Victorian Racing Minister Napthine and GRV Chairman Caillard have been busy announcing a joint $2.8 million allocation to breeding incentives over the next four years. This is not new – just a continuation of previous policies but it sounded good and occupied a full page of the media release.
The Minister makes much of where the money will go – obviously only to Victorian-bred dogs – but does nothing to justify why it is necessary and how it will improve the bottom line in the long haul. He also claims it will also boost jobs (have we heard that before?) but does not explain how that will happen. Since the country is not producing any more dogs – and has not for 20 years – it beggars belief that more people will be needed to breed them or look after them.
In fact, neither in Victoria or anywhere else have governments or racing authorities ever produced any evidence that breeding incentives are worthwhile. Indeed, there are several negative aspects to them.
For a start, local incentives may well encourage a bitch owner to go to a less than ideal sire.
Second, they use funds diverted from prize money or other necessary purposes. If they later find their way back into prize money, that helps, but it partly negates their original purpose. If not, they tend to discourage owners from re-investing in the sport.
Third, every state now does it so none can gain an advantage over another.
Fourth, when applied to races, they discriminate against visiting interstate dogs, which denies the concept of fair competition. In other areas, firms have been fined millions for doing that. The fact that the insult may be repeated when the reverse occurs is not a good defence.
Fifth, the incentives are encouraging a sector of racing where free market forces are in place and activity is buoyant. Supply and demand set the prices. And breeding establishments – certainly the good ones – seem very profitable as their better sires are always working to capacity. They are by far the major advertisers in trade papers, which otherwise would be battling to make money. They are also important in creating and maintaining export markets.
Even a casual observation would suggest that the biggest influence on breeding choices is not the sire’s cost but its perceived success rate. Breeders pay from a few hundred to many thousands of dollars to do what they think best, regardless of where the mating takes place.
Subsidies, if any, should be provided only for a specific and verifiable purpose, and should have a sunset clause attached. Breeding incentives do not meet those requirements. They are just another example of pork-barrelling, paid for by those unlucky enough to fall outside the rules.
Meat pies, Holden cars, slow dogs and breeding incentives. Somebody should write a song about that.
Big Questions Remain In Queensland
The extraordinary state of affairs continues in Queensland as four top managers at Racing Queensland resign following the LNP victory in the state election. Chairman Bob Bentley’s fate is unknown at this stage.
It seems obvious that the departures are influenced by the intended LNP policy of splitting RQ up into three separate code boards but that may not be the only reason.
The more important decision will be how the future boards will be selected. If the new Minister appoints industry insiders – as occurred to one degree or another in the past – then Bentley’s concern about “madness and idiotic” may come true. If the new members are independent of the greyhound fraternity then we can hope of a revival of fortunes (just as consultants KPMG did a few years ago when they studied Queensland racing organisations).
There is a significant supporting reason for that conclusion. Major reform is needed to overcome a long decline. Nowhere has that ever been achieved by people with ties to existing participants, and therefore with conflicts of interest. Not in racing, not anywhere.
And we still do not know if the LNP will vote the full amount needed for the Logan track development. It’s looking chancy.
As predicted here on last week, the High Court unanimously approved Racing NSW’ plan to charge a 1.5% turnover fee for racefield information. And now, the majority of other Australian racing authorities, bookmakers, the Productivity Commission and others are busy ignoring the folly of their past actions and telling us what great plans they have for the future, including a switch to turnover fees and increases in prize money.
This is nowhere near satisfactory. The public is entitled to bring them to account and learn why they went down a road which all now admit will return the industry less that would have happened if they had they used better judgement. Hundreds of thousands of dollars, maybe millions, have been spent on wasted effort and legal expenses. More later.