RACING has always been about winning and losing but in the legislation that was put before the Queensland Parliament last week there could be only one winner – that’s a fact of political life.

Many members from both sides of the House had their say with the Labor Government using its numbers to push the legislation through and the LNP Opposition promising to reverse it if successful at the next election.

Once again the industry in Queensland is extremely divided and southerners are chortling at how racing politics north of the border continues to steal the spotlight and attention from another wonderful Winter Carnival.

Rather than be accused of a vendetta against Queensland Racing or the Government, this web-site decided to ask an independent panel of experts to adjudicate on the performance of our politicians when the new racing legislation was debated in Parliament last week.

The panel we were able to secure includes a high profile Sydney lawyer, respected racing identities from three states, a media lecturer and two political analysts. None of these people have any interest or involvement with racing in Queensland and two have no interest at all in horse racing or gambling.

They rated, what in their opinion, were the three best and three worst performances on a points basis and this was the result. We have added a précised version of what the listed individual speakers had to say UNDER THE PRIVILEGE OF PARLIAMENT about the new legislation.

TIM NICHOLLS, the high profile LNP member for Clayfield (a significant racing electorate) was clearly the winner ahead of Shadow Racing Minister Ray Stevens and Racing Minister Peter Lawlor.

The trio voted the worst by sheer coincidence included two women members of the Labor Party and we would highlight the fact that two members of our panel were female. In racing vernacular the member for Mundingburra, LINDY NELSON-CARR, bolted in from BETTY KIERNEN of Mt Isa while KERRY SHINE from Toowomba finished third.

Here is a précised version of what each had to say during the racing debate:

THE WINNERS (in order):

TIM NICHOLLS, Member for Clayfield, an electorate in racing’s heartland in Brisbane:

THERE are two horses who will not be running at Doomben on Saturday (Cup Day), and I can guarantee it! And those two old horses of the racing industry have been around the track a few times. The Fine Cottons—the ring-ins— of the racing industry are the current minister and the Queensland Racing Chairman, Mr Bob Bentley.

Like many businesses and industries in Queensland, the racing industry is under attack from the cold, dead hand of the socialist centralizers and haters of enterprise and achievement in the Labor Party. We have a minister who follows in the tradition of previous Labor ministers and who, like Pontius Pilate, attempts to destroy the industry by washing his hands of all responsibility. He hands over responsibility to an arrogant and uncontrolled board led by a chairman who rules supreme with no accountability to either the industry or, seemingly, the government.

He is truly a dictator in the mould of the old union bosses, who are still so much beloved by the Labor Party. Whenever anyone in the racing industry wants to get something done and goes to the minister—who is not actually a racing minister but who has some sort of control at the direction of the Treasury Department—and says, ‘Can we have this sorted out, please? He says, ‘Not my responsibility. I can’t fix this. This is not for me to intervene. It is not for me to protect an industry that is worth hundreds of millions of dollars a year—the fifth largest industry in Queensland.’ He says, ‘I am sorry, I can’t do this. I don’t want to do this.’ So he hands over power, in the way of the union bosses, to someone else— someone in a smoky back room, unelected, someone who has not put his name up for re-election by the participants in the industry. He appoints a board full of mates and then goes to court to fight over it. We forgot the court battle over the appointment process, where the Supreme Court found that it was wrong— rorted at the direction of the boss.

