Jenny - Clean

WE have had several requests to reproduce some of the debate at the Estimates Hearing of the Queensland Government which related to the racing industry.

Here is a good deal of the debate but we must warn you that attempts by the Opposition to pry details on some controversial topics from Racing Minister Grace Grace was near-on impossible.

GRACE GRACE: Due to a number of financial and other issues, including the live baiting scandal, the Queensland racing industry was facing serious challenges. Racing Queensland has had to be underwritten to the tune of $32 million and the greyhound live baiting scandal showed very clearly that the previous governance model needed updating. As recommended in the MacSporran report, we separated racing’s commercial and integrity functions, creating a new stand-alone Queensland Racing Integrity Commission, QRIC. Headed by Commissioner Ross Barnett, QRIC has implemented stronger animal welfare protections, enhanced powers of inspection to integrity investigators and implemented strict licensing standards. The LNP fought tooth and nail against these important reforms. As an additional integrity measure and in a first for the racing industry, I can announce that QRIC integrity officers are now trialling the use of body worn cameras for use in the course of their duties including for the collection of evidence. I look forward to updates on the results of these trials. With QRIC now established, Racing Queensland and its new independent board can focus exclusively on the commercial side of racing and the results are already encouraging. RQ recorded a $21 million loss in 2016 and it is forecasting a loss of approximately $2.5 million for 2016-17. This improved performance is already delivering returns to the industry. Most noticeably, Racing Queensland announced a $3.2 million increase in prize money for the 2017-18 season.

CHAIR: I welcome Mr Jon Krause, the shadow minister for tourism, sport and racing and member for Beaudesert. Welcome back, minister and officials. The committee will now examine the racing portfolio of the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations, Minister for Racing and Minister for Multicultural Affairs. I call the member for Beaudesert to commence questioning.

Mr KRAUSE: Minister, I refer to page 8 of the SDS in relation to policy advice and the viability of the racing industry. What is the cost of the review into the surface of Eagle Farm and who is paying for that review?

Ms GRACE: No-one is more keen to get Eagle Farm, pardon the pun, back on track than not only the BRC but also Racing Queensland and myself as minister. My understanding is that we will do what we can to ensure that the direction I issued to Racing Queensland is carried out. Under that direction, Racing Queensland now has coverage to ensure that the Eagle Farm track is brought back to its original and best condition, fit for purpose for the industry. Any amendments, changes or expenses that come from that will be paid by Racing Queensland. Quite clearly, from a reputation point of view it is important that our premier racing track is up to speed. It became apparent that it was not when the track was run on—I am trying to ascertain the date in the information that I have before me—on 28 May. Racing Queensland issued a control-body direction to the Brisbane Racing Club to move the Queensland Oaks and the Stradbroke Handicap to Doomben because of the possible reputational damage as the track was not up to speed.

Mr KRAUSE: Is Racing Queensland going to pay for the review?

Ms GRACE: Yes, Racing Queensland is doing the review and it is paying for the review. Of course, any remediation work that is required on the track following the intensive review and all of the testing that is going on will come out of the Racing Infrastructure Fund.

Mr KRAUSE: How much is the review going to cost?

Ms GRACE: Dr Forbes, do we have a figure at this stage?  

We have appointed Dale Monteith to conduct an independent review. He comes with extensive experience. We wanted the best, to ensure we can get this track right. To date, I think a total of about 169 separate tests and samples have been carried out. We want to ensure we get this track up and running as soon as possible. Racing Queensland is working closely with all stakeholders to ensure we get this work done as a matter of priority. The direction that I issued asked them to rectify the works to be undertaken as a matter of priority. I want them to provide me with timelines for the completion of any rectification works, including regular updates on the progress of the works and, of course, any ongoing maintenance programs that will be in place to ensure that Eagle Farm’s racing surface remains fit for purpose. Those costs will be paid by Racing Queensland. Any rectification work on the track will come out of the Racing Infrastructure Fund.

