Racing Amendment Bill 2021 – Second Reading

I am pleased to support the Racing Amendment Bill 2021 and welcome that it is being supported by the opposition.

As the member for Wendouree, my electorate is home to the Ballarat and District Trotting Club and the Ballarat Greyhound Racing Club in Redan, and the Ballarat Turf Club is just out of my electorate in Miners Rest. I am a proud member and supporter of the Ballarat Turf Club and the Ballarat and District Trotting Club.

I am pleased to contribute following great speeches from the member for Melton and the member for Ivanhoe. I have commented on it before, but it is remarkable how many times I am speaking on the same legislation as these two—I am definitely in good company!

I would like to thank the Minister for Racing, his ministerial office and the department for the work they have done to bring this bill to the house. Thank you to Simon Shiell, senior racing adviser, and I would also like to recognise the hard work of the minister’s senior adviser, Charlotte Gray, and thank her for the outstanding support she provides to the Wendouree office.

I am pleased to see that the proposed legislation has gone through a process of stakeholder consultation and it has been welcomed and supported by Country Racing Victoria CEO Scott Whiteman and Racing Victoria CEO Giles Thompson.

This bill amends the Racing Act 1958. For those with an interest in thoroughbred racing, in the year the Racing Act was introduced, Baystone won the Melbourne Cup, finishing the race one and a half lengths in front of Monte Carlo. Baystone was certainly a lucky number 7 for many that day, with odds of 10 to one. Interestingly the 1958 Melbourne Cup was the first with automatic barrier stalls. And locally, the winner of the Ballarat Cup in 1958 was Royal Symbol, who won the race again in 1959.

This bill will make the following changes to the Racing Act 1958 to remove the prohibition on racing on Good Friday and make other minor and technical amendments. While the proposed legislation removes the prohibition of racing on Good Friday, it retains the prohibition on Christmas Day.

The bill will also remove the requirements for thoroughbred racing clubs to seek ministerial approval to conduct a racing meeting on Anzac Day, provide a simpler and more timely process for the appointment of an acting racing integrity commissioner; enable the board of Harness Racing Victoria to appoint an administrator of a harness racing club, and improve the operation of the Victorian Racing Integrity Board.

Racing Victoria have publicly committed that should the bill pass they will create a feature annual race meeting on Good Friday that would be shared amongst country clubs. It is proposed that the Good Friday race day would then rotate annually throughout regional Victoria promoting different regions of the state and encouraging tourism on the Easter long weekend. Greyhound Racing Victoria and Harness Racing Victoria will also allocate race days to regional venues. This is great news for Ballarat and racing centres across regional Victoria.

The proposed changes to racing on Good Friday will take place from 2022. Racing in Australia is currently conducted on Good Friday in Western Australia and Tasmania.

The changes proposed will remove the prohibition on racing on Good Friday—bringing racing in Victoria into line with the sporting codes who currently conduct events on Good Friday, including the NRL and the AFL.

The AFL has played matches on Good Friday since 2017 whilst the NRL has played matches on Good Friday since 2012.The AFL game on Good Friday has become part of the Good Friday Appeal game, providing the Kick for the Kids match raising vital funds and awareness for the Good Friday Appeal. The Melbourne Storm also partnered with the Good Friday Appeal, helping to celebrate 90 years of giving for the kids at the Royal Children’s Hospital.

It is reassuring to know that racing has a rich history with the Good Friday Appeal. I was interested to learn that Victorian racing’s connection dates back to its inaugural fundraising event 90 years ago when a football match between Flemington and Caulfield jockeys was held and watched by a crowd of 20 000.

I am also pleased that the relationship continues, and that Racing Victoria will be ensuring that this feature country race day plays its part in assisting Victoria’s important fundraising efforts on Good Friday for the Royal Children’s Hospital.

It has been announced by Racing Victoria that if the bill passes, the inaugural Good Friday race day would be held at the Sale Turf Club, and that the meeting would not commence before 1.00 pm out of respect for the religious significance of the day.

Thoroughbred training in regional centres provides a valuable source of employment and economic activity. The racing industry is important for the Ballarat region, providing more than 1 300 full-time equivalent jobs, and including an economic impact of training expenditure in the region of $48 million annually.

The Victorian government has supported some key infrastructure in regional Victoria that has supported the retention and growth of local jobs in training, such as $4 million to support the construction of a synthetic track at the Ballart Turf Club, a project worth $10 million.

I wish to congratulate Ballarat Turf Club CEO Belinda Glass and the Ballarat Turf Club for the great work they are doing to build the club and the reputation of Dowling Forest as an excellent place to train and race thoroughbreds with the development of stables and training facilities.

It has been fantastic to have seen continued growth in the number of trainers choosing Dowling Forest’s world-class facilities as a base. More and more horses are being trained at Ballarat, and this is great news for our reputation as well as creating more jobs and supporting our local economy.

Regional training centres like Ballarat are essential to the success of Victorian racing. The Ballarat Turf Club will welcome Rob Hickmott Racing to Ballarat at the end of September. Ballarat Turf Club is home to Melbourne Cup winning jockey and now trainer Michelle Payne and her equally famous strapper brother Stevie Payne, as well as some great trainers: Archie Alexander, Tony McEvoy and Matt Cumani. Rob Hickmott Racing will certainly be in good company at Dowling Forest. I strongly believe that the Ballarat Turf Club is the place to train thoroughbred horses.

I am also pleased that the Ballarat Turf Club will be working with local stables to partner with Racing Victoria and registered training organisations to deliver a pilot program to strengthen the workforce and fill skills gaps.

I would also like to recognise the outstanding effort of the Ballarat Turf Club to respond to the challenges of COVID. They have conducted over 50 COVID-safe race days. Well done.

At this point, I would like to acknowledge that gambling can be harmful, and I would encourage anyone struggling with it to reach out as there are services available. People can call 1800 858 858 for support. I would also encourage people to raise the issue with their healthcare professional and family and friends who could be supportive.

In concluding I wish to extend an invitation to all members of the house to attend the Ballarat Cup, which will be held Saturday, 20 November 2021, at Dowling Forest.

I commend the Racing Amendment Bill 2021 to house.


Click here to read more of my contributions in Parliament. To access further Hansard transcripts, head to the Parliament of Victoria website.