Jenny - Clean

GODFREY SMITH this week devotes his HORSING AROUND column to a number of contentious issues confronting the Queensland Racing Industry and has attempted to secure answers to some of your most asked questions.

The letsgohorseracing website has in recent weeks been inundated with requests from readers desperate for more information regarding a number of issues that are about to confront the racing industry in Queensland.

These stem from the contents of an Issues Paper submitted to the Government by Queensland Racing chairman Bob Bentley to a controversial proposal for the control boards of the three codes to be integrated into one and the call for changes to be made to the current appeals system which many stakeholders believe is not working effectively.

Because many of the questions posed are politically sensitive, remain the subject of on-going discussions with the Queensland Government and would have to be decided upon by a new integrated board once it was established, QRL Chairman Bob Bentley is not in a position to comment publicly at this stage.

We have, however, been able to secure some general answers from Queensland Racing to many of the questions asked and provide these in the hope that it will in some way satisfy the curiosity of many and concerns of others.

Here are the questions asked on behalf of readers of the letsgohorseracing web-site and the answers provided by QRL:


Q: There are numerous requests for details of the Issues Paper and what clubs or venues will benefit or can apply for funds under the arrangement and tax relief funding that was announced recently by the Government. Shadow Racing Minister, Ray Stevens, claims he has been denied access to the Issues Paper for months. Can you tell us how long ago this Issues Paper was put to the Government or the Racing Minister?  Surely it is of interest to the racing industry in general and for that matter of public interest. We can understand why it wasn’t released when the Government was considering it but we cannot understand why the secrecy surrounds its detail now.

A: The Issues Paper was compiled by QRL chairman Bob Bentley. It is 60 pages in total. It was a submission made on behalf of QRL to the Government about six months ago. As a result of that submission the Government has initially agreed that approximately $80 million will be paid over four years to the three codes from the tax relief scheme on wagering.

Q: Whilst we appreciate that this is a lot of money with all due respects it won’t go far when you divide it among the three codes over four years. Many projects have already been identified as recipients and it seems to us that the cost of these would far out-weigh the amount of money in available funding.

A: Mr Bentley identified a number of racing infrastructure projects in the Issues Paper. These have yet to be prioritized. That would be one of the first functions of the new Integrated Board proposed for the three codes when it comes into operation.

The projects considered high priority are an upgrade of the track at the Gold Coast Turf Club. There are no plans to install public and members’ facilities at the GCTC to rival Flemington as was suggested in a Gold Coast newspaper column. No racetrack in Queensland could afford that nor could that be warranted.

A figure of $75 million has been suggested for the Gold Coast upgrade. We don’t know where that came from but it certainly did not emanate from Queensland Racing. Our priority is to provide a better racetrack that could better accommodate big fields and overcome this annual criticism that occurs at Magic Millions time when interference has at time overshadowed the spectacle of the big day.

The other infrastructure priorities include the expenditure of approximately $10 million for a much-needed upgrade of the Ooralea track at Mackay and the development of Beaudesert racetrack into a significant training centre.

The problem in Cairns is a financial one. The club is under enormous pressure because of the court case which Trafalgar has mounted against the Cairns Jockey Club and the Cairns Amateurs. The future of Cairns racing could well hinge on a satisfactory resolution to that legal matter. It is of great concern to the industry.

A major greyhound facility will also be built at Logan, south of Brisbane, for which an amount in the vicinity of $10 million has been separately set aside from compensation for the closure of Parklands greyhound racing venue on the Gold Coast to provide land for the Government.

Q: Will any of the Government funding package of $80 million be used at Eagle Farm where there appears a desperate need for immediate work to be done on public and members’ facilities?

A: We are not saying the Brisbane Racing Club will not get any of the $80 million but they own that facility and their development plans are self-funding and not the responsibility of Queensland Racing or the Queensland Government.

QRL has stressed that the Government will have nothing to do with what infrastructure works are agreed upon but this will be a matter of priority for the new Integrated Board.