Mr KRAUSE: How much for the review itself? Do you know how much that is contracted for, with Mr Monteith?

Ms GRACE: I do not have that figure in front of me, but I will turn to Dr Elliot Forbes, who is the CEO of Racing Queensland, to provide you with further information.

Dr Forbes: The review is still ongoing. Quite considerable testing has been going on. We have not been invoiced for that yet.

Mr KRAUSE: So you do not know yet? Okay. Minister, why did it take you so long to act in relation to Eagle Farm? Issues that were identified were raised last year, which was from the day that Eagle Farm opened. Why did it take you so long to act on Eagle Farm?

Ms GRACE: It did not take me long to act at all. We acted immediately when the track was viewed to be not fit for purpose. In relation to this, I remember speaking almost instantaneously to Dr Elliot Forbes, the BRC and other stakeholders. I issued a direction on 5 June. There were rumours in the industry that the track was not operating effectively, but they were only rumours at that point in time. It became apparent that it was not fit for purpose on 28 May and I issued a direction on Monday, 5 June. We took remedial action straightaway in reallocating the remaining races to the Doomben track, which was the right decision at the time. We have taken immediate action, as a priority, to get the Eagle Farm track operating, fit for purpose, as soon as possible. We have engaged Mr Dale Monteith, who is undertaking a number of tests —

Mr KRAUSE: We heard that before, Minister.

Ms GRACE: You have asked a question; let me answer it.

Mr KRAUSE: You gave us this information before.

Ms GRACE: He has undertaken a number of tests in relation to that. We acted appropriately and speedily and we will get this done. If you want me to go through the history of Eagle Farm you are 12 months out of date, because it was under your government that this track was originally laid, back in 2014. The then treasurer and member for Clayfield, Mr Tim Nicholls, talked about the new track being laid et cetera. You reap what you sow.

Mr STEVENS: I raise a point of order. We are not looking for a speech in answer to a question. It is out of order. It has to be relevant under standing order 118. The question was not asked previously. This track maintenance program was not even thought of when we were in Government.

Ms GRACE: Excuse me, Chair, but they may not like the answer. Unfortunately, they are going to get the answer that they have asked for. My response is most relevant. We are talking about acting in relation to the track. You are suggesting that we are 12 months behind in acting. I am answering that question and my answer is relevant. You want to lay blame for where this track is at, but I am not interested in laying blame; I am interested in fixing it and getting an outcome for Eagle Farm.

CHAIR: Minister, I have to address the point of order. Minister, I remind you that you may answer the committee’s question however you see fit, as long as your answer is relevant to the question.

Ms GRACE: It is most relevant.

CHAIR: For the benefit of the committee, can you clarify the relevance of your answer to the question?

Ms GRACE: The question that was asked of me was: why did we take so long to act when the state of the track became apparent to us on 28 May? The implication is that 12 months previous the track had problems and we failed to act. I am relevantly demonstrating that the accusation contained in the question is incorrect. That was not the case. This was done by the previous government. If anyone is to blame for the shortcuts that were taken on the Eagle Farm track, it rests squarely with your government.

Mr KRAUSE: Minister, we will move on from that issue—

Ms GRACE: Yes, I suggest you do, because I would love to prolong it.

Mr KRAUSE: Minister, has Racing Queensland exceeded or failed to meet wagering performance targets for the thoroughbred code in 2016-17?

Ms GRACE: My understanding is that wagering is up in relation

Mr KRAUSE: The wagering performance for the thoroughbred code only, in 2016-17.

Ms GRACE: My understanding is that it is up 12.8 per cent for that year end. That is wagering performance that is up. We have had excellent results from the summer carnival and excellent results from the winter carnival. My understanding is that, overall, it is up 12.8 per cent for the year.

Mr KRAUSE: For the thoroughbreds?

Ms GRACE: Yes.

