claims could well affect the NSW case involving Sam Kavanagh.

However, Kavanagh denied the accusation and O'Brien disputes aspects of the evidence with regards to the payment.

O'Brien (16 counts), Kavanagh (four) and the Hopes (nine) were charged with breaching the rules of racing after eight horses in their stables returned illegally high cobalt readings.

Brennan was earlier this year charged with administering cobalt and that he supplied or caused to supply to O'Brien and Kavanagh a substance containing a high level of cobalt.

The bulk of the charges relate to cobalt levels in excess of the maximum permissible national threshold of 200 micrograms per litre of urine.

In releasing the charges in June, Racing Victoria for the first time detailed the levels of cobalt found. They were: O'Brien – Bondeiger (370mcg/L), Caravan Rolls On (380), De Little Engine (580), Bullpit (320); Mark Kavanagh – Magicool (640); Lee and Shannon Hope - Windy Citi Bear (300), Best Suggestion (550) and Choose (440).

And last week, premiership-winning trainer Peter Moody was charged with presentation and administration of cobalt to international star Lidari when the horse finished second in the group 1 Turnbull Stakes at Flemington on the eve of the 2014 spring carnival. RVL investigators said they would not be commenting on the matter as it was an ongoing investigation.

 

NEW QLD RACING MINISTER 'A FURLONG IN FRONT' OF HIS PREDECESSOR

GLEN COOPER of BRISBANE sent this contribution to the Wednesday Whinge:

‘THOSE who criticized new Racing Minister Bill Byrne for his lack of public presence early days will be wishing he had remained invisible.

In a performance reminiscent of the days in Parliament of Russ Hinze and Bob Gibbs, Byrne put his predecessor Steve Dickson to the sword last week.

The pathetic performance by Dickson, trying to pump up the tyres of the racing achievements of the LNP Goveernment, was downright embarrassing.

And Byrne didn’t even need to remind poor Steve that he was the Minister who claimed that racing in Queensland would wind up ‘a furlong in front of the southern states’ under his watch.

As Minister Byrne told the House:

‘If the member is suggesting that the legacy of the LNP and the racing industry in Queensland is something he wants to be proud of, he must be certifiable.

‘I do not know what evidence he wants to put on the table to demonstrate the absolute destruction of the racing industry’s prospect enlivened by the LNP. This is his legacy — $28 million in the hole. That is the legacy of the LNP.’

Unfortunately the new Government and a new Racing Minister now have to clean up after the excesses of the likes of Kevin Dixon, Tim Nicholls and Steve Dickson aided and abetted by their advisors in the industry – the bosses at Kilcoy and Toowoomba to name but two.

Their legacy, as Peter Cameron so rightly predicted in The Sunday Mail will see club closures, fewer meetings, lower prizemoney, less incentives and carnival cuts (hope that bloke Exelby is taking note of what a ‘well informed’ turf scribe is writing, he might learn something).

So where do they start in trying to rid the RQ balance sheet of a sea of red ink. As Cameron said by lopping some of that farcical $2 million in prizemoney from the Stradbroke back to half; by relieving Gerry Harvey of much of his handout for the big MM Day from the pockets of the industry in Queensland; by taking the sword to the breeders’ social security scheme, QTIS and most of all, by having a new, hard look at just how beneficial this supposedly you beaut new TAB deal is through the eyes of those who didn’t want it to start with.

And there’s merit as well in selling either Deagon or Albion Park. Those funds would certainly go a long way to putting racing in Queensland back in the black.

But back to where I started and those (or the clubs) who benefitted the most from the Dixon era should come out from beneath that giant rock they have been hiding under and face the realities of life in Queensland racing going forward courtesy of their great mate, ‘Little King Kev’.’

OWNERS BOSS CALLS ON RQ TO SELL DEAGON TO OFFSET HUGE DEBT

THE Queensland Racehorse Owners’ Association has called on Racing Queensland to sell its Deagon headquarters in a bid to cover a projected $28 million loss this financial year.

QUEENSLAND’S leading racing writer, BRAD DAVIDSON, reports in THE COURIER-MAIL that the call comes as genuine fears remain that prizemoney levels could be slashed across the state when RQ introduces cost-cutting measures from January 1 in a bid to cut the big deficit.

RQ interim Chief Executive Ian Hall refused to say whether prizemoney levels would be targeted next year but 61.5 per cent of RQ’s expenditure last financial year was prizemoney.

