Jenny - Clean

 

by LGHR Editor JOHN LINGARD

BILL BYRNE, in his fledgling days as Racing Minister, would win a lot of friends inside and outside the industry if he put the broom through the Integrity Section of Racing Queensland.

Byrne has flagged possible changes to the policing of the racing industry in the wake of the greyhound live baiting scandal but here’s hoping he goes the whole hog and starts by sacking the RQ general manager of stewarding and integrity Wade Birch.

The buck has to stop somewhere in this sordid ordeal and the more revelations about RQ not doing their job when told of these problems months ago suggest that the new Minister should also consider appointing a new Chairman of Racing Queensland.

It took a group of Animal Liberationists, the RSPCA and the 4 Corners expose to show up the inadequacies of the integrity units in three states but the situation in Queensland is especially alarming when it is considered that RQ was apparently made aware of ‘live baiting’ in October but allegedly did nothing about it.

Gold Coast-based Brad Davidson is one of the few News Limited racing scribes with the balls to objectively criticize RQ while his colleague Nathan Exelby, the Turf Editor of The Courier-Mail, is seen by many in the industry as too busy promoting his mate the RQ Chairman Kevin Dixon.

Davidson tweeted on the dog scandal:

POOR effort by RQ to wipe their hands of this mess – a full inquiry is needed.

RQ received email with concerns about live baiting last October – blamed admin error for no action.

There are alarming reports that a letter from the RSPCA warning RQ and its Integrity Department of the increasing usage of ‘live baiting’ at training tracks in Queensland was ‘lost in the mail’.

Then we have the situation of the bungled inquiry involving a high profile trainer with a Media Release stating:

Racing Queensland stewards have confirmed they interviewed Mr Reg Kay this afternoon in relation to comments attributed to him regarding his attendance at a property near Ipswich last week prior to a joint QPS/RSPCA operation.

At this stage, stewards have found no evidence to support that Mr Kay engaged in the alleged conduct for which seven licensed trainers were stood down this week.

Accordingly, no further action has been taken at this time.

Two days late and RQ issued another Media Release advising that seven greyhound trainers had been issued with show cause notices of why they should not be banned for life. It followed the airing of the 4 Corners program showing individuals involved in alleged ‘live baiting’. Heading the show cause list was Reg Kay.

This is a blunder of monumental proportions by the Integrity Department of RQ and heads should roll over it. The buck stops with Wade Birch but more importantly with Chairman Kevin Dixon. Both should be sacked by the Minister.

Worse is yet to come. Letsgohorseracing has received allegations of a greyhound being clubbed to death by a trainer for failing to perform, of the owner being provided with another dog to ensure her silence after a high profile vet resigned and reportedly took his concerns to the RSPCA and of RQ being advised but allegedly taking no action (at this stage) on this issue. If these allegations are correct this is what some would call another cover up of mammoth proportions.   

Since the 4 Corners program was aired of course we have had politicians and administrators on the front foot. RQ has suspended 13 trainers, including seven who have been asked to ‘show cause’ when they should be warned off for life. Close to 100 greyhounds and pups have been impounded.

Under the present legislation, Racing Queensland is responsible for both the administration of all three codes, in addition to overseeing racing integrity. That means the same body that promotes the industry, also polices it.

The simple separation of the two bodies will not overcome the problems of the past unless some high profile stewards are brought in to take control. The Racing Minister should order a nationwide search for a new Chief Steward and Integrity Manager. Policing of all three codes should then be taken out of the province of RQ. In the case of the Racing Integrity Commissioner many beieve he should either eliminate the position or appoint someone who can prove to stakeholders and punters that he or she is prepared to do the hard yards. Many believe that has not been the case with former Police Commissioner Jim O’Sullivan and question what he has achieved since being appointed.

Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk has described the live baiting scandal as ‘very serious’ and said she was in talks with her Racing Minister about the issue. “It has been absolutely horrific what we have seen, what has been carried out in the greyhound industry,’’ she said.

She should take it a step further. At the least what is needed is a new Head of Stewarding and Integrity and a new Chairman of Racing Queensland. If they want to stop short of sacking those who many believe should have been more proactive then leave them there but put someone else above them who will win back industry and public confidence.

While all this is going on we have one of Kevin Dixon’s greatest supporters canvassing club chairmen to take a deputation to the Racing Minister telling him they are happing with the job the boss of the control body is doing.

Most regard this as finger down the throat stuff with the ‘cowboy’ heading the posse of support simply trying to repay the current RQ hierarchy for the overwhelming support his club has received at the expense of others (some saw it as LNP political pork-barrelling but we all know the RQ Chairman is a-political, so it wouldn't have been that).

Fortunately there are some race club chairmen out there who don’t share the cowboy's views and in fact want to see the back of Kevin Dixon after only three years. They want the Racing Minister to act now – not in a few months time when it is more likely.

The pressure has only just started to mount and 'little King Kev' shouldn't be feeling too safe despite after walking away from his first meeting with the new Racing Minister as his supporters would say 'unscathed'.  

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