IN his popular column, ‘SILKS & SADDLES,’ published in the NORTH QUEENSLAND REGISTER, respected racing writer TERRY BUTTS reports from his cruise ship on the waters off southern Australia about receiving the shock news about the Queensland election result.

Butts, like many other racing stakeholders, wants some details of what the Labor Party policy is for the industry. He has outlined some of the questions being asked and the interesting situation that a change of Government will create in Queensland.

Here is the Butts’ column:



IN the early hours of Sunday morning as the ship on which my wife and I are enjoying a cruise steamed from Hobart towards Sydney I was awakened from a deep sleep by a mobile telephone call from a mate.

‘Newman’s gone and it looks like the LNP has lost Government,’ was the message from a friend on the Gold Coast that jolted me out of my blissful daze from a few too many coldies the night before.

For a moment I wondered if I was dreaming. Could this be a nightmare or had the ship sailed into the Bermuda Triangle and we had gone back in time?

I gave myself a quick upper-cut and was soon wide awake. Yeah it was – or had – happened and my first thought was of that axiom ‘never bet odds on’ and ‘there are no good things in racing or politics.’

At first I contemplated the good news that we no longer had to tolerate the outrageous statements of Steve Dickson, the Racing Minister that will be remembered mostly for his claim that Queensland would finish a furlong in front of the southern states.

But with that comes the old warning: Be careful of what you wish for. Surely his replacement could be no worse. Then again Tim Mulherin was hardly a ‘rocket scientist’ during his term in the portfolio.

Some are already tipping racing to be part of the Treasury portfolio of Far North Queenslander Curtis Pitt and that would certainly suit one heavy at RQ who is said to be an old boss of the man who could hold the purse strings to racing’s future in this State.

But those in the supposed ‘know’ are claiming that the new Racing Minister will hail from trainers’ heaven at Deagon and no doubt the good old boys from the QTA have already touched base.

There were even stories doing the rounds on Sunday that one well known racing identity was part of the celebration party on Saturday night for the new Member for Sandgate, Stirling Hinchcliffe.

It’s a funny game racing in Queensland – some just seem to keep the political shirt for every occasion in the closet and wear it to suit the opportunity that arises. All of a sudden those who jumped ship from Labor to the LNP will be doing a double reverse somersault with pike back into the Labor fold.



SETTING political agendas and Ministerial appointments aside, what the tens of thousands of stakeholders in the racing industry in Queensland need to know is what the future holds under a Labor Government.

I can’t recall having seen any racing policy from the Opposition in the lead-up to the election. In fact policies on all things barring the selling of assets were pretty light on the ground in the final week of campaigning.

Here are some of the issues that need to be addressed forthwith as it appears whether they have the numbers to win outright or in a minority that Labor will form the new Government.

What happens to the current Boards and the All Codes Board that currently control racing in Queensland and will the ‘get square’ knife be out?

Will these appointees be allowed to serve out their terms or will they be replaced which can occur quite quickly if that is what the new Racing Minister wants?

Is the new 30-year TAB deal between RQ and Tattersall’s untouchable as most think or will Labor feel it was LNP influenced and try to do some tinkering with the tax rate that currently applies.

One would think not as that would be political suicide. But perhaps they may see fit to chat with the two RQ Board members who reportedly resigned in protest at a lack of consultation with Chairman Kevin Dixon and Racing Minister Steve Dickson.

What happens to prizemoney increases, especially in view of the fact that many in the country (the north in particular) feel badly down by at the expense of those nearer the city and in the south? There is also the matter of the reduced number of meetings that occurred to help fund the stakes increases which some believe favored clubs close to the RQ hierarchy.

Will promised infrastructure projects, especially the one at Eagle Farm where the Brisbane Racing Club reportedly still awaits approval for millions of dollars in funding for the tunnels that form a major part of the redevelopment, be completed in full? At least the work has begun in Townsville after a long wait, even if only the running rail has been dismantled at this stage.

Will the Labor Government move to put pressure on racing power-brokers to turn up the heat on the corporate bookmakers who are driving the industry in this country to the poor house and sending millions in profits off-shore?



I could go on with a list of questions that need to be answered to ease the anxiety of racing folk. The new Government could learn plenty from the mistakes of the one that was consigned virtually to the scrap heap after just one term.

In racing terms Premier Campbell Newman should be the subject of a running and handling inquiry. The critics of his Government reckon that hearing should also involve the former Racing Minister along with the Treasurer and his good mate, the RQ boss, to explain why some clubs in the south (like Toowoomba) and some organizations (like Magic Millions) seem to have received far too much start.

North Queensland is now blanketed by red in representation. Whether these new Members of Parliament know anything about racing or not they should be encouraged by Labor to take a crash course.

It might have been the selling of assets that has been blamed for the demise of the LNP Government but mark my words there was a major backlash from a disgruntled racing fraternity in many regions in the north.



AND speaking of the success stories in the north Mackay continues to receive national accolades for its new strathayr track despite the fact that in the eyes of many it is under-utilized.

The track is about the only thing racing in Mackay has going for it. The club is regarded as an absolute basket case and further evidence of that has emerged with protests that trainers’ have received track fees dating back 18 months (the accounts for which RQ claims went out six months ago and are being followed up on).

The outcome of the TAB meeting at Home Hill (which replaced one from the in-recess Townsville Turf Club) was said to be acceptable to those who count. But there is still a valid argument that it should have been held at Mackay which punters from all parts of the country would have found a far more suitable venue to bet on.

RQ apparently attributed the decision to race at Home Hill instead of Mackay to trainers who were travelling from as far north as Cairns to race their horses. It will felt the trip to Mackay would have been too far and that Home Hill was more central.

With major changes to the broadcast landscape for racing in this country comes the good news that Racing NSW has negotiated a deal for Sky Channel to withdraw the monthly fee for watching Sky World.

That’s all well and good but what about that awful Sky2 where many race meetings from the north are relegated to during the year. Will it be free as well? It should be. In fact, as one cynical punter said: ‘They should be paying us to watch it.’ 



TERRY BUTTS can be contacted by e-mailing: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..