Mr KRAUSE: Minister, when do you expect Eagle Farm to be fully operational?

Ms GRACE: As soon as possible and as soon as practical.

Mr KRAUSE: Of course, but when?

Ms GRACE: I have issued a direction under which I have asked for regular updates and a full and comprehensive report on the state of the track. That is due to come to me towards the end of this month, on 28 July. Dr Elliot Forbes has asked for a couple of extensions, due to testing and the time that has taken, and I think some bad weather prevented some testing from occurring. The direction is clear: they need to correct or rectify the track as soon as possible and they are to give me regular updates. The first report is due to me on 28 July. We hope that by then, under the stewardship of Dale Monteith and all of the stakeholders, we will have a projected time frame—

Mr KRAUSE: At the moment you do not have one?

Ms GRACE: Everybody is keen to have this done and rectified as soon as possible.

Mr KRAUSE: But you do not have a date at the moment?

Ms GRACE: Of course, it depends on the solution. Grass has to grow. It takes time. I am positive that we will get the outcome that we want for Eagle Farm, because that is what we want. We want our premier racetrack to be racing at that standard. It is unfortunate that we are in this position. If you want me to give the history about why we are here, I am more than happy to do that, but I can tell you that I am more concerned about getting the right outcome. I know that Racing Queensland is. I know the BRC is. I know that all of the stakeholders are. That is what we are working towards. That is what my direction asks for and that is what I will be provided with.

Mr KRAUSE: Members of the committee, I seek leave to table an article from the Courier-Mail of recent times indicating that the review into Eagle Farm may be delayed.

CHAIR: Is leave granted? Leave is granted.

Mr KRAUSE: Minister, has there been a delay in the implementation or the undertaking of the review into Eagle Farm?

CHAIR: We will pass a copy of the article to the minister.

Ms GRACE: As I said, I will be receiving a report on 28 July. I understand that there was possibly a week’s delay due to the weather situation and the need to obtain further testing. However, everybody is working towards making this track fit for purpose as soon as possible.

Mr KRAUSE: It may have been delayed for about a week or so?

Ms GRACE: Yes, there may be delays because of weather or testing that has not come back on time or whatever. However, all stakeholders, including myself, Dr Eliot Forbes from Racing Queensland, the Racing Queensland Board and the BRC chair and Board are all very keen to see the rectification of that track as soon as possible. You are reading something from a rumour section of the Courier-Mail. I have explained to you that I am going to get a report on 28 July. I have issued a ministerial direction.

Mr KRAUSE: You said there was a delay of about a week or so.

Ms GRACE: It was the first direction that I have issued in relation to this. If you want to pick up a rumour from the Courier-Mail, go right ahead—

Mr KRAUSE: Sure, but you said that there was a delay, Minister.

Ms GRACE:—but I am more than happy to let you know that there has been about a week’s delay due to the weather. My understanding is that we are working with Dale Monteith to make sure that this track is rectified—

Mr KRAUSE: We have heard that, Minister, thank you.

Ms GRACE: I am sorry, but I am answering the question. Chair, I am allowed to answer a question. The member may not like what he is hearing, but I will answer the question without interruption.

Mr KRAUSE: It is just that I have heard it three times already, Minister.

Ms GRACE: Every time I answer the question there is an interruption, which is rude.

Mr KRAUSE: It is because I have heard it three times, Minister.

Ms GRACE: It makes me lose my train of thought and it is totally unnecessary. You have asked a question and I am answering it. There are weather implications. I have been informed that there has been a week’s delay. I suggest that you do not listen to the rumour mongers. If you want the full details, I suggest you ask a question on notice when parliament resumes.

Mr KRAUSE: Minister, can you categorically advise whether Racing Queensland or the Brisbane Racing Club was the responsible entity for the implementation of the Eagle Farm track improvement project? Was Racing Queensland or the Brisbane Racing Club the responsible entity for the implementation of that project?

