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By Graham Potter | Friday, October 5, 2018

In a blazing attack on the Queensland Government in his column on HRO yesterday Robert Heathcote, a leading Brisbane trainer, voiced his disapproval in the strongest terms at the way, he believed, the Queensland Government is running the racing industry into the ground.

The response in the aftermath of that explosion has suggested that the movement to ‘push back,’ as Heathcote calls it, is growing fast as the realisation dawns on all stakeholders throughout the state that if they don’t stand up and look after themselves, nobody will.

One of the most relevant facts that Heathcote pointed out was that, ‘our own racing administrators have their hands tied. They’re as good as handcuffed because the people they need to comment about and protest against are their employers.’ (The Queensland Government). ‘At best, they can only have a soft push back because they are not in a position to push back any harder.’

Well let’s just examine that aspect of things and its impact, or lack of impact, for a moment with actual working examples from the activities of last week.

After many stakeholders were devastated by the POC Tax distribution declaration by the government last Friday and the lack of any real substance or certainty or on-going commitment that it offered to horse racing, the Racing Queensland Chairman, in an RQ press release, ‘acknowledged the government’s willingness to engage on this critical issue for the viability of Queensland’s racing industry,’ … and the RQ CEO stated, in part, that, ‘Racing Queensland will continue to engage with government’ … ‘in pursuit of our plan to improve the viability of racing in Queensland.’

To what end?

Talk about a soft push back!

And what does that all actually mean anyway?

It is devoid of any specifics. It is something the racing industry participants have heard ad nauseum and, really, it is taking racing participants to be fools.

And here’s the rub.

To a large degree they have acted like fools for too long because they have backed away from the problem, had their private whinge and done nothing of consequence about it … time and time and time again while their industry has been put to the sword.

Consultation, lobbying or whatever communication is opened with government, we now know amounts to next to nothing.

How often do participants have to go that route before they realise all are getting for their trouble is bruised from knocking their head against the wall … or worse, a closed door.

Hopefully this is the knock on the head that wakes them up.

I don’t mean that unkindly. I have a fair knowledge of how much racing’s participants have gone through and the wear and tear these troubling events have taken on good people and I have tons of sympathy for that unhappy experience … but, hey, facts are facts.

If you don’t play an influential part in your own destiny you are going to end up where somebody else puts you.

The good news is that, given the industry response over the last couple of days, it looks like the sleeping giant has at last been awakened and as Bob Dylan sang, 'The times they are a changing.'

I mean how can anybody possibly be expected to accept some parts of the joint announcement issued by Treasurer Jackie Trad and Racing Minister Stirling Hinchliffe such as the part relating to the, ‘ongoing financial support to RQ to ensure that the introduction of the POC tax doesn’t negatively impact Queensland’s racing industry.'

Again, what does that mean exactly. Doesn’t racing have a right to know? Does government in fact know what it means long term, or not!

Sometimes … often in fact … you get the impression they are making it up as they go along.

And, by the way, what was Racing Queensland’s response to that vague statement?

It was, ‘we welcome the government’s decision to provide RQ with ongoing financial support to ensure that the POC tax doesn’t negatively impact Queensland’s racing industry.’

‘Welcome’ … really! As Ricky Ponting supposedly once said to a bouncer, ‘is that all you got?’

But then, as Heathcote explained, if their hands are tied, this timid response is not directly the fault of these administrators and that should be acknowledged. It is the system that is broken and in desperate need of an overhaul.

Further, with all respect to the other codes the proposed one-off payment of $20 million by government for investment in new greyhound and harness racing facilities … as good as that reads … does nothing, zip, zero for horseracing, which is the real bread-winner of the industry.

I wish all the greyhound and harness participants the best of luck but surely even they realise that if horseracing does not flourish they are headed into a deep dead-end where even the best of facilities will be of little consequence.

The RQ Chairman has stated that the POC Tax announcement, ‘highlights both opportunities and challenges for racing in Queensland.’

He forgot to mention that scale is so unevenly balanced with the opportunities being so outweighed by the challenges that any referee would already declare it a no-contest.

Back in July, on the twenty-first of the month in my Sunshine Coast Newspaper racing column, I wrote an article which had the headline, ‘Is the Queensland Government ever going to come to the party?

That article concluded with these two sentences.

‘What will it take for the Queensland Government to come to the party? Or have they already sent their RSVP and racing just can't believe they are not coming!

I rest my case.

Related articles can be found here:

Peter V'Landys' solution to Queensland's racing woes.(October 5)

When you draw a line in the sand, say enough is enough and start to push back against the tide. (October 4)

Is the Government ever going to come to the party? (July 21)

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