IF the piddling $5 million ‘cash injection’ offered to country racing by the Coalition wasn’t such an infuriating insult, think of the fun we could have taking the p--- in the lead-up to the March election?
Truthfully, Labor can offer as much money as it likes – billions and trillions and gazillions if the mood takes it, but it won’t matter, ’cause it ain’t gonna git back in, comrades.
Good ol’ Bazza O’Flummery, despite having the handicap of the squattocracy in his saddle bags, will win this race in a walkover and as this example of Liberal-National Party contempt for racing proves, they aren’t going to have to overprice the value of their bribes ... er, inducements ... er, election promises, to sucker the gullible.
The $5 million announcement was made in Taree, in front of a token group of reluctant racing administrators who had the uncomfortable look on their faces of men on the gallows, one newspaper group not noted for asking tough questions and that television crowd who wouldn’t have much of a “local” news service if they weren’t drip-fed National Party handouts by 4pm deadline every week day.
So the “press release” was shunted to Coalition electorate offices around the state, with suggestions made for minor adjustments to suitably impress the local yokels.
For instance, after the usual waffle about Labor’s “16 years of neglect”, the version sent to this newspaper said: “The funding injection will go towards capital improvements, such as new safety running rails at individual clubs like Wauchope, Kempsey and Bowraville ...”
Wow, nothing like a bit of localised spin-doctoring to trick the easily-fooled.
Your scribbler admits to being a cynical soul when it comes to pollies.
So, with the whiff of bulk bulldust in the air, started checking the wording on press releases handed out by Coalition candidates all over New South Wales and came up with an uncanny pattern of behaviour.
In the seat of Tamworth, Nationals candidate Kevin Anderson wanted his money to buy new safety rails for courses at Barraba, Gunnedah, Quirindi and Tamworth.
And, surprise, surprise, National Party Member for Burrinjuck, Katrina Hodgkinson, explained her safety rail fetish was reserved for the Gundagai-Adelong and Young clubs.
Go right around the state and you’ll find L-NP candidates and sitting members (currently in opposition but not after March 26) getting kinky, hot and sweaty about safety rails at all manner of racing venues.
With so much purchasing of safety rails about to take place, one hopes nothing goes A over T, giving safety rail suppliers need to ring Ray Hadley and belly-ache all morning about “buying all this safety rail stuff and now the government is sending me broke and ... rhubarb ... rhubarb ... blah ... blah ... grizzle ...grizzle ... ”.
Another problem with the $5- million is, it’s going to be split between 28 harness, 32 greyhound and, wait for it, a grand total of 130 individual thoroughbred racing clubs in country areas, by using a set formula according to how much revenue they pump out for the tax man.
So one hopes safety rails are on special at Bunnings the week Uncle Bazza and his jolly jumbucks in elastic-sided boots cough up the cheque.
Wanna know how lousy this amount really is?
Well, in Victoria, the same amount of $5 million is the usual grant handed to individual clubs – such as Werribee last year for its upgrade and Cranbourne to turn the place into a night-racing venue.
But wait, there’s more.
The real hypocrisy about this is the Coalition was the mob that started the rot for country racing when the Greiner government started fiddling with the Totalisator (Off-Course Betting) Act 1964, as amended in 1982, and upped the statutory government commission of 6.75 per cent.
In the case of some exotic betting products, the greed-inspired take went to more than 20%, immediately sending hundreds of millions in lost revenue interstate (which never came back) and letting a rather nasty genie escape the bottle in the form of off-shore and corporate bookies, including the latest scourge of betting exchanges and various other rorts and internet scams.
When returns fell over the next four years and belts had to be tightened, it was country racing that copped the kick in the throat when their disbursements were slashed.
Credit Greiner and his cohorts for breaking the chains of commonsense and turning New South Wales governments of all persuasions into money-sucking goliaths, taking as much loot as they can from racing and returning a pittance to the industry.
Give praise to that mob for opening the gate to the flood of money out of racing into other forms of gambling and the bleeding dry of bush racing.
Don’t be conned by this $5 million insult to the racing industry and to the voters of this state.
Neither side of New South Wales politics has the slightest ‘feel’ for the industry any more, apart from how much revenue can be squeezed out of the gambling lemon.
One feels the only way to handle all of them is to squeeze right back. It would be handy if racing’s senior administrators told Bazza O’Flummery and Andy Stone-Age to buzz off with their pathetic $5 million and come back when they’re in the mood to talk sense and not go acting the goat.