Ms GRACE: Of the review?

Mr KRAUSE: No, of the Eagle Farm track redevelopment.

Ms GRACE: It was back in 2014. I was not the minister at the time. It was under your government.

Mr KRAUSE: Can you categorically advise who the responsible entity was?

Ms GRACE: It was under your government that this track was done. My understanding is that the member for Clayfield made the big announcement about the track being laid.

Mr STEVENS: I raise a point of order. There is a clear, answerable question: is the track adjustment project the responsibility of Racing Queensland or the Brisbane Racing Club? The question is quite simple.

Ms GRACE: With all due respect, Chair, I was not minister at the time that this occurred.

Mr KRAUSE: But you are now, Minister.

Ms GRACE: I can only go by the advice that was given to me at the time. My understanding is that clubs put in their bids for various infrastructure funds. The Brisbane Racing Club clearly had to have a new racetrack. The application is done by—

Mr KRAUSE: That is not the question. The question is: who is the responsible entity, Minister? Do you not know who the responsible entity is?

Ms GRACE:—the racing club, which puts in the request for the application for the RIF.

Mr KRAUSE: My question is: who is the responsible entity for the implementation of that?

Ms GRACE: Both. Both would have been, because one would have made the application and then Racing Queensland would have supported and provided whatever funding was required in relation to the track. This has an historical basis. I was not minister in 2014 when you guys cut the budget that allowed them to put down a track that did not stand the test of time.

CHAIR: Minister, I need some clarification.

Mr KRAUSE: Move on.

CHAIR: I understand the member will ask the next question.

Mr KRAUSE: So we are not taking the point of order?

Mr STEVENS: Ask another question.

Ms GRACE: I suggest you do.

Mr KRAUSE: Minister, you confirmed that you do not know who is responsible. I will refer you to page 8—

Ms GRACE: I will not be verballed. I did not confirm that I did not know who was responsible. I have told you—

Mr KRAUSE: You did not want to answer the question.

Ms GRACE:—and I will answer this question. The BRC would be putting in the application to have their track done. Racing Queensland at time—I am assuming because I was not there at the time and I was not the racing minister; the LNP was government—would then be the principal contractor because they then apply for the funds under the RIF. Under the RIF the government then provides the funds to build a track. My understanding is that there were cuts upon cuts in relation to the money that was given to the Racing Queensland Board at the time, which I did not appoint—it was appointed under your government. That then meant cutbacks when the Eagle Farm track was laid. We now see the condition that it is in. If you want the real answer it is this. A club puts in a request. Racing Queensland is the principal body that handles this. It is then returned to the club. That is the manner in which racing infrastructure funding takes place. It happened under your government.

Mr KRAUSE: I refer to page 8 of the SDS in relation to racing infrastructure. I refer to the costs of the plans to redevelop Albion Park, which were provided in question on notice No. 17, at almost $1 million in 2016-17. That is enough for an extra $6,000 in prize money at 151 races across Queensland, including $780,000 for consultancy fees, $4,300 in council fees, $90,000 in planning fees and $34,500 in legal fees. Has the minister approved these plans and if not does she endorse Racing Queensland testing the market in such a manner?

Ms GRACE: Absolutely. Racing Queensland is charged with running Racing Queensland on a commercial basis. Albion Park is one of Racing Queensland’s primary assets. It is wholly owned by Racing Queensland. It has an estimated site value in the many millions of dollars. After consulting with participants Racing Queensland identified that commercial outcomes can be improved in South-East Queensland and at Albion Park in particular. At the moment they are obviously protecting their balance sheet in terms of the value of Albion Park. Acting on a commercial basis they are fully entitled to do that. That clearly comes at a cost for a very high-value piece of real estate that is owned by Racing Queensland. The valuation is somewhere between $100 million to $250 million. That is a very large asset. Racing Queensland is doing the right thing by ensuring the value of Albion Park is sustained and maintained in their balance sheet. There was no need for me to approve the funding request because I only approve funding over $1 million. The amount spent on protecting the value of Albion Park in the balance sheet was not in excess of that amount. I fully support—

Mr KRAUSE: Minister—

Ms GRACE: Chair, could I please answer the question without continually being interrupted? I was asked a question on Albion Park and I am attempting to answer it.

