Over the last couple of weeks there has been some media interest (generally in the south of the state in the Saturday Mercury and on ABC Radio Breakfast) about the industry’s future sustainability, prompted by the discussions papers we have released and the broader consultation process we commenced in November last year regarding funding.
While I was not surprised at the criticism as for some it is the obvious reaction when change is raised, I was disappointed with various comments that were either misleading or just plain wrong.
It was also disappointing given that the vast majority of industry stakeholders we have engaged with since last year have consulted with us in a proactive, positive and mature way.
While I was able to provide some context in an interview on ABC Radio in response to interviews with TRC chairman Geoff Harper and Brighton trainer Royston Carr, and directly at industry meetings, I thought it was appropriate to provide the same information here.
For the record, Tasracing is not “…actually putting more staff on…”, as Geoff Harper stated in his ABC Radio interview. Though there was a recent job advertisement to replace a staff member who is leaving, who performs critical operational work related to the website, we have reduced employee numbers over the past 18 months by six full time equivalents while at the same time assuming race day responsibilities from his club, the TRC, and the DRC. Further, the executive was recently reduced from three to two and executive salaries are in any case, independently benchmarked.
It is also very important to understand that of the 60 or so Tasracing employees who work for the organisation, about half are responsible for the management and maintenance of tracks and other assets statewide, worth about $50 million. No other principal racing authority in Australia has the direct responsibilities for tracks and facilities like Tasracing.
Tasracing has a set of responsibilities (many of which are statutory) and a workforce aligned to deliver on those responsibilities.
Industry will remember that Tasracing was established with a clear goal in mind – to make the industry sustainable and less reliant on Tasmanian Government funding for survival.
One way to achieve better sustainability is to grow wagering. Tasracing has delivered 8.4 per cent wagering growth, and is on target to improve our net result this financial year by more than $1.1 million – again this has been achieved in spite of taking on additional duties from the TRC and the DRC.
We have a vision for the racing industry and have developed and are implementing a corporate plan to develop a globally competitive and sustainable racing industry.
Our work to export our product overseas is just one small part of this process. While we have enjoyed early success through exporting thoroughbred night racing from Launceston to France and New Zealand, it is early days in this space and there is much more to do. There are other overseas jurisdictions that have expressed interest in Tasmanian racing and Tasracing will continue to pursue opportunities to realise commercial returns from overseas markets.
Our digital strategy is also working – our website replays and the Stridemaster suite of products for the thoroughbred code is assisting to attract national interest in our product. Year-on-year wagering growth of 23 per cent and 32 per cent in the Hobart and Launceston Cups respectively was achieved through digital and promotional strategies for national markets.
I would like to thank industry stakeholders who have consulted with Tasracing in good faith. I have recently met with a good number of organisations that represent industry and will continue to reach out in the coming months, to industry groups regarding the critical topic of industry funding.
I have been impressed with the commitment and level-head of the majority of industry representatives, who are committed to finding a sustainable future for our industry and who are prepared to listen and work with us to achieve this outcome.
Importantly, while these discussions and consultations will continue, Racing Minister Bryan Green has assured industry that there will be no decrease in prize money. While Tasracing acknowledges that there are funding challenges, this is good news for our industry.
Dr Eliot Forbes
Chief Executive Officer