The Labor Party hates metropolitan racing in Queensland. The first attempt was in the good old days of ‘Bollinger’ Bob Gibbs. Didn’t he hate the Queensland Turf Club. Didn’t he hate metropolitan racing. He could not wait to get in there. So we had ‘Bollinger’ Bob, who hated the Queensland Turf Club. Then when Queensland Racing was set up, there was a continual attempt to take control of metropolitan race clubs and their assets and to diminish the club’s capacities and responsibilities. Then only a little over six years ago Queensland Racing wanted to sell off Doomben in some meglomaniacal desire to establish a super track in Queensland. That proposal forced the then Premier of the day to come in here in 2004 and say, ‘There isn’t $150 million’—because that is what it was going to cost—‘to rebuild a super track at Wacol.’ Then again in 2006 the same idea was floated and there was an attempt to sell off the Doomben Racecourse. There was a mass meeting at the Hamilton Town Hall to oppose the sale. Those who love the industry and who love racing stood up to the faceless, nameless men who were sent out by the Labor government to wreak havoc on the racing industry in the name of efficiency and economy but, in fact, in the grip of envy, fear and loathing. They sent out their faceless men. We saw them in the audience, little secret squirrels at the side of the hall jotting down their little notes of who was saying what in the best traditions of the Gestapo and the KGB. They were taking down notes and names and making sure they knew who was opposing it. Who was the architect of these grossly irresponsible policies aided and abetted by a board of directors, including the ALP boss of bosses Bill Ludwig? It was none other than the current chairman, Bob Bentley. The boss of bosses, Bill Ludwig. God forbid anyone who should run up against ‘Big’ Bill!

We have Bob Bentley, who sees himself, Stalin like, rounding up all the little satellites into one big union of Soviet socialist racing clubs. He wants to bring them all together and anyone who dares to disagree gets sent off to Siberia for a period of re-education. Licences are suspended, the chairman conducts his own investigations, race meetings are cancelled, prize money is cut and controls are imposed. They are all the hallmarks of the dictatorship of racing that has emerged under Labor in recent times that have all been supported, aided and abetted by the Labor Party in Queensland.

The ALP is no friend of the racing industry, it is no friend of the punter and it is no friend of the thousands of people who are employed in the fifth largest industry in Queensland. What do we now see? We see the classic symptoms of the entrenching of a dictatorship. In this legislation we see an intent to guarantee jobs for life for both the control body, to be called Racing Queensland, and for the board members themselves. What will we have? We will have chairman for life ‘Papa Doc’, father of racing glorious leader ‘Baby Doc’, Bob Bentley in charge of the show for another 10 years after 10 years of dictatorship—the Hugo Chavez, the socialist dictator of Venezuela, moving to Queensland, aided and abetted by the Labor Party. What pathetic lame excuse for this entrenchment of dictatorial power do we have? None. All we have is a desire to entrench privilege and power among the existing board.

It is still an unjustified abuse of the legislative power of this chamber today. What will we have? We will have a chairman who, under this legislation, may well be in place for 20 years and who will not face any reappointment process—limited as that process is under this legislation—ever. The only justification is for continuity of policies and experience. What a farce! If that were the case, why have elections for directors of companies? Why have elections for directors of associations and incorporated associations? Why have elections for governments? Why have elections at all? What if the policies are bad, wrong or corrupt? What if the members of the industry want a change? Under this legislation, the answer is, ‘Tough luck,’ which is often the answer racing clubs in my electorate and throughout Queensland get from the current chairman.

The explanatory notes that we have here with this legislation are among the most feeble that have ever been presented in this House and, from this government, that is saying something. There is no clear explanation of what these changes mean for the industry in Queensland. The explanation given in the explanatory notes for new clause 430 is laughable. That new clause retrospectively changes the constitution of the three control bodies and effectively strips away the rights of shareholders. It removes from them the ability to say who should be a director and what those directors should do. It gives the directors power to dispose of the assets of each of those bodies without going to the members. It is a rip-off and a breach of democratic and corporate principles. The justification is to provide the directors with protection for doing something that they would otherwise have had to get their shareholders’ authority to be able to do. There is no justification in terms of protecting the rights of the majority—the shareholders—but it is protection for the directors of the three control bodies that will now form the single control body. It gives the directors power to dispose of the assets of each body without going to the members.

When we look at the consultation, is it any wonder that the directors agreed to it? The legislation gives them a free ride to a secure job for the foreseeable future with no questions asked. They cannot be challenged for their decision, the participants cannot take up the fight, no-one can ask, ‘Is this is right thing to do for our industry?’ and the people who make that decision will have a job on the new racing control board for the foreseeable future. This is an undemocratic and appalling misuse of the retrospective powers of this place in order to cement in place a dictator for the racing industry for another 10 years. It is a disgrace.