Mr KRAUSE: You have answered my question, Minister.

Ms GRACE: I will decide when I have answered the question, with all due respect.

Mr KRAUSE: I am asking the questions here, Minister.

Ms GRACE: I do not think that it is up to you to decide when the question is answered.

Mr KRAUSE: If I am satisfied with the answer is that not the answer?


Mr KRAUSE: Do you want to ask the questions too, do you?

CHAIR: It has been a long day. It would be helpful if people stopped interjecting over each other. It is making it very difficult to follow what is going on for a start.

MILLER: I would like to direct my question to the Racing Integrity Commissioner. I am just seeking advice in relation to a member of a Turf Club committee who has allegedly been charged with offences. Should that person remain on the committee or resign their position given that the reputation and integrity of racing as a sport is very important in Queensland?

Mr Barnett: As I understand the question it relates to the conduct of an official of a Turf Club. In usual circumstances the licensing of clubs and officials is usually the province of Racing Queensland. The Queensland Racing Integrity Commission is responsible for the licensing of participants and animals in the industry. If this person was to have dual citizenship in effect and be a licensed participant then it would be up to the QRIC to consider whether that person’s licence should be suspended or revoked depending on the circumstances of the matter.

Mrs MILLER: What if they are a committee member and they have no other interest in racing except for being a Turf Club committee member?

Mr Barnett: A pure committee member who has no other licensed involvement in the industry would not come under the responsibility of the Racing Integrity Commission.

Mrs MILLER: What integrity commission would that come under?

Ms GRACE: Member for Bundamba, I think Dr Eliot Forbes would the person to answer. The licensing of clubs comes under Racing Queensland.

Mr Forbes: In relation to club licensing that is a responsibility of Racing Queensland. As part of those club licensing procedures we require police checks of committee members. If there is a police record then that would be something that would be examined closely and screened. If there were still charges pending there would be no police record at that time.

Mrs MILLER: I have a question to the Minister in relation to the Ipswich Turf Club and the recent announcement. As you would be aware, the Turf Club is very sensitive about announcements in relation to funding because we had an announcement several years ago, then there was a change of Government and the money got ripped off us. Can we be absolutely sure that this time we have the money? Please say yes. Make my life a lot easier as the Member for Bundamba, let me tell you.

Ms GRACE: Yes, I believe that we have moved straight away to getting contracts awarded, quotes in and contractors started so that we can lock in these funds. Depending on what happens at the next election, I hope to return as Racing Minister and I will guarantee that those funds will come to you. I know from Racing Queensland’s perspective the Board should remain in place. I cannot imagine that there would be any changes to that. I guess it is something that you would need to get from the other side of politics. I would say that most would be awarded before the election is due early next year. Hopefully we can guarantee that those funds —the $13 million awarded to the worthy Ipswich Turf Club —are spent according to the awarded contracts so we get those clubhouses going and the turf and all the other work done.

Mrs MILLER: The quicker we can get it done the better. We obviously do not trust the other side.

Mr POWER: The other matter that came up during committee hearings was the intelligence capability of Queensland Racing. Can the minister outline whether there are any new announcements by QRIC in relation to body worn cameras for QRIC inspectors for the gathering of evidence for future use?