But QROA Chief Administration Officer Kerrina King feels there is another solution to solve RQ’s debt.

“The industry has at its disposal assets worth a lot of money and Deagon is one of those and in the opinion of many of us it’s a non-productive asset that could realize a very large amount of money,” King said.

“Deagon is an up-and-coming suburb.”

The Deagon property covers about 35ha and a Brisbane commercial agent, who did not want to be named, estimated it would be worth about $35 million.

King feels the time is right for RQ to pack up and move for the good of the industry.

“As we move forward with the redevelopment at Eagle Farm that would be the perfect opportunity for the Brisbane Racing Club to recoup some money by selling or renting some land to RQ to build their headquarters there,” she said.

The BRC plans to build eight residential towers and a lifestyle precinct around the racecourse at Eagle Farm and BRC Chairman Neville Bell said accommodating RQ in the project was a possibility.

 

NEW MINISTER SUGGESTS IF 'FURLONG IN FRONT STEVE' IS PROUD OF RACING QUEENSLAND UNDER HIS WATCH 'HE MUST BE CERTIFIABLE'

STEVE ‘furlong in front’ DICKSON, the former Racing Minister that most in the industry regarded an embarrassment, finished a ‘furlong behind’ when he tried to divert blame for the financial crisis facing racing in Queensland away from the LNP Government and the Kevin Dixon Board.

In a fiery response to a pathetic attempt by Mr Dickson to alibi the financial demise of Queensland racing under his watch, new Labor Racing Minister Bill Byrne, told Parliament:

‘If the member is suggesting that the legacy of the LNP and the racing industry in Queensland is something he wants to be proud of, he must be certifiable.

‘I do not know what evidence he wants to put on the table to demonstrate the absolute destruction of the racing industry’s prospect enlivened by the LNP. This is his legacy — $28 million in the hole. That is the legacy of the LNP.’

Mr Byrne, who has been accused of making few industry appearances since becoming Racing Minister, made the most of this opportunity and transformed the Parliamentary debate into a very one-sided affair.

His speech, in part, read:

‘What we saw just then from the Member for Buderim is a complete denial of his direct involvement as the Minister for Racing over the last three years which led to where the racing industry has come to rest today.

‘It is as though it never happened. It is like the three wise monkeys over there in one person — see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil. The Queensland Audit Office is wrong according to him. KPMG is wrong according to him.

‘He comes in here and tables a statement put out by the dismissed (Kevin Dixon) board as though that is proof positive. The proof positive is what was put to the people of Queensland this afternoon, and that sheets home to the Member for Buderim. He stands up in this House and starts talking about this Valhalla that the LNP created for racing. What did he really create for racing?

‘He had three years of deficits, no control and no oversight of the spend. He clearly had noidea whatsoever. The ex-Minister is sitting there as Pontius Pilate. He had absolutely no idea whatsoever about what was going on in the racing industry.

‘I came into the racing portfolio, and two minutes after I was sworn in we had the Four Corners program. It is not as though I oversaw what happened that led to the Four Corners program, is it? I was two minutes in the job.

‘That is a legacy from the LNP. We got into this and we had a look at where we sit with this industry. So we had three years with this LNP Minister and this great effort of salvaging the racing industry, but what did he do? He spent millions of dollars of taxpayers’ money.

‘We had a politically motivated inquiry that resulted in no prosecutions, no cases to answer, zero, zip. There were recommendations from that inquiry — from the LNP inquiry, from that waste of taxpayers’ money — but the then Minister did not do anything about the ones which actually pointed to the problems and talked about integrity in governance. The LNP did not even provide a response to the recommendations of that inquiry, nothing whatsoever. The Minister was sitting there, completely and utterly ignorant of what was going on in the industry. The industry ran for at least three years in deficit going backwards. In the meantime, the Minister was sitting there, responsible and accountable to the people of Queensland.

‘We have atrocities occurring in the greyhound industry. The industry is going backwards financially like there is no tomorrow — to the point whereby at the end of this financial year we will be $28 million in the hole due to his stewardship. That is exactly where it comes from.

‘This Opposition comes in here with members talking about the brilliant contribution they made to the racing industry. They came in and had a witch-hunt, put their own troops into it and let them run loose with no supervision, no oversight, no sense of responsibility whatsoever. That is what the member for Buderim oversaw.