This is a disgraceful piece of legislation. It is a disgraceful indictment on this government that it chooses to wash its hands of the racing industry. It is a disgraceful indictment of the abandonment of the democratic principles that this government supposedly stands for. It is an entrenchment of power. It is an appalling abuse of an industry that is the fifth largest in Queensland. I will be making sure that every person involved in the racing industry who does not already know about it will know more about it. Every one of them comes up to me and says, ‘You have to do something about this government. You have to do something to get rid of Bob Bentley. You have to make racing what it once was: the pride and joy of so many thousands of people who live, work and invest in the Queensland racing industry.’



THIS is the most ill-conceived, illogical and deliberately destructive piece of legislation that I have seen come into this House during my time in this Parliament. I am utterly disgusted at the introduction of this piece of legislation and extremely worried about how this repugnant and detached state Labor government is going to destroy the racing industry in Queensland through this legislation.

It was born out of an attempt about two years ago by the current chairman of Queensland Racing to extend his unelected dictatorship over Queensland Racing until 2014. Mr Bentley asked the then Treasurer and minister responsible for racing, Andrew Fraser, to extend his appointed term without his having to face an election by the industry, mainly because he knew that the industry would reject his leadership. This undemocratic belligerency was too much even for the Labor Party hierarchy and the Labor Party’s lackey, Bob Bentley, was thwarted in that attempt. He went back to the drawing board and came up with this ridiculous scheme to combine the three codes of racing into one and give himself another unelected term, with taxpayers throwing in a few dollars in wagering taxes forgone to justify the deal.

Another objective of the bill is to abolish entities established under the Racing Act that can be established administratively by the control board. This relates to country racing organizations and takes all statutory recognition through legislation away from country racing and hands power and responsibility over to Bob Bentley and Queensland Racing. To borrow some common racetrack slang, it is just like putting Dracula in charge of the blood bank.

This complete ransacking of country and provincial racing by the Bligh Labor government is a disgrace, and I am amazed that the minister has ignored any consultation with the large body of participants in country and provincial racing that this amendment affects. These rural racing organizations are the lifeblood of these local communities, and control by someone who sits in an office hundreds of kilometres away, let alone someone devoid of local knowledge of these organizations, is doomed to fail.

Why on earth would the government want to put all of the power and control of racing in Queensland into one body’s hands when all along it has been spruiking the benefit of wider industry representation and autonomous self-management? I will tell members why: the political agenda of this government is to ignore the racing industries at all costs to avoid fallout from Labor voters who are a large part of the racing industries and who are incensed at the Labor Party’s abandonment of all three racing codes. It wants to push all of the blame for the racing industry’s chronic underfunding across to an unelected, unanswerable administrator—in this case, namely Bob Bentley— and plunder industry funds as much as possible to prop up its ailing and bankrupt financial incompetency.

I have been an owner, a punter, a breeder, a committee member, a member of several clubs and I have never in my life seen such a despised control body as the one we have endured in the thoroughbred industry for the past eight years. This is the same control body that, through this legislation, will be inflicted upon all the codes and which will ensconce Mr Bob Bentley for at least another four years and possibly, under this ridiculous appointment model that becomes legislation if it is passed today, could make him a 20-year appointee as the controller of thoroughbred racing in Queensland. General Pinochet, eat your heart out.

Mr Bentley has certainly not exposed his grand plans to the industry and has pursued a path of intimidation and coercion of race clubs throughout the state in what one can only deduce is his master plan for state controlled industry assets of all racing codes throughout Queensland. His weapons of mass destruction are prize money reductions; reductions in race dates; absolving his organization from industry necessary costs, such as track maintenance; and also inflicting over-the-top workplace health and safety requirements for remote and occasionally used racetracks. The land grab by the Labor government’s lackey, Mr Bentley, is to line Queensland Racing’s coffers and make its balance sheet look good when it becomes the new entity, Racing Queensland.

The government did not engage in any worthwhile consultation with racing industry stakeholders. It was more of a ‘let’s keep these changes quiet’ approach because of the discontent that would cop if the racing industry knew that the changes were going to be implemented.



