Racing Amendment (Modernisation) Bill 2017 Second Reading

22 Aug 2017

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I rise to speak briefly on the Racing Amendment (Modernisation) Bill 2017, which makes changes to the government’s arrangements for Racing Victoria. It essentially gives the Minister for Racing the power to appoint directors of Racing Victoria following consideration of an advisory panel report. The advisory panel will include the Secretary of the Department of Justice and Regulation; a nominee by the minister; a nominee by Victoria Racing Club, Melbourne Racing Club and the Moonee Valley Racing Club; a nominee by Country Racing Victoria; and a nominee appointed jointly by industry body members which, I understand, are essentially the same groups that were directly appointing the directors in the first place. However, this bill gives the minister direct control to action further powers in regard to the board.

In the Greens view it would be really good to have a nominee from the wider community or from an animal welfare background. Certainly we will be reserving our right to pursue amendments in the other place, because there still are concerns about animal welfare within the racing industry and, most of all, within jumps racing, and that is where I will be directing most of my remarks.

It really is time for the Victorian government to follow its counterparts interstate and put an end to jumps racing, which is responsible for the death and injury of many horses. I think it is only South Australia that still allows jumps racing in Australia. Some of the stats in regards to jumps racing really demonstrate that horses and jockeys face far greater and far more unacceptable risks in jumps racing than they would in other forms of racing. Their horses are 18 times more likely to suffer a catastrophic limb injury and 121 times more likely to endure other injuries to their head, their back or their neck. Jumps racing horses are 19 times more likely to die than if they were flat racers. Jockeys have a 41 per cent higher likelihood of suffering a fracture. We have had 41 jumps horses die in Victoria over the last five years.

These are really unacceptable numbers. Of course injuries to horses and jockeys occur in other horse races on the flats, but when you look at these numbers from a jumps racing perspective, they are at unacceptable levels, and it is time that the government got with the program and banned jumps racing. We know that very recently a number of jumps horses have died. Wee Frankie broke his neck falling over a jump in Casterton. Bring Back fractured his shoulder and had to be euthanased after a fall in Warrnambool.

Jumps racing horses are often older than flat racers. They may have existing weaknesses in their joints. They are generally approaching the ends of their careers. They are running at high speed over long distances, jumping many jumps during the race. They are not necessarily bred for jumps. They fall towards the end of their races. They are exhausted, and they are just having too much asked of them.

This ban really should have been put in place in 1991, when a Senate select committee actually recommended that jumps racing be phased out by state governments over three years. That did not happen. In 2009 Racing Victoria suspended jumps racing due to the continuing high incidence of injuries. This would have been a great opportunity for the government to step in and finally put an end to jumps racing.

But it is not too late. The government can step up to the plate, and certainly the Greens have been encouraging them to do so. There might be efforts to suggest that you can make this sport safer by modifying the jumps, but it really has been proved that that cannot be the case. Just like greyhound racing, no matter how you change it, this type of racing presents an unacceptable risk to the welfare of animals and its jockeys too.

We need to be realistic that there is also a conflict of interest within the racing industry, with both the need to regulate and protect animal welfare as well as promote the industry. So really it is up to the government to step in and legislate to put an end to jumps racing. I think even in the racing industry itself we have a waning enthusiasm for jumps racing.

Animal welfare groups have been campaigning tirelessly to protect jumps horses. Along with these organisations the Greens and of course the majority of our community have been calling for a ban on jumps racing. I think it does have wide community support. I certainly implore the government to put an end to jumps racing and prioritise animal welfare. We will be supporting this bill as it does make those governance arrangements, but I certainly call on the minister to act on jumps racing.

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