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Sue Bradford's Address: Racing Bill - 2nd Reading


Sue Bradford Racing Bill - Second Reading

Mr Speaker,

The Green Party has had a strong interest in the protracted progress of the Racing Bill through the House. While Racing isn't one of the issues more commonly associated with the Greens, there are actually a number of us, particularly from the more rural side of our membership, who recognise very clearly the key role the racing industry plays in our national economy, and in our local communities, through things like job creation, local and export sales, breeding, training and, of course, racing.

In line also with our support for community economic development, we appreciate the vital role smaller racing clubs have to play in the fabric of local life, and we support all measures to retain and develop the smaller rural and provincial clubs, despite the manifest problems the industry faces as a whole.

The assets of country racing - and of city clubs too for that matter - have been built up by generations, often since the mid 19th century, and we are utterly opposed to recent and current moves to amalgamate and then disintegrate these community resources.

Alongside this, we recognise that it's not just the smaller clubs themselves that are under threat when they reach the point of no return - it's also the whole fragile network of local breeders and trainers that's put at risk. Racing is not just about big business and it's certainly not just about gambling. I don't want to see the day come when we have no ordinary farmers and other regular citizens left who can breed or train a couple of horses and race them locally. Nor do I want to see the whole industry become merely a proposition for corporate investment and the playground of the very rich. To continue in that direction will actually be the deathknell of the industry, not the making of it as some would have us believe.

Throughout the progress of the Racing Bill through Select Committee the Green Party has supported its overall intent, to merge the Racing Industry Board and the TAB into one statutory body to simplify and strengthen governance of the industry. We've also been behind all moves to encourage this governance to take a holistic and strategic overview of where racing is going, not just in economic terms, but also in relation to its wider social responsibilities.

The Green Party is also particularly keen on Part 4 of the Bill which will ensure that in future the rules of racing are not allowed to infringe on individual's rights. The recent bizarre case of a woman who was penalised under the rules because her estranged husband had an assault conviction for an assault on her, brought into stark relief the need for major changes, including ensuring that the rules of racing are subject to the Human Rights Act as well as being brought under the Regulations (Disallowance) Act 1989.

During the Select Committee process we heard from many submitters from all parts of the racing world. Everyone was concerned with the state of the industry, the decline in horses being locally raced as opposed to being sold for export, the decline in race-goers, the decline in race-days, the decline in incomes and so on.

However, the solutions being pursued by different industry groups are at times quite radically different. I hope that once the new Racing Board is in place it really will be able to play a role in trying to create a more proactive and positive environment for change in racing, looking at strategic development which is in the interest of all stakeholders, large and small, and not continually driven by factionalism or dominated merely by a few large players.

To help achieve this goal the Green Party supported a change to the Bill during the Select Committee process which amends the functions of the Board to include developing policies which are conducive to the overall economic development of the racing industry, including the economic wellbeing of those whose incomes are derived from racing. We also wanted the functions expanded to include a role in research, development and education so that the new Racing Board will be encouraged, and indeed required, to take a broader strategic view.

The Green Party was also pleased to support changes which will see a strengthening of accountability structures between the Board and the codes, and which will require the Board to prepare a business plan. As well as that, the Board's distribution to the codes will now be made subject to the preparation and completion of statements of intent and business plans by the codes themselves, which will have to go to the Board for approval.

The Board will have the power to withhold distributions of funds and race days if these statements and plans are not satisfactory. In addition, each code's statement of intent will have to include its policy on distribution of betting profits to clubs, and I certainly hope this will go a long way towards ensuring greater code accountability to the Board for the power of survival or failure they basically hold over the constituent bodies.

However, despite strong representations from a number of submitters, and from the Green Party that there should be a requirement that the Board establish some form of dispute resolution process, the Select Committee decided not to support such an approach. Given that the distribution of funds and race days lies at the core of the survival of local clubs and of the codes, we believe that there really does need to be a meaningful procedure for complaints to be heard when recognised industry groupings perceive an injustice.

While some political parties say that aggrieved organisations should simply head straight for the courtroom, I believe this militates against the interests of those industry organisations who do not have access to lots of money, or lawyers on tap. There must be an interim review and appeal procedure which is accessible to all organisations, and the procedure must be industry-specific. This happens in other jurisdictions and, for example, Racing Victoria has a well organised route for submissions from stakeholders.

For this reason the Green Party is putting up an SOP in the Committee Stages of the Bill aimed at establishing a Review and Appeal procedure which will be accessible to all recognised industry organisations as defined in Clause 5. We are calling for the Minister to appoint a Racing Industry Reviewer for a minimum three year period. Organisations will then be able to ask the Reviewer to review decisions made by the Board concerning the determination of the racing calendar and the distribution of funds obtained from betting to the codes.

If the Board chooses not to implement recommendations received as a result of this process, it will have to notify the reviewer and the applicant of their decisions for not doing so. This is not a binding process, so if the group seeking redress is not satisfied, they will then be able to refer the matter on to arbitration by an arbitration tribunal formed under the 1996 Arbitration Act. A full copy of this SOP is available to members and I hope other parties will consider lending their support to the options offered by our amendment, which is one of the only ways of bringing clear lines of accountability and equity into the new governance arrangements.

The Green Party will also be putting up two further SOPs during the Committee stages of the Racing Bill.

The first of these deals with Clause 12 of the Bill, which establishes the makeup of the nomination advisory panel which recommends to the Minister the appointment of 3 persons to the new Racing Industry Board. While we looked at trying to find ways of changing the composition of the Board itself in the light of presentations from many submitters, that didn't seem possible, given the tight balance of interests required, and our acceptance of the need to keep the numbers on the Board down to a reasonable level.

So what we're doing instead is asking that a further 6th place on the nomination panel be created specifically for a representative of clubs with 3 or fewer race days, as these clubs tend to be the ones whose voice is least able to be heard at high levels within the Codes, and whose very existence has been most under threat in recent years. This is not in any way a costly or extreme amendment, and again, I'm hoping Members from other parties will see fit to support our recommendation.

The third Green Party SOP is concerned with Clause 20A, which deals with the requirement that racing codes must prepare a statement of intent and a business plan, which will be approved or not approved by the Board within a month of receiving them.

We're seeking to delete subclause (4) as it stands, and substitute a provision which will allow the Board to decline to approve a code's statement of intent or business plan if the Board considers that the objectives are inconsistent with the code's own objectives, or if any of the code's rules are unreasonable, undemocratic, unfairly discriminatory, unfairly prejudicial or contrary to law.

This SOP is a further attempt on our part to respond to the call of submitters who are just as concerned about issues of fairness and equity within the codes as they are about justice and fair play within the New Zealand Racing Board itself. Again, this is a totally reasonable amendment which I hope will receive support from all parties in the House.


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