‘LET us get to the bottom of some of the things that have been said. There was a lot of store put in (Racing Editor) Bart Sinclair’s articles. As we know, Bart Sinclair is nothing but a spokesman for the QTC and now the BRC. His article in the Courier-Mail on 10 May this year is headed ‘NSW plan highlights the crisis in Queensland industry.’ Just consider this: Racing New South Wales’ strategic plan recognizes that Queensland already has the most generous tax regime and urged New South Wales to adopt the same.

The NSW plan calls for greater professionalism amongst clubs, noting that representative race club committees do not act for the overall betterment of racing, an issue addressed by Queensland many years ago with the establishment of the Queensland Thoroughbred Racing Board in 2002. The NSW plan also advises that the New South Wales control body will pursue the securing of freehold title for racecourses from the state government. That is something that was done in Queensland years ago when the government transferred freehold title worth $60 million to the racing industry.

Except for the equine influenza crisis a couple of years ago, Queensland’s wagering turnover has increased every year since the privatisation of the TAB. Last year the turnover was a record $1.617 billion. Let me tell members that the industry is not in a crisis. We hear the continual comments from Bart Sinclair but why is it only the media in Queensland that ever criticizes the Queensland industry?

For example, Craig Young in the Sydney Morning Herald on 23 March last year said that Bob Bentley is the man to lead racing to salvation. He is a NSW racing journalist. He went on to say that Bentley is willing to take on politicians, the doomsayers, vested interest groups and has a desire to make racing profitable. Bentley, he said, ‘found millions squandered under the old race club system and poured it into prize money.’ Young correctly recognizes that self-interest is the only sure thing in racing. Perhaps those constantly criticizing Bentley have some self-interest.

Bob Bentley has no power and nor has Queensland Racing. Even at the moment Queensland Racing consists of five members. Bob Bentley cannot sell any race club land without the approval of the race club itself, the control body itself and also without ministerial approval. The chairman of the BRC, Mr Dixon, is quoted in the Courier Mail on 11 May 2010 as accusing Mr Bentley of typical bullyboy tactics. How hypocritical can the BRC possibly get? They were the original bullyboys. Anyone involved in the Gold Coast Turf Club, as the shadow minister was, the Ipswich Turf Club or the Sunshine Coast Turf Club or even Toowoomba would know that.

The BRC and its main predecessor, the QTC, opposed any progressive initiatives over many decades. How many years did it take for Doomben and Eagle Farm to get together, for instance? The QTC and the BTC combined to form the BRC but nothing else changed. Their antiquated attitudes and policies are continually promoted by the pimps and apologists that pass themselves off as journalists. They are not prepared to present any alternative argument to the BRC line, but why should we be surprised at this? It has been that way for decades. They deal in baseless allegations, scaremongering and hysterical statements. Talk about hysterical statements. What about Bart Sinclair in the Sunday Mail on 18 April where he said government control bodies are able to assume ownership of race tracks? He goes on and says, ‘What next? Rural properties, homes, commercial land?’ Fair dinkum! What would a racing writer like Jim Anderson make of that? It is no wonder that today for racing stories one has to look in the lost and found section of the paper.

I turn to directions to the control body. It does not matter how often I say this—I suppose they are slow learners—the opposition has no understanding of how the racing industry operates in Australia. This is clear from the rubbish its members continue to peddle, like saying that as minister I should be issuing directions, intervening in this or that decision, sacking Bob Bentley, increasing prize money and so on. I had my department write to the Australian Racing Board in order to clarify the ARB’s position should I do what the opposition wants. The ARB sent back a letter, which I table.

Tabled paper: Letter, dated 7 May 2010, to Mr Mike Kelly, Executive Director—Office of Racing from Andrew Harding, Chief Executive—Australian Racing Board Limited, in relation to the scheme of the Australian Rules of Racing.

