The unexpected decision by the Federal Government to radically overhaul the 457 Immigration Visa system could create a serious problem for the Australian racing industry.
Our industry has for many years been confronted with a lack of labour option, including in those areas where there has been a skills shortage. For example, track riders fall into the latter category. This in turn, has forced many stables and industry employers to source labour from overseas jurisdictions.
The ATA played a very active and important role in joining with the then national regulatory body - The Australian Racing Board - and, with the support of the state PRA’s, successfully lobbied both Federal and State Governments to support various categories of 457 visa holder being included under the system to suit industry needs i.e.; jockey, trainer, etc.
The recent Federal Government decision to abolish the Jockey category (which includes track work riders) in particular, appears to have not been clearly thought through. The reality is that despite numerous efforts to address the problem domestically, there are simply not enough riders with the necessary skills to satisfy the national track work rider demand. In fact, the ATA is aware of stables where up to 50 per cent of riders have been sourced from overseas using the 457 Visa system.
The ATA has responded with urgency in identifying the problem caused by this Federal Government decision. We have been in on-going discussions with Racing Australia Chief Executive Barry O’Farrell who, as a former Premier of NSW, is well connected in political and government circles. Mr O’Farrell has already received a commitment from Federal Immigration Minister Peter Dutton to review the decision, and Racing Australia is preparing an urgent submission to be presented to the Minister on behalf of the Australian racing industry to support the anticipated review.
Turning to another contentious issue - Track Work hours at authorised training centres! This subject has been on and off the agenda for years. In Victoria, the ATA successfully argued for a review of Track Work times with Racing Victoria, who in turn, engaged a research company (IER) to conduct same. The results were mixed, with surprisingly, less than half of the participants surveyed wanting change.
However, recognizing the continuing difficulties encountered by stables in hiring stable staff to commence work at the existing Track opening hours of 4am, the increasing shift in community attitudes towards such opening hours, and acute focus on Health and Safety, the ATA feels that it may be time for a national review of substance. We believe state PRA’s should proactively conduct qualitative research into views and attitudes of the appropriate stakeholders, and identify the benefits which any changes would deliver to the overall Australian racing industry. This research should also study the potential impact of any changes on rider availability on race days, and on staffing and staff arrangements at racing centres. Despite research to date documenting some resistance to change within the Training community, it is the ATA view that change is inevitable, hence, the industry as a whole needs to take the lead here and drive the outcomes for positive benefit to all participants.
The ATA will continue its dialogue with the various parties on these key subjects, and will issue further updates to members when able.
In the meantime, should you wish to provide your feedback in writing in relation to these matters, please do so by CLICKING HERE
Alternatively, contact the office on (03) 9372-1688 should any one wish to discuss this matter with myself.
Chief Executive Officer