The last word for the moment on the NSW Inquiry must go to the most critical question; if the current system is not working, what sort of system will?
There is no easy answer. We know what doesn’t work but where can we look for a better solution?
In this modern age, the ideal approach would be to create a company owned by and reporting to its shareholders, run by a competent management team and overseen as to major strategy by a group of mostly independent board members.
To bring that about, the government would have to sell off greyhound racing to the highest bidder and allow the buyer to set up his own organisation under whatever conditions are specified, much as the NSW TAB was sold (but better).
That is not likely to happen any time soon. So, how then can we get something close to that?
There is a view that current participants – which means trainers and the like – own greyhound racing. This is another example of muddled thinking. While their professional contribution and dedication is vital, in practice they are no more than highly skilled operators in a factory, or doctors in a hospital. You start with a breed, you get a potential racer and end up with a competition to see which one runs fastest. Customers will try to pick them in the right order. It’s not easy to do but then nothing worthwhile ever is.
In truth, the people of NSW own greyhound racing, via their Racing Minister. As electors, the people allow it to happen and they share in the rewards – better hospitals and roads, more police on the beat, and the chance to see some exciting racing. A new system has to acknowledge all that, and put racing in the hands of an independent entity which, in turn, reports each year to the public and demonstrates exactly how much benefit – ie profits – accrued to the public, how much was ploughed back into the industry, and why.
The trick is to keep government’s hands off the tiller. They are never good at running businesses and are forever inclined to meddle, to micro-manage. Despite avowed intentions to keep the industry at arms-length, they never do. That has to stop and the industry put under pressure to achieve its own results. Failing that, those responsible should be sacked and a new lot put in.
But how to create such an organisation in the first place? That’s not hard. A hundred examples are available around the country of similar bodies with the authority and responsibility of doing their own thing, very few of which have to report to a Minister. Pick the best bits out of each and leave them to it. The only proviso is that the board has to be tasked to run as an oversight board in the normal commercial fashion, not as a board of management. Managing is for managers, not for board members or for bureaucrats. The board should hire and fire but not manage.
How to pick the board members? That’s a much tougher task. It requires some investigation and debate to determine the best approach, but always with the objective of attracting proven business people to establish policy for what is essentially a business like many others. Some independence from racing is important. But don’t pay peanuts.
Who Are We?
Absolutely fascinated to see one reader classify us as a bunch of Tories. It is hard to tell but that may have been a reaction to the references in this column to muddle-headed Green thinking in and around the NSW Inquiry. That includes deputy chairman Dr John Kaye MP who is overtly a Green member and favours banning racing altogether, as well as the attitude of the ABC reporters and Sydney Morning Herald writer, Natalie O’Brien, who both offered seriously slanted opinions on the conduct of greyhound racing. All have subsequently been discredited, not just here, but by the 6:1 majority of members of the parliamentary committee.
Even more surprising is the assignment of that tag to this column. Note first that “Tory” is an ancient British term, not an Australian one, and is applied to folk who favour the existing order of things – ie ultra conservative. Today, even in the UK, they are only a minority group.
However, since I have long been advocating radical reform of the industry, this column might be more accurately put in the Guy Fawkes camp (that’s the guy who tried to blow up the Houses of Parliament), or the exact opposite of the Tory push.
Anyway, revolutionary thinking will continue here, mainly because the existing structure and organisation of greyhound racing is failing to do a decent job of progressing the industry and needs to be changed. As it happens, Inquiry chairman Robert Borsak and apparently other members of his multi-party committee are of the same mind.
As for political history, reform is not a word often used by Liberal-National-Country party governments. To that extent, they are Tory-like. Real change normally comes only from the Labor party, as witnessed by bank and airline deregulation and the floating of the dollar (although Howard supported the latter). However, we are unlikely to see them in charge in NSW for a long while to come so our hopes now rest on the recently promoted member for Dubbo, Troy Grant, long a country boy but now deputy Premier as well as Racing Minister. Will he make the “courageous” decisions?
And the Greens? What have they ever done, apart from getting in the road? The Tasmanian wilderness was one, but that’s about it.
For the benefit of the gentleman who suggested my “genius” tips about the TOPGUN should be shared prior to the event, not after, I can offer my comments under “Franking the Form” on 16 October (a week ahead of the race) where I listed the shortcomings of several runners. In effect, I was advising punters to stay out. That’s a tip, too. And, since the First Four paid $2,534 in NSW and would have paid $3,336 in Victoria if anyone had picked it, that was not bad advice.
Anyway, other colleagues do a nice job of trying to forecast what might happen in future races – see Bradley Bugeja’s articles.
The Meadows track had been “lightly harrowed” on October 28, four days prior to Saturday’s meeting. Yet five of 12 winners (42%) came from the outside three boxes, compared with a normal long term figure of 29%. None of those had particularly brilliant first sectionals but tended to be able to run to the lead at the corner. 42% of all first four placings also came from these three boxes.
There were a few good winners from the inside, notably a sparkling 29.66 victory by track newcomer and upcoming star Over Limit. Otherwise, times were very ordinary with nothing which looked like breaking the 30 sec mark. It all suggests some sort of track bias, which punters would have found impossible to predict.
But what might Over Limit have done on a quick track?