In short, the opposition’s approach would jeopardize Queensland Racing’s continued recognition as the principal racing authority and its membership of the Australian Racing Board. This is all new ground to the opposition so, for their benefit, I will explain what possible consequences would flow: loss of black type in group 1 races; Stradbroke, gone; Queensland Derby and Doomben Cup, gone; participation of Queensland licensees in other jurisdictions, gone; recognition of Queensland on the national and international racing stage, gone. That is what the opposition wants. Overnight we would go from a first-world racing jurisdiction, recognized as one of the leading racing jurisdictions, to a pariah. That is what the opposition would deliver if, God help us, it ever ended up over here. However, I think we are pretty safe.

I am aware that some country race clubs are having difficulty complying with the minimum standards set by Queensland Racing. Workplace health and safety is a requirement placed on all businesses, and not just race clubs. Some small clubs are concerned, but so are the families of people who have to work at some of those unsafe clubs and unsafe workplaces generally.

Unfortunately, a few race clubs have gone that way. Queensland Racing has a legal responsibility to ensure that the facilities of all clubs meet minimum safety standards. I have spoken to Queensland Racing about this issue and it will assist. In fact, I table a letter from Queensland Racing that specifies, as the member for Mount Isa mentioned, that the new amalgamated control body will make available $300,000 per annum for three years, which is basically $1 million, to target small country clubs that have had limited financial resources available internally to address necessary workplace health and safety issues.

Tabled paper: Letter, dated 14 May 2010, to Hon. Peter Lawlor, Minister for Tourism and Fair Trading from RG Bentley, Chairman of Queensland Racing, in relation to minimum standards for country race meetings. This is not a bottomless pit of money but will provide some help for clubs that have done all they can to help themselves and have no other option available. All this depends on the new legislation being passed. That is why I cannot understand the opposition being so against what basically will be a boost for country racing.

The industry wanted self-governance and they have now got it. In relation to the issue of remuneration of directors, if this bill is passed, the proposed control body will submit a remuneration report, which will be done by an independent consultancy company, to the government. The director-general is responsible for assessing this report and deciding and approving. This is not a political decision; it is one for my director-general. I will not be making the decision.

In relation to adding assets to the government balance sheet, that is ridiculous. We have given $60 million already. By the way, we gave $7.9 million worth of assets to Townsville in 2005 and from the phone calls that I have had they owe money all around town. Apparently they even owe the race caller money, so that is how good they are going. Now they want to sell it off, and people like the shadow minister are defending their right to sell off the land—the land that they were given only five years ago. What sort of a start was that, to be given $8 million worth of public land and they still run the business into the ground?

There has been issue made of the constitution which is quite pedantic. I do know things that are going to be in the constitution because I have demanded that they be in there—that is, the protection—there will be protection for country racing associations in the constitution of this company, otherwise it will not be approved.

In relation to country racing safeguards not being in the bill, the country racing associations and the Queensland Country Racing Committee are unique to the thoroughbred code. In an amalgamated control body structure, having thoroughbred specific bodies set up under the legislation is not  appropriate. We have a combined control body and it must operate as such. Under its constitution, Racing Queensland Ltd will establish a country racing association and a country racing committee which will be advisory committees for non-TAB thoroughbred racing.

The constitution will also provide that, should the company and the country racing committee be unable to reach agreement on the number of days in which the country race meetings are to be held, the number of country race meetings for the year under consideration must not be fewer than the number of days on which the country race meetings were held in the previous season.  They cannot be reduced; they can be increased by agreement.

There is no change to the requirement to provide a minimum percentage of the net UNiTAB product fee as prize money for country racing or supporting racing industries. The amendments have been made to reflect that there is no longer a thoroughbred control committee. Accordingly, Racing Queensland Ltd must pay 5.32 per cent of its net UNiTAB product fee in supporting non-TAB thoroughbred racing. The figure of 5.32 per cent is the new control body’s net UNiTAB product fee. It is exactly the same amount as seven per cent of the current thoroughbred control body’s net UNiTAB product fee.


