Tuesday, 1 December 2020
I rise today to put on the record my support for one of Australia's great pastimes, a sport that is enjoyed by many and which, as an industry, is a major employer across our country—in particular, in my home state of Victoria. Of course, I'm talking about horseracing. While the racing industry as a whole should be praised for the economic activity and the jobs it delivers, today I want to focus on one particular element of the industry: jumps.
Jumps racing is a unique part of the racing industry in Victoria and in neighbouring South Australia. It is particularly popular in regional areas, with 15 of the 16 jumps tracks in Australia there. Within the racing industry, jumps accounts for thousands of jobs, including over a quarter of all trainers in the two states in which it is active. Most of these jobs can be found in regional areas, where they contribute significantly to the prosperity of country towns both big and small. In fact, over 63 per cent of racing employees, volunteers and participants in Victoria reside in regional areas. This makes racing a big employer throughout my state. Not only does it provide direct jobs, it also provides a multitude of indirect jobs as well—jobs in transport, hospitality and tourism, to name just a few.
One initiative that has been implemented by the Australian Jumping Racing Association and Country Racing to further enhance its economic contribution to regional areas has been the introduction of the jumps racing trail. This is a series of races over winter, where meets are scheduled in such a way as to allow fans to follow the jumps racing circuit throughout country towns, encouraging tourism and overnight visitors, increased per person spend and local engagement with other events being coordinated with the races. This is an example of jumps racing working with local communities to help multiply the economic activity associated with the sport—and, boy, do they need it right now!
I'm disappointed, though, when I hear that some seek to talk down this industry and the workers who make their livelihood from it. Whilst jumps has in the past had its problems, there is no doubting the commitment that participants have for the welfare of these magnificent animals that partake in this sport. Make no mistake: no-one cares for these horses more than the owners, the trainers and the jockeys who work with them every single day. In particular, I note the recent decision by the industry to roll out the innovative one-fit modified hurdle frame to all hurdle races and trials across Victoria and South Australia. The one-fit design, conceived, trialled and tested in the United Kingdom, has already been installed at tracks in Cranbourne and Warrnambool to great success. In the United Kingdom, it has seen falls drop to just 1.59 per cent and has also contributed to a reduction in the risk of injury to both horse and rider when falls do unfortunately occur.
There can be no doubting the commitment of jumps to always doing more and more to further enhance safety. As we move into 2021, and with Victoria—and indeed Australia—moving into a post-pandemic economy, it is important that we all work together to support our regional communities who have done it tough this year. I commend the work of the Australian Jumping Racing Association in not only promoting their sport to the public but working to ensure that it supports the communities in which it operates. I thoroughly look forward to visiting these regional communities next year and encourage others to do the same. Not only is it a fun day out and a great weekend away, but it is also an opportunity to support our fellow Australians post COVID-19.