Mr D O’BRIEN (Gippsland South)
I am pleased to make a brief contribution to this bill given the significance it will hold for my electorate in 2022, which I will come to shortly.
This bill is somewhat of an omnibus bill for the racing industry with a number of changes to harness racing, scheduling of race meets on Anzac Day and various other minor but important changes to the racing integrity framework and regulations under the principal act.
However, I want to particularly speak about the provision which will allow racing on Good Friday for the first time from next year.
I have to say, my broad view is that some days in our calendar should remain sacrosanct. In particular, I’m not in favour of extending major events to Christmas Day and in another time I might have objected to activities on Good Friday.
I take this view not so much from a Christian perspective, although that is a consideration, but more so that there should be some days on the calendar where we can focus, refresh and stay home with family.
Nonetheless, with respect to Good Friday, that horse has bolted, pun intended. Racing is already allowed to occur interstate and there are a number of other major sporting and other events that occur on Good Friday in Victoria, notably AFL football.
So at this point it would be churlish to oppose, and we will not be opposing this, or any other aspects of the bill.
The other reason I am supportive is the fact that Good Friday meets are to be scheduled at country clubs and the first will be at my own home club, Sale Turf Club.
As the member for Gippsland East has noted, there is agreement that as a mark of respect to Good Friday, no races will be scheduled before 1.00 pm.
I have been out recently to Greenwattle Racecourse as the Sale course is known and had a chat with turf club CEO Brad Evans, who does a great job looking after his club and the industry in our region.
Brad and the club, headed by president David Wilson, have some great ideas planned for their Good Friday meeting in 2022. They will of course place a big focus on the Royal Children’s Hospital Good Friday Appeal and no doubt both lucky and unlucky punters will be harassed by tin-shaking volunteers on the day.
The club also has ideas it is developing further to promote the local visitor economy in Sale and central Gippsland—better known in marketing terms as the ‘Middle of Everywhere’—to try and attract more tourists to our region for that Easter long weekend, and after bushfires, drought and COVID, heaven knows we need it.
They will be working with our local tourism organisations, the shire, local MPs and everyone else to ensure that the race meeting helps attract many more visitors who will stay and visit the region over a few days, not just for the race meeting.
I’m sure there will be many locals and people from across the wider Gippsland region who will also make a day of it.
That is a good thing and a reminder that our race clubs are generally, indeed exclusively in my experience, good corporate and community citizens.
I have a similar experience of the other club in my electorate, being Stony Creek, and remain a strong supporter of country racing.
I look forward to seeing what Sale can put together for the inaugural Good Friday race meeting. I invite all members of the house to come down at any time, but particularly next Easter to the region we’re now marketing as the ‘Middle of Everywhere’.
I commend the bill to the house.