By:  Shane Anderson

The Victorian Racing Industry is set for an integrity shake-up after the Andrews Labor Government agreed in principle to the establishment of a new body to oversee integrity across the three codes of racing.

Martin Pakula, Victoria’s Minister for Racing and Attorney-General, on Thursday released the review of the integrity structures of the Victorian Racing Industry conducted by international racing consultant Paul Bittar.

Bittar, a former CEO of the British Horseracing Authority, was engaged in June 2015 to look at the integrity functions of Racing Victoria, Harness Racing Victoria and Greyhound Racing Victoria.

His review has recommended the establishment of a new body, the Victorian Racing Integrity Unit (VRIU) to deliver integrity services for the three codes of racing.

The VRIU would be established as an independent private company with the three codes as its equal stake shareholders, with an independent board of five members.

Appointment to the VRIU Board would be by an independent appointments panel.

However, Bittar has recommended that all rule and policy-making powers, including licensing and animal welfare, should remain with the codes with the VRIU acting solely as an enforcer of the rules.

All raceday regulations, including Stewards, veterinary services, intelligence and investigations, betting analysis, drug control, animal and participant welfare, and legal and compliance will fall under the powers of the VRIU.

Bittar has also recommended that there be a restructure of the appeals and disciplinary system to remove the appeal to the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT) of decisions made by the Racing Appeals and Disciplinary Boards, with the establishment of a single cross-code Racing Appeals and Disciplinary Board (RADB).

Disaffected parties wanting to appeal a RADB decision would now head to the Supreme Court.

Bittar was keen to eliminate any real or perceived interference and influence that the industry peak bodies may have over integrity practises.

“A criticism that is often made is that there is real or perceived interference from Boards or the Executive in integrity matters,” Bittar said.

“I am hopeful that the creation of the VRIU as a fully independent body will eliminate the perception of conflict.

“I have had great access and direct engagement with key executives from the three codes throughout the review process.

“I understand that the legislative timetable can be difficult but I believe that the faster that these recommendations can be implemented then the better the chance of success.

”The idea and concept is one thing but successful implementation is the key.”

Racing Victoria Chairman David Moodie released a statement of support in response to the Bittar review.

“Racing Victoria acknowledges the receipt of the Bittar Review and welcomes the opportunity to discuss the report with Government,” Moodie said.

“Having just received the report, Management and the Board will take its time to digest the information within and the recommendations made and consider the implications for thoroughbred racing in Victoria.

“We support the principle of collaboration between the three racing codes and believe that our expertise and processes will be invaluable in helping to inform future discussions with Government, HRV and GRV.

“We also believe in continual development and strengthening of our integrity programs and resources, as maintaining the integrity of Victorian thoroughbred racing is at the core of our existence.”

It is expected that the recommendations will take up to two years to implement.

Click here to read the review of the Integrity Structures of the Victorian Racing Industry.