Ms GRACE: After a successful trial in June 2017, QRIC’s integrity officers started using body worn cameras to assist in the collection and management of evidence on 1 July this year. The introduction of body worn cameras will allow authorised officers to collect audio and video evidence during the course of inspections and investigations and use this as part of their evidence base when responding to compliance breaches or other offences. The ability to record electronic evidence and manage it through a digital evidence management system will protect the integrity of the evidence and everyone involved in its collection. Once an officer completes their shift or field work, they return to the office and dock the device in a camera-docking station, known as the evidence transfer manager, which automatically uploads and stores the data recorded. Ultimately the use of body worn cameras will also improve the timeliness and fairness of the disciplinary and internal review process, as there will be no contest as to the accuracy of the evidence relied upon. QRIC is the first racing regulatory body in Australia to introduce the devices, and staff have been supported by formal training and the development of standard operating procedures to ensure their appropriate and proper use. Already the evidence-collecting value of the cameras has been proven. In the first days of use, officers are making surprise inspections, gathering evidence and clearly using that to mount the case in relation to their investigations. QRIC investigators were able to respond and record on-site evidence and interview participants who had breached, for example, licensing requirements. It is a giant leap forward for our officers. I believe there are 12 cameras that are in use. Investigators are well resourced and well trained. I am sure the cameras will more than adequately benefit the racing industry from an integrity point of view.

Mr KRAUSE: Minister, has the Albion Park redevelopment plan been abandoned, given the decision by the Brisbane City Council last week?

Ms GRACE: We do know that on 14 July—last week, as you have said—the Brisbane City Council refused Racing Queensland’s application to allow a development submission under the Council ’s superseded planning scheme. Racing Queensland, I understand, is working with the BCC to understand any concerns they may have about the request to submit a planning application under the old town planning scheme for Albion Park. If Racing Queensland is not able to leverage the value of the Albion Park site then it will need to understand the impact on its plans for the infrastructure for both racing codes. I have had submitted to me a five-year infrastructure plan, so this is obviously going to have a significant impact on Racing Queensland’s five-year plan. They are getting their head around this and meeting with the Brisbane City Council to try to understand the reasons for their decisions going forward. I am well aware that Racing Queensland will continue to work with all stakeholders to determine a way forward in the best interests of racing in Queensland. Part of the process will be to discuss options—obviously there are options—going forward and ensure that all stakeholders are consulted in relation to this. I would expect no less from Racing Queensland. They took the appropriate steps to protect the balance sheet value of Albion Park for Racing Queensland. It is a significant asset. As I have said previously, I have had no formal plans in front of me. There are no decisions for me to make. This is about ensuring the protection of the balance sheet value of Albion Park going forward. Racing Queensland are well aware that the expectation from this Government is that they listen, they consult and they talk to all stakeholders. I am sure that they will continue to liaise with the BCC regarding the decision of last week.

Mr KRAUSE: Minister, it is clear that the Albion Park Harness Racing Club has a different vision for the precinct. I seek leave to table a document in relation to that.

CHAIR: Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.

Mr KRAUSE: In that light, will you consider any alternative plans to redevelop Albion Park?

Ms GRACE: Racing Queensland has a primary responsibility to have a look at Albion Park and what they believe going forward. They are consulting with stakeholders. They are aware of alternative sites from the Albion Park Harness Racing Club. I am aware of the article that you have tabled. Racing Queensland is working with all stakeholders so that we can get the best outcome for Albion Park. I would expect no less. Clearly there are alternative views. There are alternative visions. Racing Queensland act on a commercial basis. It will be deleterious for them not to protect the value of that property on their balance sheet. That is what they have done. They have, as you have said, received a decision that is contrary to what they applied for. They are consulting widely. They will continue to consult with the Brisbane City Council. I would be disappointed if there were not a number of options for Albion Park. At this point in time nothing formal has come to the Government, to me as Minister, to have a look at for any infrastructure spend. My understanding is that this is about ensuring a way forward not only for the Albion site but also for the racing industry in total. I have further information here. In February 2017 Racing Queensland commissioned Deloittes to undertake a review of the greyhound and harness racing codes in the south-east corner. Their study resulted in extensive stakeholder engagement including a survey of existing facilities and their appropriateness for racing and factors for their ongoing involvement in the codes. There has been economic and demographic analysis. For example, a few were asking: is a city based harness racing and greyhound club appropriate? We know that there are expressions of interest out there for the south and the west in relation to harness and greyhound tracks that will be world-class and meet all the animal welfare situations. Feedback identified that there are some views that the current facilities are short of expectations. However, Racing Queensland is in discussions with all stakeholders. Nothing formal has come forward to me. I am sure that there are many views in relation to it. I am sure that we will land not only the best outcome for Albion but the best outcome for the racing industry in general.

