Why’s Racing Bill on fast track?

June 5, 2019

Transparency International NZ asks why the Racing Reform Bill is on the fast track:

TINZ has learned that the Racing Reform Bill is on a fast track for approval by July 31, 2019 including an extremely short 5 day submission window. Submissions are due on June 4, 2019, the day this article is being published.

We are concerned that the overall timetable for the passage of this legislation is inconsistent with the Government’s Open Government Partnership commitments and in its general practice of Parliamentary processes.

The Bill’s Explanatory Note and background information, claim that urgency is necessary to initiate the recovery process for the racing industry and to address the racing industry’s immediate need for supplementary revenue to ensure it is financially sustainable into the future.

Despite this assessment, TINZ’s view is that there is a reasonable public expectation of full and thorough opportunities for public involvement in matters of public debate such as gambling. Gambling is internationally recognised as a corruption and transparency risk, with the New Zealand Racing Board’s 2017/18 annual report identifying $288 million revenue being raised through racing.

We also note the advice of the Treasury that “it is difficult to assess whether the proposals will revitalise the industry, and identifying significant fiscal implications…”

TINZ has made a submission requesting the Select Committee to extend the date set for public consultation, in the interests of transparency and public trust.

The Bill will:

  • provide a legislative mandate for the New Zealand Racing Board (NZRB) to be reconstituted as a body corporate named the Racing Industry Transition Agency (RITA)
  • provide a basis for collecting revenue from offshore betting operators that provide betting services to persons residing in New Zealand
  • provide safeguards relating to offshore charges
  • require the Minister to publish a statement explaining why the Minister considers the rates of the charges to be fair and reasonable and also the purposes for which any money collected from the charges may be applied
  • progressively reduce, and then repeal, the totalisator duty currently paid by the NZRB to the Crown under the Gaming Duties Act 1971
  • remove the distribution formula set out in section 16 of the Racing Act 2003, allowing the application and distribution of racing funds to be determined by regulations
  • remove the formula for calculating minimum payments to New Zealand national sporting organisations and create powers to set the formula in regulations
  • permit the relevant body to offer betting products on sports not represented by a qualifying domestic national sporting organisation, provided an agreement was in place with Sport New Zealand.

TINZ isn’t the only organisation with concerns over the fast tracking:

The Salvation Army is extremely disappointed that the Government is prioritising profit and propping up New Zealand’s racing industry over people and problem gambling harm.

In urgency, the Government is passing the Racing Reform Bill. To The Salvation Army’s surprise, the Government has only given the public 3 working days (after a public holiday) to make submissions to this Bill.

“Where is good democracy and giving people and communities a fair go, so they can share their views about this Bill? This is an unfair process, especially as we believe the effects of destructive gambling harm have not been adequately assessed in this Bill’s process” says Lt. Col. Lynette Hutson from The Salvation Army Addictions Services.

“Our staff have had to work over the long weekend to prepare this submission. Profit should not supersede good democratic processes and truly understanding the effects of gambling harm.”

In summary, The Salvation Army wants to highlight:

The unfair timeframe for written and oral submissions to this Bill (3 working days);
The Government’s own Standing Orders state the ‘normal’ period for submissions is a minimum of 6 weeks for submissions;
The Department of Internal Affairs states that the tight timeframe has meant drawbacks in the analysis, particularly regarding the costs and financial implications of the Bill, and that the specific package of reforms proposed in this Bill has not been directly consulted on. 

Racing has several major problems and action is needed to address them.

But that doesn’t justify fast track legislation with just a five day window to make submissions that closed yesterday, the day after a long weekend, especially when Treasury raises questions about whether the proposed changes will revitalise the industry.

 


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