‘There is a reason why he is down the back and not up here in the shadow ministry and I think it is self-evident to everybody in this House. If the member is suggesting that the legacy of the LNP and the racing industry in Queensland is something he wants to be proud of, he must be certifiable. I do not know what evidence he wants to put on the table to demonstrate the absolute destruction of the racing industry’s prospect enlivened by theLNP. This is his legacy — $28 million in the hole. That is the legacy of the LNP. It is the same way the LNP ran the Queensland economy.’

 

MINISTER ORDERS ACTION TO STEM FINANCIAL LOSSES AT RQ 

ACTION must be taken to stem mounting and unsustainable financial losses at Racing Queensland, Minister for Sport and Racing Bill Byrne said today.

Minister Byrne and Racing Queensland’s Acting CEO Ian Hall today released details of the scale of the task facing the industry and declared there would be broad consultation on Racing Queensland’s plan to secure a sustainable future.

In figures released today, Racing Queensland posted a $12 million loss in 2014-15 and was forecasting a deficit of $28 million in 2015-16.

Minister Byrne said it was clearly time to act.

“There are some tough realities to face and some tough decisions to be made,” Minister Byrne said.

“We all want to see racing thrive and grow in this state, but Racing Queensland can’t do that if it goes on haemorrhaging funds.

“The problem is stark – revenue assumptions from the past were wrong. The finances of Racing Queensland had a foundation built on rivers of gold that didn’t exist.

“Finding solutions will take time and it will require robust and realistic discussions – it will be difficult but it has to be done. We will also be consulting with staff from Racing Queensland, the Office of Racing, as well as union representatives.”

“Our focus now is on the future and what can be achieved if all stakeholders work together. There is no other choice. Laying the facts on the table is the first step.

“If we commit to this process we can ensure a sustainable future for Racing Queensland and help return public confidence to what has always been a proud, vibrant and economically important industry for Queensland.”

Racing Queensland Acting CEO, Ian Hall said that consultation would soon begin with industry.

“This is untenable for the viability of Racing Queensland and the Queensland racing industry as a whole,” Mr Hall said.

“We have no intention of facing further losses. All participants have a role and a responsibility to work towards returning Racing Queensland to profit and industry so we can continue to invest and grow the industry.

“Since the end of the financial year, we’ve worked hard to make efficiencies. We have found savings of $6 million, but that is clearly not enough.

“Over the past five years, revenue has increased by only 20%, while direct operating expenditure has increased by 32%.

“It is important that all stakeholders are fully aware of the financial position of Racing Queensland and the key issues that need to be addressed.

“We’ll be seeking input from the racing industry regarding making immediate savings to ensure we get racing back on a sustainable footing for the long term.

“To do this, we’ll be undertaking extensive consultation over the next two months to make sure the views of all stakeholders are heard – and that includes clubs, trainers, jockeys, drivers, owners and breeders.

 

“There will also be opportunities for individuals to have their say.”

 

RACING MINISTER OUTLINES WOEFUL RQ FINANCIAL STATE

RACING MINISTER Bill Byrne has revealed to Parliament today how the financial situation at Racing Queensland is far worse than first thought – losses in the current financial year are now forecast at a staggering $28 million.

Mr Byrne, announcing that urgent steps now needed to be taken to address the plight left in the wake of the Kevin Dixon Board, told the House:

“Revenue assumptions were simply wrong while expenditure grew unsustainably.

“In short, there were unrealistic expectations for revenue growth from wagering that didn’t materialise along with generous and growing allocations of prizemoney as well as subsidies across the industry.

“The decisions by management to run down the cash reserves at Racing Queensland has just made the situation worse and worse.”

As he prepared to outline ‘a path for the future’ to end the train wreck that now confronts RQ in the wake of the Dixon era, the Racing Minister made the following statement to Parliament:

MR Speaker, later today the Interim CEO of Racing Queensland and I will be releasing details of industry wide consultation on the financial stability of the racing industry.

On 1 June the Government was presented with the MacSporran Commission of Inquiry into the greyhound industry. As a consequence of that report Government took the decision to appoint Mr Ian Hall of KPMG to act as the interim CEO.

In doing so I have become aware of the troubling situation inside of Racing Queensland. The Premier has previously announced expected losses for 2014/15 of $11 million and losses for 2015/16 of $21 million.

Later today Mr Hall and I will be outlining in detail the current extent of the expected losses at Racing Queensland.

Mr Speaker, it is a fact that in the weeks since those interim assessments the situation at Racing Queensland has been properly revealed and it is far worse than we thought.