Mr KRAUSE: Minister, you referred earlier to a five-year infrastructure plan that has been forwarded to you. That is something that we have been waiting for for some time. When will that be finalised and released?

Ms GRACE: It never would have come under you because there was never any racing infrastructure plan under the previous government. You have been waiting a long time and you would never have received one under the LNP. On 19 July 2016 I requested Racing Queensland to produce an infrastructure plan. Racing Queensland then proceeded to write to all clubs about funding levels. Unfortunately, I have very few funds in the Racing Infrastructure Fund due to the deal that the LNP signed—a 30-year deal, which will give me after 2023, when the last payment is to be made to the Racing Infrastructure Fund, just over $100 million to spend over 30 years. The difference is $110 million that the previous Government allocated over four years which was extended to five years under the LNP Government. That is a significant difference in racing infrastructure funds, so it is no doubt that I have asked Racing Queensland to come up with a racing infrastructure five-year plan. We have been locked in to a 30-year deal by the LNP which gives us just over $110 million over 30 years. Well over $120 million in infrastructure needs has been identified right now in the racing industry —a significant shortfall. Forgive us if we try to do what we can to fix the mess left to us by the previous LNP Government. There are a number of EOIs out there for infrastructure spends in regards to harness and greyhound racing. We have committed $13 million to the Ipswich Turf Club and $6 million to the country and regional infrastructure program —the first money that they have seen in years. Not one penny was spent by the previous LNP Government. When it comes to infrastructure, of course there is a five-year plan. We are looking at those figures. There is a number of issues that we need to look at going forward because, unfortunately, the money left to us by the previous government is nowhere near what Labor had committed under the previous Labor Government.

Mr KRAUSE: Racing Queensland has also floated ideas about having new harnessing and greyhound venues south and west of Brisbane. Are these proposals not dependent on the sale of Albion Park?

Ms GRACE: No, they are not.

Mr KRAUSE: What consultation was undertaken by Racing Queensland—perhaps it is a question best directed to Dr Forbes—with the harness and greyhound clubs at Albion Park before the proposal to relocate harness and greyhound racing from there was made public by Racing Queensland? Did you meet with them and speak with them? Did they generally agree with the proposal?

Dr Forbes: As the Minister has previously outlined, in the formulation of our infrastructure plan we asked Deloitte to undertake a review of harness and greyhound facilities for South-East Queensland. As part of that review, a stakeholder engagement piece was undertaken. That involved meeting with various representatives of key industry groups including the clubs. It also included a stakeholder survey in an online module. Together with that feedback from the stakeholders as well as with the economic and demographic modelling that Deloitte undertook, the recommendations that came from Deloitte were considered by the Racing Queensland Board who then formulated the approach to the strategy for the infrastructure plan. There was engagement with the club people. There was engagement with various peak industry organisations such as BOTRA, which is the Breeders Owners Trainers and Reinsmen Association and the equivalent in the greyhound code with breeders, owners and traders associations as well to get their views as to what their needs are for infrastructure going into the future. What was very clear is that the facilities are falling short of expectations and there is a very strong desire, particularly among a lot of the greyhound participants, for brand-new facilities. The club people there had identified that there was a desire for a new single-turn track and that they would certainly like to have a bigger role to play in the commercial operation of their site. That is the type of feedback we got.

Mr KRAUSE: What about the Albion Park Harness Racing Club? What was their feedback?

