Thursday, December 05, 2019

More secrecy

The government introduced a Racing Industry Bill today. As an urban who horse racing as pointless-to-cruel, and gambling as a tax on stupidity and/or hope, this isn't normally a bill which would interest me in the slightest, beyond grumpiness at more government money for a dying industry. But there is something there worth paying attention to: secrecy.

The bill reforms the racing industry. As part of this, it transfers some of the functions of the old Racing Industry Transition Agency to the TAB, which it rightly makes subject to the OIA (though weirdly, it does this with both a special clause and by scheduling it. Only the latter is necessary). But it also establishes a new Racing Integrity Board, responsible for compliance, integrity (including judicial functions), and animal welfare - functions which were partly the responsibility of the old Transition Agency, and partly of the industry-owned Racing Integrity Unit. The latter will be replaced by the government body to ensure an integrity system independent of the industry.

The Board is appointed by the Minister, funded with public money and enjoys statutory powers of entry and search. But unlike the old Transition Agency, it will not be subject to the OIA. An important component of the oversight system for a notoriously corrupt industry will thus be shrouded in secrecy.

This is not acceptable. This is a public agency, performing public functions and funded with public money. It should, like other such bodies, be subject to the Official Information Act.