Victoria’s racing industry participants risk being left behind New South Wales if the Andrews Government doesn’t urgently outline its plan to get racing back on its feet.
Shadow Racing Minister Tim Bull visited Nagambie breeders with Nationals deputy leader and Euroa MP Steph Ryan this week to hear how coronavirus has affected farms and what impact it may have in the coming months and years.
“Unlike NSW, where owners returned to the track on Saturday and they have a plan to get members and owners back on course, Daniel Andrews has no plan,” Mr Bull said.
“It’s one of the biggest industries in our state with 70,000 participants and it should be afforded a clear pathway back.
“The difficulty is that the entire industry is being challenged from the breeders right through to the staff working in stables and the uncertainty exacerbates this.
“Because a large section of our community had already endured hardship from this and from all forecasts, we are heading into an economic downturn, people naturally tighten the belt. The luxuries, like a race horse, go first.
“What we need is some confidence and that starts with getting our TABs open that fund the industry and getting racing people back to the races with a clear plan.
“Coronavirus has also had a big impact on yearling auctions, with a number of the key annual sales unable to proceed in their usual format.
“The Australian Thoroughbred Breeders Association estimates that almost half of all farms have had clients say they can no longer meet the upkeep of their animals on agistment.
“This has created a cashflow crisis for farms with many trying to modify or defer payments.
“Some 50 per cent of farms have also reported having to lay off staff, despite many being eligible for JobKeeper payments, while many others have reduced working hours.”
Ms Ryan said there was a real risk of a significant contraction in the size of the industry in coming years, which is a major employer in her electorate.
“Many farms are planning to reduce their numbers of mares, which will see a dramatic reduction in the number of foals born,” Ms Ryan said.
“This will have a flow on impact on the racing industry which is dependent on locally produced horses to fill the races. With fewer horses there are likely to be fewer races and potentially fewer runners in each race.
“Thoroughbred farms are a huge part of our local economy. They employ hundreds of people and spend millions of dollars in the region.
“The Victorian Government needs to urgently outline its plan to help the industry recover.”