Page 4468 - Week 14 - Thursday, 28 November 2013

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Our sales process will require the successful bidder to demonstrate that they have the appropriate experience and capacity to operate a wagering business. This includes meeting the necessary regulatory requirements to operate ACTTAB’s exclusive wagering licence. The government is also committed to ensuring that the local racing industry is not negatively affected by the sale. Let me repeat that for Mr Smyth’s benefit: the government is committed to ensuring that the local racing industry is not negatively affected by the sale. How will we do this? Bidders will be asked to identify how they will be prepared to support the local racing industry. This information will also be considered in the evaluation process.

Of significant importance to the government is an assurance that staff are treated fairly. As part of the sales process, the government will be seeking, where possible, for staff to retain their jobs under existing conditions. Bidders will be asked to provide details about their terms and conditions of employment and staffing intentions. This information will be taken into consideration when evaluating proposals.

These are all issues that are most appropriately dealt with as part of the sales process. We need to allow the market flexibility to respond. This is the most appropriate way to optimise the outcomes for the territory as part of a competitive process. We understand the racing industry’s desire to be treated broadly consistently with other jurisdictions. But the reality is the industry in the ACT is not consistent with other jurisdictions. This can be seen simply in the size and scale of their operations. In other jurisdictions, the racing industry contributes much more significantly to the total turnover in their state pools.

In 2012-13 total ACTTAB racing turnover was $145.6 million, of which only $4.025 million was generated by the local racing industry, or just 2.76 per cent of total ACTTAB racing turnover. In the ACT we currently budget fund the industry in the order of $8 million per annum. These arrangements were put in place a few years ago to provide considerably more benefit to the racing industry than the previous arrangements where their funding was tied to the declining performance of the TAB.

The 2011 final report of the ICRC investigation into the ACT racing industry found that the local racing industry represents less than one per cent of the Australian racing industry. We understand and recognise the industry’s desire to grow in the ACT and we support this as an objective of theirs. But we need to balance a number of objectives across a number of interests. In this respect, we believe that a sale that results in the racing industry being no worse off is a given. That has always been our starting point.

We will be negotiating with bidders on additional benefits to the industry. No doubt, in a competitive process and market, it will be in a bidder’s interest to provide assistance and ongoing commitment to the growth of the local racing industry. Notwithstanding our preference for not restricting the conditions of a sale, we understand through the two amendments that have been brought forward that the Assembly may wish to have more information on the desired outcomes of the sale outlined in its resolution today.

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