By: James Tzaferis

Racing Minister Martin Pakula’s Racing Integrity Bill passed through the Upper House without amendment on Thursday, paving the way for a new integrity structure in Victorian racing within the next 12 months.

The Bill was introduced to State Parliament in June to create the Victorian Racing Integrity Board – a cross-code approach to integrity incorporating thoroughbred racing, harness racing and greyhound racing – as well as the Victorian Racing Tribunal to replace the current Racing Appeals and Disciplinary Board.

Pakula took to Twitter to express his delight and suggested the Bill would come into effect by August 2019 at the latest.

The new integrity model will distance itself from the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal with VCAT only empowered to rule on points of law in racing appeals rather than hearing entire appeals stemming from the RAD Board.

Replacing the RAD Board will be the Victorian Racing Tribunal – to be headed by a current or former judicial officer – which is expected to have a range of powers, including the authority to compel a person to attend a hearing to give evidence or to take evidence under oath.

The Bill outlines that the Tribunal will have no fewer than 15 members independent of the respective codes’ governing bodies – Racing Victoria, Harness Racing Victoria and Greyhound Racing Victoria – including experienced lawyers and those with extensive veterinary and animal welfare experience.

The news comes more than two years after the Andrews Labor Government received the Review of the Integrity Structures of the Victorian Racing Industry, undertaken by Paul Bittar, which recommended several key changes including the establishment of a central body to deliver integrity outcomes across the three codes.