Live baiting, golden handshakes + missing millions

In Attractions, Australian Domestic Tourism, Community, Gambling, Government, Momentum, National Headlines, Queensland

(Picture from 2012 of the four then-executives who were paid a year’s salary to leave Racing Queensland when the then-Labor government knew they would lose the state election.)

(Left to right) – Chief executive Malcolm Tuttle; Director of Integrity operations Jamie Orchard; Racing Queensland chairman Bob Bentley; Director of product development Paul Brennan; and Senior corporate counsel and company secretary Shara Reid

TTN: After the entire board of Racing Queensland was stood aside in early June 2015, it has been revealed that Racing Queensland were on track to a $21m loss in FY 2015/16… after receiving a suspicious $20m of government funds in 2012. The racing community on the ground in Queensland are more than happy to pass the buck back up to the board.

Racing Queensland were also in the spotlight in early 2015 after a drug scandal revealed 9 horses returned irregular drug tests. At the time, Racing Queensland said they would need to spend $200,000 on in-house testing facilities – $200k they don’t have to spare.

Racing Queensland facing serious financial problems, referred to auditor-general

The Queensland racing industry is facing serious financial problems and has been referred to the auditor-general, Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk has revealed.

The Government yesterday sacked the boards of all racing codes and stood aside Racing Queensland’s chief executive in the wake of an inquiry into the greyhound live baiting scandal.

Ms Palaszczuk said interim administrator of Racing Queensland KPMG’s Ian Hall, who was appointed only yesterday, has reported issues with the organisation’s budget.

The first draft of Racing Queensland’s (RQ) budget showed it was on track to record an $11 million loss by the end of the financial year.

It would swell to a loss of $21 million in 2016.

“It’s become immediately apparent that Racing Queensland’s budget appears to be in poor health,” she said.

“Mr Hall has found that Racing Queensland has serious cash flow problems which alarm me and will alarm all Queenslanders.

“That further justifies my Government’s decision to shake up the racing industry and start with a clean slate.

“This situation is unacceptable.”

Ms Palaszczuk also announced she had appointed retired Justice John Muir as the interim chairman of a new body to oversee the industry.

“Very clearly, the racing industry needs to start from scratch,” she said.

The State Government formed the Queensland Greyhound Racing Industry Commission of Inquiry in response to a Four Corners investigation in February that exposed shocking animal cruelty in the greyhound industry.

Vision from a greyhound property in Churchable, 90 minutes west of Brisbane, showed greyhounds mauling live pigs and possums who had been strung onto the lure arm.

The vision led to 23 Queensland greyhound trainers being warned off of racetracks for life.

Earlier today, RQ said they would not be making any comment.

Racing Queensland vow to get even tougher on testing for illegal drugs

From the Brisbane Courier Mail, 30th January 2015

Wade Birch, Racing Queensland general manager of stewards and integrity operations, says

Wade Birch, Racing Queensland general manager of stewards and integrity operations, says the findings are “consistent with what we are seeing generally within this sport and others.”

SIX Queensland trainers face likely questioning over cobalt samples as Racing Queensland prepares to upgrade its testing facilities in a bid to stamp out illegal drug use.

Racing Queensland General Manager of Stewards and Integrity Operations Wade Birch said a total of nine horses, belonging to three thoroughbred and three harness trainers, had returned ­irregular findings when measured against the industry ­cobalt threshold.

These came from an initial 290 tests and another 43 ­samples taken up to and including the Magic Millions 2YO Classic.

Birch confirmed that tests conducted on feature race winners during the Brisbane carnival and also on Magic Millions 2YO Classic winner Le Chef had all returned negative findings.

The nine irregular samples will now be prepared for a second test, which will be sent to Western Australia’s ChemCentre next Tuesday. Five of the trainers have been alerted to the irregularities.

The other, a thoroughbred trainer who handed in his ­licence last year, has been unable to be contacted at this stage.

In line with Racing Queensland protocol, the names of those trainers will not be ­released until such time as the next stage of testing confirms the initial results.

Despite nine horses showing initial tests outside the industry threshold, Birch said the results showed there was no evidence of widespread use of cobalt in Queensland.

“The results of our analysis for cobalt are consistent with what we are seeing generally within this sport and others — where a small amount of participants are experimenting with practices they believe will deliver an advantage,” Birch said.

Racing Queensland chairman Kevin Dixon. Picture: Claudia Baxter

Racing Queensland chairman Kevin Dixon. Picture: Claudia Baxter

In the wake of the time lag waiting for tests to be confirmed, Racing Queensland has committed to purchase a machine capable of testing for inorganic trace metals, including cobalt, which will be housed at the Racing Science Centre at Albion.

This will remove the need for the samples to be sent to Perth.

“We hope to have that implemented by April and it will definitely be up and running by the start of the winter carnival,” Racing Queensland chairman Kevin Dixon said.

“It is a significant investment, in excess of $200,000 and a similar figure in ongoing annual costs, but it also brings with it a number of cost savings in efficiency and will give us the capacity to screen for a wider range of substances more quickly.”

 

Racing Queensland chairman Bob Bentley approved golden handshake for four executives

From the Courier Mail, 5th April 2012

Racing Queensland graphic

RACING RUCTIONS: (from left) Chief executive Malcolm Tuttle; Director of Integrity operations Jamie Orchard; Racing Queensland chairman Bob Bentley; Director of product development Paul Brennan; and Senior corporate counsel and company secretary Shara Reid.

RACING Queensland chairman Bob Bentley approved a taxpayer-funded golden handshake worth $1 million for four executives ahead of the racing body being dismantled by the new LNP Government.

