As we head towards the close of one racing season and another beckons, the ATA can well reflect on a productive year. In addition to success with the ‘usual suspects’ - infrastructure upgrades, rules of racing, race day matters, licensing & industrial relations - a number of high-level matters, namely Trainer & Owner Reforms, the 457 Visa for overseas workers and Prize Money, took centre stage.
Firstly, the TRAINER & OWNER REFORMS, or TOR. Arguably, one of the most significant reforms in Australian racing in modern times that will dramatically change the relationship between two key stakeholders - Owners & Trainers. After years of sustained lobbying by the ATA, Racing Australia will incorporate Trainer & Owner Reforms into the Australian Rules of Racing from 1 August 2017.
Designed to address the historic problem of Owner related training debts, changes include:
- Introduction of a Fees Notice (similar to a quotation from a tradesman) which the Trainer must issue to the Owner setting out ‘fee for service’ estimates;
- To bring transparency and certainty to the contractual relationship, a Racing Australia Standard Training Agreement (STA) will operate as the default agreement in the absence of the Trainer using an alternative TOR compliant agreement (including the ATA endorsed Training Agreement which is located on the ATA website);
- Date specific issuance obligations which will apply for the training fees invoice, to promote prompt Owner payment; and
- A Tribunal established by each PRA to sit and adjudicate on Trainer and Owner initiated fee disputes.
This initiative was supported strongly from the outset by the Victorian Thoroughbred Racehorse Owners Association (TROA) and its Chairman Jonathan Munz, and ably assisted by working parties set up by Racing NSW, Racing Victoria & Racing Australia. We thank all parties for their foresight, perseverance and support. For more information on this matter, we strongly recommend you visit http://www.racingaustralia.horse together with the ATA web-site https://www.austrainers.com.au and click on the Trainer & Owner Reforms link.
Secondly, the 457 VISA. The racing & breeding industry has increasingly looked offshore for skilled labour in recent years due to the inability of the local workforce to meet the complete needs. In April, the Federal Government unexpectedly announced wide-ranging changes to Visa arrangements to take effect from 1 July 2017. Alarmingly, this included key racing industry worker categories (principally horse trainer & breeder) moving to short-term status. The effect of this included a halving of the visa stay period (from 4 to 2 years), and removal of the permanent residency option. Of the 94,000+ 457 visa workers in Australia, less than 400 persons are employed in the racing & breeding industry. Notwithstanding this small number, moves to restrict the employment parameters as proposed would act as a significant deterrent to those considering Australia as an option. Without these workers, it would also affect industry growth.
In a call to arms, a powerful industry lobby group, headed by Racing Australia CEO Barry O’Farrell, and representatives from Thoroughbred Breeders Australia, Godolphin and the ATA, travelled to Canberra and delivered a well-constructed case to the Department of Immigration. Ultimately, the Department acknowledged the industry submission was balanced & reasoned and agreed to reverse their earlier decision, meaning key elements of the 457 Visa class for the racing industry were returned to their status quo. A significant win for industry, along with one for common sense!
It was also satisfying that in the current season and as 2017-2018 looms, a number of PRIZE MONEY INCREASES have been/will be introduced across a number of the States. The ATA continues to be a vocal advocate on this subject - raising prize money levels across all sectors of racing, metropolitan, provincial and country, is fundamental to the sustainability of Australian racing for participants. The reality is costs will continue their upward trajectory, which in turn puts enormous pressure on the Industry to ensure participant returns keep pace. Stakeholder unity was again on show here, evidenced in Victoria where the ATA, with the support of the Owner, Jockey and Breeder representative groups, was able to lobby successfully for significant prize money increases in 2016 & 2017 seasons, and in Tasmania, where improved prizemoney and a move to re-introduce prizemoney down to 5th placing was met with solid support by Tasracing and the TAN network partners for the 2017 season.
We have been extremely busy co-ordinating over a dozen races for our ‘ATA Trainer’s Trust’ & ‘ATA Celebrates 50 Years’ Handicaps. Races have been ‘run & won’ in South Australia, Victoria and Tasmania. Thanks to our members, PRA’s and the race clubs who supported these race day events. Moreover, with the ATA Celebrates 50 Years races, it is worth highlighting that $30,000 in bonus payments was earned by members where their horses ran into the first three placings! Our focus for the second half of 2017 turns to Western Australia & Queensland; stay tuned members, information will follow shortly advising of specific race events and associated dates.
It is also gratifying that the AUSTRALIAN TRAINERS’ TRUST continues to attract financial support from PRA’s and Industry bodies. To date, 16 trainers and their families nationally have received financial support from the Trust. We thank Racing Queensland, Tasracing, Thoroughbred Racing South Australia and Country Racing Victoria for their 2016/2017 contributions to, and support of, the Trust. They join foundation supporters - the Victorian State Government, Racing Victoria, Tabcorp and TROA - of this worthwhile ATA initiative.
We are pleased to announce an extension of our SPONSORSHIP arrangements with Tabcorp, our exclusive wagering partner, was executed late last month. Tabcorp first partnered with the ATA in 2014, and we are extremely pleased to have the opportunity to work with Australia’s No 1 wagering operator again to jointly promote our events & industry initiatives Australia wide in 2017/2018.
From an Association perspective, the FEDERAL ATA body continues to work hard on its program of visitation & visibility across the States. The Federal office regularly works side by side with our State Associations to promote connectivity with State PRA’s and Race Clubs, and to assist as necessary with resolution of the many issues that exist at the local level, for the benefit of our members.
Every new racing season brings both hope and challenge. The ATA is acutely aware of its role and responsibilities in the Australian racing environment. Our commitment is to continue to advocate strongly & constructively, and positively advance the cause of our member trainers, and indeed, the profession itself. On behalf of the ATA team, we wish you a successful 2017/2018 racing season.
Chief Executive Officer