I rise to make a contribution on the Racing Amendment (Integrity and Disciplinary Structures) Bill 2018.
The objective of the bill is to raise standards in this particular industry and it is really creating a new governance structure that will be independent and will provide independent oversight of the performance of the integrity-related functions of the industry regulatory bodies.
I suppose the importance of that independence is that it cannot be influenced by commercial factors and that it is intended to be a robust and transparent disciplinary framework. I think that is welcome because unfortunately we have seen many issues over the years that lead people to raise questions around integrity within the various codes.
The value of the racing industry in this state cannot be understated. It is an industry that has implications not only in metropolitan areas; country racing is something that creates a lot of value. There are many opportunities in regional areas for employment creation and a range of social and other activities to occur, all of which are of a very important economic but also social and sociable nature. In looking at the value of the industry to this state, I will just put out a few figures that have come from the annual report. It is interesting to note that Victorian racing alone attracts over 1.34 million attendees each year. It has an economic benefit of $2.1 billion to the state. There are 551 race meetings each year. There are over 68 000 owners of thoroughbred horses and 291 jockeys.
Not only are those figures relevant but it is interesting to note what racing does for the fashion industry. For many of us these racing events always present the opportunity to get really dressed up and enjoy what goes with that in terms of fashion. Racing contributes some $57 million to the fashion industry in terms of headwear, dresses, handbags, shoes, shirts and suits, so it is not to be underestimated in its impact across a much wider area.
In recent times we have been very concerned to see the nature of some of the issues in particularly the racehorse industry. Of course earlier on we had all those issues around greyhound racing and legislation was brought in during the term of this Parliament to try and address many of the problems that emerged out of the greyhound racing industry. More recently we have seen many allegations of doping of racehorses, and earlier this year eight people were accused of doping horses before races in Victoria and they are being dealt with in the appropriate and currently existing tribunals. But the opportunity to have the new governance structure in place will, I think, create a better oversight of this particular industry and of course really all three codes. Integrity and some confidence in the industry is really important because of the nature of the industry and its value to our community.
In regional Victoria there is no doubt that in country towns race meetings provide a place to meet, a place to have a lot of fun, a place to bet and of course a level of employment and the opportunity to mix. I well remember Jerilderie race days in the very small town where I used to live, and the picnic races and the ball that followed were great events and great opportunities to socialise, to bet and to watch terrific horses running around the track. It created much excitement in what were sometimes not the most active of communities. Many matches were made at race days. I am not talking about horses; I am talking about people in country communities. They were looked to as opportunities to spend time and get together and, I think, were highly valued.
Tourism is another aspect of the racing industry that I think should not be overlooked. Many people travel to country areas for race meetings. Many owners bring their horses to race meetings in country areas, and people gather. I have been at the Echuca races at times when very large crowds are there. Tents are set up. People bring their lunches. It is a long and a very enjoyable day.
The issues of integrity within the industry are particularly important, and it is getting harder and harder to detect what is going on. The doping of horses is something that the industry is very keen to crack down on. There are many ways that horses can be interfered with, including administering of substances to improve their performance, others to depress the horse’s performance and others to disguise the pain and relieve the suffering that horses are going through so that they do have the opportunity to still race when ideally they should not. They can mask the pain of horses, and it is quite a cruel thing to see. The primary objective of doping control is to ensure as far as possible that horses do not race with any pharmacological substances in their system. The underlying principle is that there should be drug-free racing. To ensure that, we do need to have the organisations and bodies in place that can monitor, supervise and ultimately penalise those who break the rules.
I welcome this legislation. Racing is something that touches many of our lives, as I say, particularly in regional areas where we take the opportunity to use it for social activities. I have been to Melbourne Cups and I have been to Caulfield Cups, and they are great events. They are very exciting, and I think it is very important that we all feel that there is integrity, that there is good governance and that we can have some confidence in what is going on. I commend this bill to the house.