Q: The perception of the make-up of the Three-Code Integrated Board is that Queensland Racing will have five members while Queensland Harness Racing and Greyhounds will have only one each. Is this fair and would it not give total control to the gallops?

A: The make-up is commensurate to what each code initially brings to the table. Once the new body is formed and in operation it will be there for all three codes and will eliminate this ‘us and them’ mentality within the industry.

Q: Is it the plan of Queensland Racing to move its five Board members over to the Merged Board and does that not mean that two of those members (Tony Hanmer and Bill Ludwig) would escape standing for re-election this year and Bob Bentley next year, as required under the current constitution?

A: It is correct to assume that Messrs Bentley, Hanmer and Ludwig would not have to stand for re-election as required at present if the new Integrated Board was established.  It was not designed that way. It is purely coincidental that they will benefit from the timing of the Merged Board.

Q: Why not have only three representatives from QRL and one each from QHR and QGR? How do you justify the need for a seven-member Board when there are only five at present and then giving them an extended five-year term?

If you insist on seven then why not have two independents – one appointed from Country Racing (to include the three codes) and the other from the TAB clubs (of the three codes)? Would that not appear to be a fairer and more acceptable outcome for the stakeholders?

A: We cannot just dump a couple of current Board members because some people are not happy about them automatically transferring across when they would have been required to stand for re-election under the current situation.

Seven is the accepted number on the majority of major Boards around the country and the five-year term has been designed to coincide with the expiry date of the TAB Privatization Agreement.

The suggestion about two independents is not acceptable nor should it be seen as in any way fairer after thoroughbred elections have just been finalized for two new members to join the QRL Board.

The appointment of supposed ‘independents’ from country racing and TAB clubs would signal a return to the ‘bad old days’ when Boards were appointed from people who, in the opinion of many were compromised, because they were more answerable to the clubs that they represented than the industry as a whole.

Q: There are widespread reports within the racing industry that former Toowoomba Turf Club chairman, Neville Stewart, a long-time friend of QRL Chairman, Bob Bentley, has been using his links with the Liberal Party to try and convince the LNP to support the merger proposal. There are also claims that Mr Stewart organized a recent meeting with LNP leader, John Paul Langbroek amid feelings that there were behind-the-scenes moves to end criticism of the proposal and of Mr Bentley by Shadow Racing Minister Ray Stevens from within his own party.

A: QRL is unaware of any influence that Mr Stewart has on the Liberal Party. Our information suggests that Mr Bentley has known Mr Langbroek for many years and organized the meeting himself.

Mr Bentley is willing to accept constructive criticism but if any politician attacks the racing industry with unfounded comments he will go on the front foot and return fire. This is not about Mr Bentley protecting the Government. It is about protecting the racing industry which is the QRL charter and responsibility.

Q: What about suggestions that Mr Bentley was disappointed when Mr Stewart failed to make the eventual ‘short list’ for the QRL Board vacancies and that he is still keen to have him join the Merged Board with suggestions an appointment is likely if Mr Ludwig steps aside due to ill-health in the next 12 months.

A: QRL and Mr Bentley believe that Neville Stewart was a worthy candidate for the QRL Board. He missed the cut and accepts the situation. There is no proposal to co-opt Mr Stewart or anybody to the Board. Mr Ludwig is a valued member of the Board and we looked forward to him seeing out his full term on the new integrated body.



WE also raised with QRL concerns over the current Appeals System and the belief of many industry stakeholders that it was not working effectively.

Q: The recent Ganderton and McMahon appeals successes (although those rulings of the First Level Appeals Body are being challenged by QR stewards) have highlighted concerns that under the current system it has become increasingly difficult (some believe near-on impossible) to make serious charges stick. Is Queensland Racing concerned about this?

A: QRL accepts the umpires’ decision. However, we will always have concerns with a system, no matter how well thought out that does not deliver consistent results.

Stewards have, under the current situation, the opportunity to bring matters independently before the Board of QRL for determination and challenge outcomes.

The QRL Board will consider any matter brought before them.  We believe the system given to us needs overhaul. It is not QRL’s system. It is the one we have been given to work with.

