Langbroek: QRIC ‘failed abysmally’ in horse welfare stakes
THE mass slaughter of retired racehorses at a Queensland abattoir has overshadowed this year's spring racing carnival.
This week Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk announced that an inquiry would investigate the treatment of ex-racehorses and allegations of animal cruelty after ABC's 7.30 program televised shocking hidden camera video footage taken at Caboolture's Meramist Abattoir.
The footage was graphic and disturbing and showed former racehorses being kicked, dragged, shocked and slaughtered.
It left many people traumatised and a nation disgusted.
As race clubs and hospitality venues try and entice people to be involved in their Melbourne Cup luncheons and sweeps on the first Tuesday in November, some once-a-year punters have taken a moral stance and decided to boycott these events this year.
A Melbourne cinema even decided to pull the Michelle Payne movie Ride Like A Girl from its screens with the owner saying: "I felt I couldn't show the film without being really conflicted about what was going on in the racing industry and how much it still needs to change."
In making her announcement this week, Ms Palaszczuk said the inquiry would be overseen by the Queensland Racing Integrity Commission and headed by retired judge Terry Martin SC.
But Shadow Minister for Racing John-Paul Langbroek has no faith in QRIC and this week he told state parliament why.
So, can QRIC be trusted to oversee this important inquiry announced this week?
QRIC is the organisation which, as reported in The Morning Bulletin last month, concluded two separate inquiries into a blunder which saw the wrong horse run in a race at Rockhampton in March, making national headlines, but failed to release either inquiry publicly.
Questions have been asked as to whether that's a good look for transparency.
Mr Langbroek said he didn't believe so when asked by The Morning Bulletin this week, and in parliament he highlighted other reasons why he believed QRIC had "failed abysmally" despite having $30 million a year for almost four years pumped into it.
Below is part of what Mr Langbroek told state parliament this week.
The Morning Bulletin also sought responses from Racing Minister Stirling Hinchliffe and QRIC which appear below.
John-Paul Langbroek, Shadow Racing Minister:
"Last Thursday in just 49 minutes Labor's $30 million continuing disaster of racing integrity and welfare was exposed.
That is how long the ABC's 7.30 program took to turn Queensland Labor's racing oversight body into a nightmare.
This program graphically, horribly, sickeningly showed hapless horses undergoing unimaginable torture minutes before their often excruciating deaths.
This should have been stopped years ago by Labor's $30 million-a-year Queensland Racing Integrity Commission, QRIC, whose own website states that its job is overseeing the integrity and welfare standards of racing animals and racing industry participants in Queensland.
QRIC has failed abysmally on both counts due to Labor and its ministers having no oversight interest and the senior staff at QRIC having no racing knowledge.
At a cumulative cost of $100 million since being formed, QRIC has been unable to uncover what amateurs have.
QRIC's commissioner said there have been five prior complaints about the Caboolture abattoirs which he said had been investigated and resolved over the past 18 months and now this at the same place, and this torture has been going on for years.
Let us have a look at (Tuesday's) announcement of an inquiry.
QRIC overseeing is inappropriate. QRIC is where the trouble started.
How can QRIC be the solution? QRIC is the problem.
It is Caesar judging Caesar.
Labor is holding an inquiry to clean up the mess that QRIC had a bound duty to know about. Logical independent choices to head the inquiry would have been John Shrek or Terry Bailey, two former interstate chairman of thoroughbred stewards.
No-one at senior levels at QRIC knows anything about horses.
That is what we have seen from the integrity arm of QRIC's with failed prosecutions which I outlined last week in the House.
QRIC's strategic plan advises that the MacSporran review has provided heightened industry awareness of welfare and industry obligations.
The industry maybe, but not QRIC.
QRIC is empowered to collaborate with other agencies responsible for investigating and prosecuting animal welfare offences and to promote high standards of integrity and animal welfare and to respond to breaches of the Racing Integrity Act and Racing Act.
Despite $30 million a year for almost four years QRIC has failed.
It has the advantage of coercive powers, working with the Queensland Police Racing Crime Squad, a veterinary team, an investigative squad with body worn cameras, search warrants, Crime Stoppers, the RSPCA and other Labor agencies such as the Department of Agriculture, yet it was upstaged by amateur sleuths.
The minister said that the key responsibility needs to be on people who own those racing horses.
For $30 million a year, it is QRIC's responsibility.
This is another Labor fail.
QRIC's powers extend to countless measures of equine welfare, all sadly and pathetically kicked to the curb under Labor's watch.
Despite what Commissioner Barnett said in a press conference, QRIC's powers as per their animal welfare strategy "are to ensure that racing animals are well cared before, during and after their racing careers."
Labor's failure writ large!
On the day after the 7.30 story, I was pleased to meet with the New South Wales racing minister, the Hon. Kevin Anderson, to discuss racing matters and hear details of the actions New South Wales put in place some time ago so that such an expose would not work there. Then I met with the CEO of Racing Australia, former New South Wales premier the Hon. Barry O'Farrell.
The contrast between our two jurisdictions could not be starker.
I want to table what New South Wales under a Liberal government has put in place in terms of animal welfare.
New South Wales is the only state with a rule of racing prohibiting horses being sent to a knackery if predominantly based in that state.
Horses can be seized on welfare grounds.
Through the racing industry, there is a specific fund with one per cent of all prize money assigned to horse welfare, and it goes on.
QRIC says that racing animal welfare remains its highest priority.
Last year they had 84 media releases in the QRIC annual report, but not one was about rehoming race horses.
Nathan Exelby (Courier Mail racing editor) pointed out that one can hear only crickets coming from Queensland, whereas New South Wales and Victoria responded rapidly."
Stirling Hinchliffe, Racing Minister:
QRIC is well placed to support the inquiry into the treatment of retired racehorses and animal welfare concerns in dealing with retired racehorses at Queensland abattoirs as announced by the Premier in parliament this week.
While the Commission will oversee the inquiry, it will be independent. Retired District Court judge Terry Martin SC with the support of equine veterinary surgeon and Australian Veterinary Association representative Dr Peter Reid will head the inquiry. We are acutely aware that when it comes to a horse's post-racing career, more can be done, which is why the forum, in which QRIC was instrumental, was held this week and why the inquiry has been established.
Ross Barnett, QRIC Commissioner:
QRIC was contacted by The Morning Bulletin but declined the opportunity to comment.