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By Graham Potter | Sunday, March 20, 2016

Graham Potter writes a weekly column for the Sunshine Coast daily. Due to demand from those having trouble accessing the paper these columns are now also published on HRO courtesy of the Sunshine Coast daily.

The controversial new Racing Integrity Bill hasn’t quite been defeated, as many had hoped, but it has spun off the track and stalled approaching the final corner. Whether it can restart in time to find the finishing line is another matter.

In what can be translated as a rousing condemnation of the heavy handed bill proposal by government, through the office of the Racing Minister, ... by no less than its own Parliamentary Committee... it was not only the rejection of the Bill in its current form by the Parliamentary Committee but the wording of their report that must have stung those who thought bulldozing such legislation through parliament was a done deal.

On the process, or lack of it, that was followed in terms of formulating the Bill the committee stated, ‘Regrettably the Department of National Parks, Sport and Racing did not consult with community or industry stakeholders or the public in relation to the provisions in the Bill. As a result, racing industry participants were excluded from the Bill’s development,' ... and that consultation with the racing industry should have been 'an intrinsic and routine part of the policy.'

On the costs involved in implementing the Bill the committee stated, ‘In the absence of clear information about the assessment of implementation costs for government, it is difficult to gauge whether the anticipated benefits of the Bill are worthwhile.’

The proposed Racing Integrity Bill, which has 390 clauses, contained more than three hundred pages of legislation and the Parliamentary Committee’s report filled over fifty pages. That represents a lot of work, time and money.

Yet, for all of that, the above basic omissions, amongst other criteria, led the committee comprising, a six person board with eight support staff, to reach this, in some ways, quite astonishing conclusion.

‘Standing Order 132(1) requires the committee to determine whether or not to recommend the Bill be passed. After examination of the Bill and its policy objectives, and consideration of the information provided by the department, the committee could not agree whether the Bill should be passed.’

They instead sent a message out to the Racing Minister seeking certain points of clarification.

All that time. All that work. All that money. No result!

In effect though, the ‘non-event’ outcome was a good one from the perspective of most racing stakeholders who were shouting down the bill.

It was also a point of comfort for racing enthusiasts to know that, for a change, somebody with some racing knowledge and involvement in the game, the Chairman of the Parliamentary Committee, was playing a part in a decision making process.

That’s been a rarity of late.

No one wants to make light of integrity in racing. It remains on the top tier of important issues in the game but stark opposing views on the current proposed Bill and the questionable way in which it has been handled until now makes one wonder if there can ever be a day when the toxic mix of racing and politics will ever be able to get out of its own way ... for its own good!

Until then, racing will continue to have to have to endure an insecure existence.

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