Q: Questions have been raised about personnel on the First Level Appeals Body and how they are appointed with some claiming there are too many ‘Labor lawyers’ and ‘old jockeys’ on the panel. (We are not suggesting that is the case, merely raising the questions asked).

A: QRL is not aware of any political appointments. People with suitable credentials are invited to apply for positions on the First Level Appeals Body. They are carefully chosen and a roster is carried out to ensure all members of the panel get equal opportunities.



SEVERAL questions have been asked in relation to the Sunshine Coast Turf Club and the QRL involvement with that organization as well as concerns that millions of dollars in infrastructure spending will not be forthcoming without the appointment of Trusts at clubs like the Gold Coast.

Q: Will QRL give an undertaking that before any money is spent on an upgrade to the Gold Coast Turf Club a Trust will not be appointed, which some feel will threaten the workings of the current directors?

A: QRL will not give any undertakings that a Trust won’t be put in place to oversee expenditure of this nature. It would be irresponsible of us not to oversee that sort of industry investment.

Q: A long-time member of the Sunshine Coast Turf expressed concern at recent events surrounding the club’s position on equity and debt in relation to the arrangement with QRL. He wants to know where ordinary members stand in the event of debt created by the other party.

A: The QR response to this was that at the end of the day the SCTC will be in a good financial position. In explanation QR said the SCTC is run by two bodies – the club directors who are responsible for the day-to-day running of racing and Sunshine Coast Racing, which is owned by QRL. That body is responsible for infrastructure – the track, the lighting of the two tracks and costs thereof, the planned stabling complex and any associated costs. There is no chance of the SCTC incurring any debts because they are not involved in that side of the operation.

Q: Could the present QRL interests of the SCTC be sold off to private enterprise and with the proposed redevelopment of the GCTC will the ownership structure there eventually be similar to that in place at the Sunshine Coast.

A: The Gold Coast situation is totally different to the Sunshine Coast where QRL bought the property from the Council. Before any racecourse can be sold in Queensland there is a requirement under legislation put in place to seek the permission of the Government, the control body and the industry. There is no suggestion of a sale of racetrack assets in Queensland to private enterprise.



WE also raised concerns from within the breeding and racing industry about the future of the highly successful QTIS 600 Scheme.

Q: There are suggestions floating around the industry that the QTIS 600 Scheme will be discontinued unless the Queensland Thoroughbred Breeders’ Association dumps its president, Bob Frappell, who has apparently been at loggerheads with QRL and Mr Bentley.

A: QRL is currently reviewing QTIS 600. It will survive. We invest $2 million into this Scheme and believe the Breeders are not improving their stock to the extent intended. QRL wants to emphasize that QTIS 600 will not continue to be a social security lifeline for the Queensland Breeders.

As for the role that Mr Frappell plays, QRL does not care whether he continues as president of the QTBA or not. Our decision to review QTIS 600 is an overall response to the Breeders attitude and not a personal vendetta as someone seems to be portraying it.



WE have received a number of queries concerning personnel at Queensland Racing, with some criticism of the roles they fill, which we are not prepared to print, but we did raise a couple of queries with QRL.

Q: We have been asked to inquire how long Mr Malcolm Tuttle has been Chief Executive Officer of QRL. He is listed in the Queensland Racing Magazine as Chief Operations Manager and on the Australian Racing Board web-site as CEO. When Jeremy Turner left it was our understanding that there would be no CEO in future.

A: Mr Tuttle’s correct position is Chief Executive Officer but we are not going to discuss internal decision-making or the reasons for it. This is a private matter for the Board and with respect we do not believe these are questions that we need to answer or individuals within the industry have the right to ask.

Q: If an Integrated Board is established will there be any new positions created, will any executive within the three codes lose their jobs and will there be an overall CEO?

A: This is a matter for the new Integrated Board to decide but our understanding is that no one will lose their job; two new managerial positions will be created; each body will not have its own CEO and that there will be one CEO for the Integrated Board chosen from within the ranks of those currently available. We cannot elaborate any further as that is a matter for a Board that is not yet in place.


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