THE LOSERS (we’ve kept them brief):


THIS government has injected the largest financial contribution in its history into the Queensland racing industry. The way the industry operates now with multiple control bodies means that there is not only a duplication of effort but also a lack of bang for buck without achieving the best possible outcomes. This is clearly inefficient. With the three control bodies amalgamated there will be more strategic decision making as well as dollars for things like workplace health and safety considerations. This also means that publicly owned land cannot be readily disposed of by clubs for their own benefit. It is on this point that I must reiterate that many of the concerns that have been raised in the media to date by various racing identities are very wrong. I assure punters out there that this is not some secret plan for the government to take over racecourses. It is just a scare tactic that has been used by people like Kevin Dixon from the BRC and many people from Townsville have bought into that argument.

Before I finish, I would just like to add that while I have no interest in racing, or indeed gambling in any form for that matter—and I could even go further by saying that I do not get any great thrill from watching small men (yes and small women) viciously beat the backsides of these magnificent animals when they probably should be attending anger management classes—I do concede that gambling per se is an accepted part of our culture and it has always been with us and it will continue to be that way. Just because I do not gamble does not mean it does not exist, nor would I pull out of supporting various enterprises just because I do not enjoy them. The racing industry is a legitimate sport followed by millions of supporters. Can I just take a moment to remind members that gambling costs, and it costs more than money. Gamblers in Australia spend—or lose, if you like—over $18 billion per year. There are more than 300,000 moderate to problem gamblers already.


BETTY KIERNEN, MEMBER for MT ISA, which takes in a western Queensland racing heartland:

MY electorate is home to the iconic Birdsville Races, Mount Isa’s Mailman Express, the equally famous Boulia Camel Races and the Oak Park Races which have a history of over 200 years. My mission is to get in a bit of goat racing in the member for Gregory’s electorate one day in the future in Barcaldine. Goat racing is the go. Camel racing I am not so good at, as we all know. I have had a very close call with a camel. I recently met that camel again in Richmond and we made up. I told him it was not his fault; I was a lousy jockey.

One of the things that I am most certain of is that the Bligh government has been and continues to be a strong supporter of racing in Queensland’s rural and regional areas. I have worked closely in the past with the current minister for racing, Minister Lawlor, and the previous minister for racing, the Treasurer, and I have found that they have always been approachable and willing to listen to the concerns of my region’s racing fraternity. Likewise, the support and guidance provided to me by Bill Ludwig has been invaluable and I thank him for his patience and his contribution over many years to country racing.


KERRY SHINE, MEMBER for Toowomba North, one of Queensland’s oldest thoroughbred racing and training centres:

I must confess that I do not have an intricate knowledge of the industry in any shape or form. But I do recognize its intrinsic worth, particularly to the city of Toowoomba, where racing has been part of the social, sporting and business calendar, if you like, since its inception.

The bill is designed to avoid the duplication of effort to give control to a single body in a co-ordinated approach. Of course the result will be stability of management. That is why there is the provision with respect to the directors staying in place until 2014 and then a rotation of directors after that. That all seems to me to make sense, particularly where it is important for knowledge to be retained and relied upon into the future. As I said, this is a 21st century mechanism, enabling the industry to exist as best it can and indeed to prosper into the future in a highly competitive atmosphere, in a rapidly changing wagering environment and in a rapidly changing racing environment as well.

It would be remiss of me not to make some mention of the Toowoomba Turf Club, which conducts its activities at Hursley Road and has done so for about 140 or 150 years. I pay particular tribute to the recently retired president of the Toowoomba Turf Club, Mr Neville Stewart. He was the president of that club for 21 years. He had the ability to work with governments of whatever ilk were in power. He had very good relationships with racing ministers—such as the former National Party Premier and member for Crows Nest, Russell Cooper, along with the list of Labor racing ministers, including the present minister. Neville had that ability to work with all governments for the betterment of the sport and the betterment of the industry that he represented, which was a very sensible approach. He showed strong leadership during those 21 years. He was a highly capable and a forthright person.

IF you don’t agree with what the panel’s opinion then have your say by e-mailing the Wednesday Whinge. Until next time this is GODFREY SMITH, who thinks Ray Stevens deserves his chance as Queensland Racing Minister, wishing you GOOD LUCK, GOOD PUNTING & GOD BLESS.