Despite in-house efficiencies of approximately $6 million already being made for 2015/16 the expected losses for this financial year at RQ are now forecast to be $28 million.

This is most troubling Mr Speaker and action needs to be taken to keep racing on a stable, sustainable and supported path for the future.

Later today Mr Hall and I will be releasing the details of the Racing Queensland financial situation. From today we will commence a full consultation plan that includes all racing codes, including trainers, jockeys, drivers, owners, breeders, clubs, key animal welfare groups, other racing stakeholders and unions.

Mr Speaker, if we want to see racing on a sustainable footing we need to bring industry with us.

That is the path I will outline today.

Let me be clear, Mr Speaker, now is the time to act.

Revenue assumptions were simply wrong while expenditure grew unsustainably.

In short, there were unrealistic expectations for revenue growth from waging that didn’t materialise along with generous and growing allocations of prizemoney as well as subsidies across industry.

The decisions by management to run down the cash reserves at Racing Queensland has just made the situation worse and worse.

Added to that have been concerning cultural and less than best practice management systems internal to Racing Queensland.

To highlight these challenges I can advise the House that since the MacSporran Commission there have been four cases referred to the CCC involving Racing Queensland. These are separate to the 68 charges laid against 25 people in relation to a number of offences including serious animal cruelty.

I will be outlining these charges in more detail during a press conference later today.

Additionally, we have uncovered an unhealthy level of poorly or undocumented agreements and commitments to further funding increases by Racing Queensland.

These combined factors have led to a perfect storm of financial unsustainability.

The reality is simply this – Racing Queensland has been operating at a loss and government and industry need to make some tough decisions. There will be robust and realistic discussions to achieve this.

I didn’t create this problem Mr Speaker, the Government inherited it from those opposite.

In fact, the former LNP Government commissioned their own $3 million enquiry into the racing industry in 2013 which identified a number of issues including the need to look at the integrity functions of racing. And what was done by the LNP at the time?

Not a thing. But it’s now my job and the job of Racing Queensland to join with industry to fix it.

This will be difficult, but it has to be done.

That is why, Mr Speaker, I’m asking industry later today to work with us so that together we can ensure a sustainable future for Racing Queensland and help return public confidence to what has always been a proud, vibrant and economically important industry in this state.

I’ll be holding a press conference later today to fully detail these matters.”


'FALLOUT WILL REVEAL SHAMEFUL ROLE LNP GOVERNMENT PLAYED AT RQ'

RACING MINISTER Bill Byrne has told the Queensland Parliament that when fallout from the Racing Queensland debacle is made public there will be plenty in the LNP Government hanging their heads in shame.

“When that becomes public, which will be very, very shortly, there are many across the chamber who are going to be hanging their head in shame because guess what? It is all their legacy. It is all the legacy of those across the chamber,” Mr Byrne said.

Shadow Racing Minister Jann Stuckey, opened a can of worms when she put a question without notice to the Minister for Sport and Racing:

“I refer to the Minister’s comments in a Steve Austin (ABC) interview on 12 June in which he said, ‘It would be entirely inappropriate to be sitting down and talking to individual members who are subject to the commission of inquiry.’

‘I refer to the minister’s published diary which reveals that he met three times with former Deputy Chairman of Racing Queensland Barry Taylor during the period investigated by the commission of inquiry, and I ask: why did the minister meet with Barry Taylor, given his statement that such meetings were inappropriate?’

Barry Taylor, along with Harness Racing Chairman Brad Steele, controversially resigned from the Kevin Dixon All Codes Board citing lack of consultation, especially on the new TAB deal. Their story has never really been told in full but is said to be very damning in light of the current financial plight that RQ is facing has emerged since the Kevin Dixon Board was show the door.

Racing Minister Byrne’s reply in part, taken from the Parliamentary Hansard – but yet to be published in the mainstream racing media, reads:

“A lot is going to be revealed in the very near future about exactly what role people opposite have played in putting the racing industry into the situation it is in today.

“I find it bizarre that the member would even want to have a conversation about racing. The issues associated with racing and the issues that are on the table now are extremely important.

“Very shortly everyone in this chamber and the rest of Queensland will see exactly what position the previous Government created for Racing Queensland. This is not a trivial matter. I have been deliberately judicious in the way in which we have gone about moving forward. From day one we looked at a systems review. From day one we looked at the technical and procedural issues that led to the atrocities we saw in the greyhound industry. Since that time what have we revealed?

