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Monday, 14 September 2009
Page: 9513


Mr SHORTEN (Parliamentary Secretary for Disabilities and Children’s Services and Parliamentary Secretary for Victorian Bushfire Reconstruction) (4:26 PM) —This is the time of year when Australia’s racing industry is usually preparing for another spectacular spring carnival and season of great racing. However, the industry is locked into a dispute over changes to rules governing how jockeys can use the whip. I had the privilege in a previous occupation, with the Australian Workers Union, of representing jockeys. This afternoon I wish to speak in support of jockeys and their organisation, the Australian Jockeys Association, in representing the valid concerns raised by their members and others in the racing industry. I acknowledge the member for Solomon and his interest for allowing me to take his three-minute statement.

I commend the Australian Racing Board for meeting with the AJA and senior riders this afternoon to resolve differences. The issue at the heart of the debate, which has seen recent industrial action taken by jockeys, is changes to the Australian Rules of Racing in the use of the whip. Under the new rules, which came in on 1 August, jockeys can still use the whip in a backhand fashion behind the saddle, but rules about using the whip with a forehand grip have changed. Under the new rules, a jockey is allowed to use the whip five times up to the last 200 metres, and then, in the last 200 metres, on 12 occasions in a non-consecutive pattern, there being 24 strides for the horse in the last 200 metres—except on one occasion, where the jockey can use it in a consecutive pattern.

These new rules are very confusing to longstanding jockeys. The Australian jockeys understand that change is inevitable, and there is debate about animal welfare, integrity in racing and the need to have competition. But these rules have been brought in on 1 August and the Australian jockeys have reported that to change a work practice and the skill of riding a thoroughbred, which is a complex and athletic feat, requires more notice and debate than has been allowed the jockeys. I can report that the Australian Racing Board is ably led by chairman Bob Bentley and CEO Andrew Harding. I believe they understand that they need to listen to the concerns that have been raised by Australian jockeys, particularly when these views are shared by many owners, trainers and breeders.

Australia’s 850 working jockeys are superb, committed, fearless and hardworking. Professional jockeys love to race, they care for the horses, they risk their safety and they are at the heart of the industry. I do not believe they have taken the decision not to ride lightly. The AJA advises me the situation is caused by a breakdown of communication. What we now need to see in racing in order to secure the spring carnival is what we are seeing the first signs of today, ongoing negotiations. I know the jockeys care very much for their colleagues. They understand that when they ride it could be their last time and that, following a fall, when they wake up in a hospital bed, they may be unable to walk, if indeed they wake up at all. I know the stories of jockeys such as Gavin Lisk. I believe the meeting this afternoon should be successful and I hope that the impasse is resolved.


The DEPUTY SPEAKER (Ms AE Burke)—Order! In accordance with standing order 193 the time for members’ constituency statements has concluded.