By Bren O'Brien
One of Australia's most respected broadcasters and proud South Australian Bruce McAvaney has described the significant cuts to funding of SA racing as 'depressing' and a big blow for the industry in the state.
Thoroughbred Racing South Australia announced on December 21 that it would need to slash the prizemoney for two of SA's feature races, the Goodwood and Robert Sangster S. as well as cut infrastructure funding by $2.25 m in light of the impacts of the introduction of a Point of Consumption Tax on government funding.
Repeated pleas to the state government, via Minister for Racing Corey Wingard and Treasurer Rob Lucas to boost funding or align the Point of Consumption Tax rate with other states has fallen on deaf ears and TRSA has taken the drastic action of cutting prizemoney for feature races, with the Goodwood's prizemoney cut by $250,000 to $750,000, while the Sangster S, previously worth $1 million will now be run for just $600,000.
McAvaney has been in discussion with industry figures over the impact of the cuts and told RSN's The Verdict on Monday that the whole situation was enormously frustrating.
"It wasn't surprising to me, but it was a great disappointment and a frustration. All the intel I was getting, that the treasurer wasn't going to budge," he said.
"Knowing that the prizemoney has been reduced by $1.5 million, it’s depressing, I'll be honest." - Bruce McAvaney
"This is the situation: we’ve got a racing minister who supported and wanted extra money to go to racing immediately. I think the Premier is also sympathetic, but Rob Lucas, who is a fine politician in his own right, doesn't have any empathy of sympathy in particular for racing."
"He's said he's not going to give racing any ad-hocs gifts or grants and we’ll have to wait until the budget. The problem is the budget comes after May, so Thoroughbred Racing South Australia felt compelled that they had to announce the prizemoney for their races at their festival."
"Knowing that the prizemoney has been reduced by $1.5 million, and The Goodwood goes to $750,000 and the Sangster goes to $600,000, it’s a big blow. It’s depressing, I'll be honest."
'Tearing their hair out'
Sam Hayes of Cornerstone Stud voiced his frustration at the time of the announcement, telling The Advertiser that there was an easy solution to the problem, given the predicted extra revenue the POC Tax would generate.
“Every other state in Australia is reinvesting in their industry; I can’t help but feel incredibly despondent,’’ Hayes said. “Prizemoney cuts due to a lack of commitment from our Government to invest money from tax back into the industry that is funding the tax. It’s easily addressed; it’s an easy fix."
"Every other state in Australia is reinvesting in their industry; I can’t help but feel incredibly despondent." - Sam Hayes
McAvaney has discussed the issue at length with both Hayes and Chris Watson of Mill Park Stud, two of SA's most significant breeders, and said they were 'tearing their hair out' at the latest development.
"We're at a crossroads and a crisis," he said.
However, McAvaney is hopeful that the drastic measures may only be short-term and there may be some relief in the next budget in May,
"I'm not angry, but I'm frustrated," he said.
NSW-Victoria war to benefit racing
South Australia's issues are made even more frustrating by what is happening elsewhere, with significant prizemoney boosts in both Victoria and New South Wales in recent years.
McAvaney has predicted that the tit-for-tat between Victoria and New South Wales over their feature race scheduling and prizemoney boosts will be to the benefit of Australian racing in the long run.
"I've got a feeling that long term this is all going to be good for Australian racing, I think it's got a lot of people out of their comfort zones." - Bruce McAvaney
"I think Peter V'landys' (Racing NSW CEO) job is to do his best for NSW Racing. We’d love one body governing Australian racing, but we don't have it and whilst we don’t have that, then everybody has to do their best," he said.
"Peter is really wagging a stick at the VRC and Racing Victoria, but it many ways I love the competition."
"I've got a feeling that long term this is all going to be good for Australian racing, I think it's got a lot of people out of their comfort zones."