“If there is one good thing that has come out of this greyhound debacle it is the fact that now we have seen exactly what is going on inside Racing Queensland.”

Mr Byrne welcomed the question from Mrs Stuckey with this comment: “I have to say that it is good news all round. The drought has been broken. This is the first question I have had from the opposition since we formed government. Hallelujah, brothers and sisters!

“Finally, there is a matter that is worthy enough for them to ask me a question about. I am absolutely thrilled. This is the best day. I get my first question from the opposition about the issue of racing and probity. I will get back to the serious part before I really unleash.

The fact is the person that the member mentioned was not part of that deliberation. There were no approaches. He was not asked to give evidence. He has previously been a board member. It is interesting to note that this entire process — all of these demands that have been made — on the very first day I was sworn in as the racing minister, what did we find? That even made it to Four Corners.

“Everything I have been dealing with and everything that this government has been dealing with since that point is a legacy that sheets home blame straight to those opposite. I have been very deliberate in not sheeting it home where it belongs.

“In relation to the meetings I have had, I have never had a meeting during the inquiry with any sitting member of any board apart from the initial meetings when we determined the scope of the inquiry and who was likely to fund that inquiry. I am very proud of everything we have done to this point.”

 

MCCLYMONTS TO STAR IN COUNTRY MUSIC RACEDAY AT DOOMBEN TO HELP DROUGHT VICTIMS

AS the Queensland drought spreads to a record 80 per cent of the state, Doomben Racecourse is set to host Brisbane’s inaugural Country Music Raceday in a bid to lend a helping hand to Aussies in need.

The Country Music Raceday, run by the Brisbane Racing Club in partnership with charity Buy a Bale, will bring the best of the bush to the track on Saturday 12 September.

Country music stars The McClymonts (pictured right) will headline the event which features a full thoroughbred racing program by day and a stellar country music line-up into the evening.

Brisbane Racing Club CEO Dave Whimpey says the club was hoping to raise over $50,000 for charity Buy a Bale through support from corporate partners and the club’s commitment to donate ten dollars from every ticket sold to the event.

“This is a fantastic new event for Brisbane that will provide the people of our city with a unique experience unlike anything else in Brisbane”, Mr Whimpey said.

“There’s no other event in Brisbane that offers a line-up of multiple country acts so close to the CBD.”

The entertainment won’t just be about the horses and artists with Buy a Bale CEO, Charles Alder confirming that event goers will be given a taste of all things country while shining the spotlight on the real Aussie battlers out west.

“Aussie farmers are the backbone of our country and it’s great to have an event where people in the city can celebrate the importance of rural communities,” Mr Alder said.

“Buy a Bale delivers resources and support to those drought-stricken communities and has become synonymous with the Aussie outback.

“It’s great to be able to partner with the Brisbane Racing Club to bring awareness to the cause and raise money for these communities in need.”

Entertainment runs all day with a country-style fashions on the field competition, line dancing, mechanical bull riding and a petting zoo for the kids.

The event is expected to attract punters from all over Queensland with camping packages available to allow racegoers to camp out at Doomben Racecourse.

Tickets are $30 each or $50 for two and are available via the Brisbane Racing Club website.

For more information head to brc.com.au/country

 

VIRTUAL RACING’ DECISION JUST ANOTHER EXAMPLE OF LNP AND RQ INCOMPETENCE?

DAN GOLSCHEWSKY of BRISBANE sent this email to the WEDNESDAY WHINGE:

‘THE recent announcement of the compensation to TATTs due to the Government not being in a position to provide TATTS with a license for Virtual Racing, is another sign of the incompetence of the LNP and the All Codes Board of Racing Queensland.

The LNP, well before the election which saw them swept to power, established an advisory committee to “write” the new racing policy. This committee was selected by the LNP and as I understand, was made of industry participants, including a former Brisbane Turf Club committeeman.

Now this group, were well aware that shortly post that election, a new TATTS deal was to be negotiated, which was to include an additional revenue stream from Virtual Racing, now reported to have been worth several millions of dollars annually to the industry.

However they quietly sat by and allowed the LNP to offer a license for Virtual Racing to the TATTS competitor Tabcorp, which has now robbed the industry of valuable ongoing and a potentially growing income.

The lame arguments I have read on certain racing forums makes you wonder if those subscribers have a logical brain.