In the latest revelation to come out of the controversial racing body created by the Labor government and overseen by Mr Bentley and a board including union heavyweight Bill Ludwig, a special meeting was held between Mr Bentley and the four executives last year when it became apparent Racing Queensland’s ALP backers would lose government.

They agreed on terms including a 20 per cent pay rise and a 12-month payout on resignation, The Courier-Mail understands.

Chief executive Malcolm Tuttle, director of integrity operations Jamie Orchard, director of product development Paul Brennan and senior corporate counsel and company secretary Shara Reid all resigned on Monday last week in the wake of the LNP’s landslide election win.

The LNP had promised one of its first acts in power would be to dismantle the racing body, which had been sitting on an $80 million pot of taxpayer money earmarked for infrastructure, but had become mired in legal action with harness racers and faced rebellion from greyhound owners.

Deputy Premier Jeff Seeney said he was angered by the allegations and that the LNP had started a probe of the racing industry.

The Courier-Mail can reveal the four executives met Mr Bentley midway through last year, concerned their jobs would be in danger if the LNP won government and followed through on its promise to dismantle Racing Queensland.

Their employment contracts, which originally ran until June 30, 2013, were renegotiated with two key points of change in what The Courier-Mail understands was a staff retention strategy.

The first was they were afforded a 20 per cent pay rise. Secondly, a clause was allegedly added to say that if a “materially adverse change” (including RQL ceasing to be a control body, which was mooted under an LNP government) occurred or if an executive “thought” it might occur, they were entitled to resign and receive a payment.

Documents seen by The Courier-Mail suggest this payment was 12 months pay, in addition to other usual accrued entitlements.

Insiders suggest this puts the total figure paid out to Mr Tuttle, Mr Brennan, Mr Orchard and Ms Reid in the vicinity of $1 million.

Mr Bentley said the contracts were confidential and that he wouldn’t comment on the allegations, but said he was comfortable with what each received.

“I don’t have any concerns about the circumstances at all,” Mr Bentley said.

The allegations angered Mr Seeney.

“The Bligh government abdicated all responsibility for the racing industry, handing all power to Racing Queensland Limited and rubber stamped its decisions,” he said.

The racing industry was angered when Mr Bentley confirmed last week the executive quartet had been paid out. These suggestions will only heighten those feelings.

Furthermore, it is understood Mr Brennan is now working with Contour Consulting Engineers, Racing Queensland’s preferred provider in carrying out works as part of the industry infrastructure plan.

Mr Seeney confirmed the days of the current Racing Queensland were numbered.

“The LNP Government will act quickly to implement a new industry structure that will be more accountable and transparent,” he said.

“The Newman Government has already sent in the Auditor-General to look at Racing Queensland’s finances and we await his report.

“We have commenced an audit of integrity functions of Racing Queensland as well and are preparing a new regulation to get control of Racing Queensland’s spending.

“We will ensure that the focus of future spending decisions is to benefit the Queensland racing industry.”

Racing Queensland has been mired in legal action with harness racers opposed to plans to sell off Albion Park for redevelopment and move them to a redeveloped Deagon facility.

Backed by one of Queensland’s richest men, developer Kevin Seymour, the harness racers argue they should remain at Albion.

The racing body also faced rebellion from greyhound owners who said they were promised their own standalone track in Logan as part of the merger of the state’s three racing codes under Racing Queensland, something the racing body denied.

But in its dying days, RQL and the Bligh government promised them their own track in Logan, something the greyhound racers are desperate to have the LNP commit to.

Analysis: Qld turmoil sends shudders south

From Racing.com, 5th June 2015

Considering the turmoil that Queensland Racing finds itself in during its biggest week, it is not surprising that there will be some anxiety among participants about what implications that turmoil has for racing in this state.

The implosion in the Sunshine State, which started out in the greyhound industry and spread through the two other racing codes, harness and thoroughbred, has claimed four racing boards, plus most likely the CEO of Racing Queensland.

What started out as an inquiry into live baiting in greyhound racing has ended up tipping the entire racing landscape on its head, with all of the sport’s figureheads all-but-removed. Racing Queensland has been revealed to be in a perilous financial state and in the words of Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk, it’s time for a ‘clean slate’.

It has prompted a furious reaction from those within the Queensland thoroughbred industry, with trainer Rob Heathcote leading the charge describing the government’s actions as a ‘nuclear bomb’ during Stradbroke week.

That consternation has spread through Victoria and New South Wales, despite the fact that the structure of racing in those two states is vastly different to that in Queensland.

In Victoria, all three industries fall under the Racing Minister as well as the Office of the Racing Integrity Commissioner, but there is no connection between the codes in terms of governance or operations.

That means that any damage caused by the tabling of a report to state parliament next week into live baiting in Victoria will be contained to the greyhound industry.

However, the live baiting scandal combined with the cobalt issues within the thoroughbred industry and other concerns within harness racing have put the integrity structures of the three codes under the microscope by Racing Minister Martin Pakula.

It has been suggested that integrity be taken away from those running the individual codes and placed into one independent body, a centralised Racing Commission.

The concern from those participants, is that a structure like that in Queensland allows for a fire of scandal to engulf all codes, not be limited to one. An example cited is an improper action by a steward operating under an ‘all-in’ integrity model could compromise all three codes of racing, not just one.

Pakula told the Herald Sun on Thursday that any model would be markedly different from Queensland, but that the situation did highlight that every governance model has its own challenges.

The competitive tensions between the three codes are nothing new. Thoroughbred racing firmly holds the position as the older brother and it has a much stronger financial footprint than both of its racing siblings.

But as has been proven in Queensland, thoroughbred racing has a lot more to lose than gain from being lumped together with harness and greyhounds.

And that’s the concern that those in the thoroughbred industry have. As the old adage goes, when you lie down with dogs…..

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