The Queensland Racing Commission of Inquiry has found the industry was plagued with serious management failures and has recommended a number of former board members and senior racing executives be investigated by the Australian Securities Investment Commission (ASIC).
Releasing the Inquiry’s report today, Attorney-General Jarrod Bleijie and Minister for Racing Steve Dickson thanked Commissioner The Honourable Margaret White AO and said the Queensland Government would now carefully consider the recommendations.
Mr Bleijie said the report shone a light on a dark chapter in Queensland racing’s history and made recommendations to ensure the same serious problems didn’t resurface in the future.
“Racing Queensland was funded by taxpayers but the Inquiry found it was essentially being run like a personal empire with little Government oversight of several procedural matters,” Mr Bleijie said.
“The report outlined a range of issues including a ‘flat’ and ‘unsatisfactory’ management whose members ‘may also be found not to have acted in the best interests of the company’.
“It also found then Chairman Bob Bentley ‘did not act with integrity’ at times and, along with board member Bill Ludwig ‘compromised its ability to fulfil its functions in accordance with good corporate governance principles’.
“In addition, the report found senior officers and executives’ salaries went unchecked and contracts were awarded without due process.”
Mr Bleijie said as a consequence of ‘inadequate procurement practices’, the inquiry could not determine whether value for money was achieved in major infrastructure projects, specifically those under Contour Consulting Engineers.
“It is astounding that an industry of its significance and capacity lacked basic structure,” he said.
“The inquiry identified a range of matters that should be referred to ASIC for investigation, including payments to employees coinciding with the day this government was sworn in to office.”
Some of the key points and recommendations raised in the summary include:
•Investigating whether the functions of the Racing Science Centre are required within government, and whether they can be outsourced or absorbed into a larger organisation;
•Amend the Racing Act to include a provision that the Chairperson of the Queensland All Codes Racing Industry Board be one of the two other members independent of the industry; and
•That a financial model is developed to support the three codes of racing, reducing the reliance on Government funding and whether a national regulatory body for wagering is required.
Minister for Racing Steve Dickson said the Newman Government’s decision to establish the Queensland All Codes Racing Industry Board and three code specific control boards ensured that the report’s finding that the previous structure was unsatisfactory had already been addressed.
“From day one, this Government has worked hard to re-establish confidence and integrity in an industry that had been brought to its knees under a Labor Government who was effectively asleep at the wheel,” he said.
“The dark days of racing being run as someone’s own private empire are over.
“This is an industry that now answers to Queenslanders.
“Racing is worth hundreds of millions of dollars to the Queensland economy, and the Newman Government has worked hard to lay the foundations for a strong industry that will be sustainable into the future.
“Country racing, which was left to stagnate under the previous Labor Government, has been revitalised with an injection of $4 million over four years, to allow regional Queensland to benefit from a further 20 race meetings annually.
“This is in addition to the $110 million dollars being invested in racing infrastructure over five years.”
Mr Bleijie thanked Commissioner White and assisting counsel for their comprehensive report.
“As we look forward, we must learn from this to ensure what happened under the former Labor Government is never repeated,” he said.
“This report has paved the way for a better industry – an industry for which all Queenslanders can be proud.”
A copy of the report can be accessed on the Racing Inquiry’s website later today: www.racinginquiry.qld.gov.au