For example, from a blogger (From Racehorsetalk):

The Tatts intention is / was to add a dissimilar product named Virtual Racing to its TAB or UBet suite of products....dissimilar in so as not to be challenged over copywrite / ownership  by TABCORP. Maybe the cartoons show camels ridden by monkeys and no running rail or grandstand backgrounds. The same principle was used with the introduction of flexibetting in Qld where the flexbet is determined by a different algorithm. It is all about legal semantics. So as long as the product is not identical, with the stroke of a pen the Government can approve another bet type into the UBet catalogue, under its own license. This is what the LNP intended to do, but held an election instead. Clearly the new ALP Government had/ has no intention of accepting policy and unfulfilled strategies of its predecessor”.

This argument defies total logic, and Tabcorp were well within their rights to demand exclusivity to Virtual Racing or Keno Racing, whatever name you wish to put to the product. The point in relation to Flexibetting is nebulous, as Tabcorp did not hold a retail license is Queensland and as such a matter of exclusivity was not a related argument in that matter.

If I take this blogger’s example above as correct then I assume it will be OK for me to register a business name of Harvee Normen and commence retailing furniture, computers and all other appliances sold under the real Harvey Norman Banner.

Yeah right! I would be closed down in no time by the authorities.

This argument and loss of income is not about legal semantics (as argued by this blogger) …it’s about badly thought out decisions without due consideration for the consequences and the racing industry’s future income.

Shame on the LNP and their Racing advisors!’

 

RQ IN FINANCIAL DISARRAY AND SET TO CUT BENEFITS TO JOCKEYS 

RACING Queensland is in disarray financially and is set to cut benefits to the jockeys, whose representatives will meet with the sunshine state governing body on Tuesday.

CHRIS ROOTS reports in the SYDNEY MORNING HERALD that the Australian Jockeys' Association chief executive Paul Innes confirmed KPMG's Ian Hall had called the meeting. It will take place in an environment where rumours of prizemoney cuts and riding fee decreases are rife.

"We are not going to hand back any benefits that we have fought for over a long period of time," Innes said. "We are going to listen to what they have to say but we don't want to give up anything, in particular anything to do with safety."

It is understood that the apprentice training program has been earmarked for cuts, even though it was one of the areas to get positive feedback in the MacSporran report into greyhound racing and Racing Queensland.   

Racing Queensland is said to have a $20 million blackhole in its budget and KPMG runs the body after the government dismissed chief executive Darren Condon following the greyhound live-baiting scandal.

It also sacked integrity officer Wade Birch this week after both he and Condon were given show cause notices.

While both were expecting to be removed the process has been clumsy with one of the removed executives learning in the press, because of leaks from the government. There is still no clarity on their final payouts and it is likely to end in court.   

There is no board at Racing Queensland, leaving the intellectual property within the organisation at an all-time low. KPMG is reportedly being paid $20,000 a week to run the racing body with little industry knowledge.

It is believed wagering and television contracts are close to being breached after cuts that have been made to the racing program.

 

NEW GOALS FOR LETSGOHORSERACING WEBSITE

THE aim of LETSGOHORSERACING when first established was a non-profit website designed to be different to the hundreds of other racing websites operating throughout the world. Nothing has changed on that front except that our emphasis has been on feedback. We listened to what you wanted and learned that racing stakeholders, punters and followers were keen to HAVE THEIR SAY. This was reflected in the response to the WEDNESDAY WHINGE which has seen the popularity of this web site (through hits) soar to incredible heights. It has also drawn detractors from within the industry - especially in Queensland - from officials who aren't used to having the job they do put under the microscope which has rarely happened for many years in the mainstream racing media. Websites like ours and justracing have got up the nose of officials at RQ and will continue to do so. Despite legal intimidation which we are told is aimed at closing us down or intimidating us into refusing to follow up controversial issues letsgohorseracing and the Wednesday Whinge are here to stay. But that means increasing costs to fight these legal threats, improve the quality of our website and to overcome that we are now accepting advertising and have decided to pursue a LETSHORSEHORSERACING LATE MAIL SUBSCRIPTION SERVICE. It's unique, it's different, it's affordable. YOU CAN SUBSCRIBE NOW.

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'SILKS AND SADDLES' with TERRY BUTTS 

SILKS & SADDLES is a popular weekly column written by respected racing writer TERRY BUTTS that we run courtesy of one of Australia’s leading rural newspapers, the NORTH QUEENSLAND REGISTER. Butts is an old-style racing journalist who shoots from the hip and takes no prisoners. He resents the 'suck-up and survive' mentality of some of the new breed of racing journalists in the print and broadcast media. 

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