Dr Forbes: The Albion Park Harness Racing Club were a part of the consultation processes. They have obviously made their position very clear that they would like to stay where they are. However, we are making decisions which are really designed to be best for industry outcomes. Part of our modelling had shown that when we look at the people who attend the racecourse and the people who wager on racing, as a broadcast sport in some ways it does not matter where the course is located for wagering. Given that most of our harness participants are located in fringe areas in the southern and the western corridors together with the fact that a lot of people who actually attend the course also live in those locations, it certainly made sense from a commercial and economic point of view to locate facilities where you are best positioned to serve their needs. We can certainly understand the diversity of views there. Ultimately, we are looking for the best industry outcomes.

Mr KRAUSE: My next question is to Mr Barnett. I refer to page 65 of the Treasury SDS in relation to QRIC staffing and I ask: who is the current Director of Stewarding and Licensing at QRIC?

Commissioner Barnett: I thank the honourable member for his question. The position of Director, Licensing and Stewarding is currently vacant.

Mr KRAUSE: Mr Barnett, that puzzles me because I understood that that was filled by Mr Jamie Dart last year.

Commissioner Barnett: That is not exactly correct. A selection process was undertaken. Mr Dart was one of the people who applied for that position. Mr Dart was not appointed formally to that position when matters came to my attention which required me to take action against Mr Dart, which involved him being suspended with pay.

Mr KRAUSE: What you are saying is he is presently suspended with pay but he was not formally appointed to the Director of Stewarding and Licensing at QRIC despite there being reports at the time that he was?

Commissioner Barnett: That is correct. I think it is a matter of public record that Mr Dart was suspended in October last year and he remains suspended on pay at this time.

Mr KRAUSE: He remains suspended on full pay at this point. How much has that cost QRIC?

Commissioner Barnett: I am not in a position to particularise his exact amount, but I can give you an overall figure of the number of members cumulatively who have been suspended with pay if that is of any assistance to the committee.

Mr KRAUSE: Mr Barnett, we might let that one go through to the keeper at this point. Has QRIC been able to finalise the matter that was put in question about Mr Dart and finalise the investigation that was underway in relation to him?

Commissioner Barnett: The investigation into the allegations against Mr

Dart has been a lengthy and obviously complex matter. It is very close to finalisation and we are expecting to get a report from the investigating firm in the very near future. I mean potentially days.

Mr KRAUSE: It has been about nine months now by my reckoning. What has taken so long? Why has there been a delay?

Commissioner Barnett: That is correct. It has taken a long time—longer than any of us would have liked. These matters are very disconcerting for the organisation and for the members concerned. We all have a desire to have them resolved as soon as possible and that is clearly our desire in this matter as well. There have been some complicating factors in this matter, some of a personal/medical nature which I do not think would be appropriate in all fairness to explain further to the committee.

Mr STEVENS: Minister, the integrity chief appointed under your watch, Mr Ross Barnett, has publicly stated that there is the equivalent of organised crime operations in the racing industry. How many have been identified to date and in what time frames in terms of months or years have you been advised that the persons involved in this criminal activity will be charged?

Ms GRACE: I think this is sensitive information. I would refer that question to the Commissioner who is more au fait with what can be said publicly in relation to these investigations. These are sensitive investigations and we do not want to do anything that is going to affect the outcome of those. I refer that question to Commissioner Barnett to answer in relation to what he believes can be publicly informed in relation to QRIC’s investigations into these issues.

Commissioner Barnett: The investigations undertaken by the Commission in consultation with the Queensland Racing Crime Squad are a matter of public record. I think the matters that the honourable member may be referring to are arrests made in April of this year for offences of race fixing, which is a crime in Queensland that carries a maximum penalty of 10 years imprisonment. Those matters are a matter of public record. I did say at the time that the matter is ongoing, and on that basis I think it would not be appropriate to speculate any further.


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