Source: http://www.parliament.vic.gov.au/images/stories/daily-hansard/Council_2013/Council_Aug-Dec_2013_Daily_30_October_2013.pdf

Yesterday’s debate in parliament on the Caulfield Racecourse is very long. Hence, we have edited some sections. The full debate is available at the link shown above. Readers should take note of the appalling positions taken by both the Liberal and Labor parties.

CAULFIELD RACECOURSE RESERVE

Ms PENNICUIK (Southern Metropolitan)—I move:

That this house notes that—

(1) the recommendations of the 2008 report of the Select Committee on Public Land Development regarding Caulfield Racecourse Reserve have not been fully implemented;

(2) Glen Eira City Council has been advocating for better public access and various improvements at Caulfield Racecourse Reserve for many years and on 19March 2013 adopted, by resolution, a position statement on Crown land at Caulfield Racecourse Reserve which stated that the Crown land is reserved by law for three purposes—

(a) a racecourse;

(b) a public recreation ground; and

(c) a public park;

(3) the first purpose, a racecourse, is well catered for, but the other purposes are not;

(4) the Crown land should be managed to achieve all three purposes equally, and that to achieve this, Glen Eira Council listed ten actions that need to occur, including the—

(a) allocation of land for public recreation;

(b) removal of horse training and car parking from the Crown land;

(c) removal of visual barriers (fencing) to the Crown land;

(d) provision of suitable access points; and

(e) reinvestment of income from commercial purposes to be used for public purposes;

(5) the most significant barrier to achievement of these actions over many years has been the inappropriate and out-dated governance structure that has been allowed to continue by successive state governments; and

(6) calls on this state government to—

(a) amend the membership of the trustees of Caulfield Racecourse Reserve to reduce the number of racing industry representation, include more community representation and retain representatives of Glen Eira City Council;

(b) ensure that the trustees of the Caulfield Racecourse Reserve comply with DSE guidelines for committees of management of Crown land and that the meetings, decisions and actions of the trustees are open and transparent;

(c) ensure that the governance arrangements over the Crown land achieve the equal purposes of a race course, public recreation and public park; and

(d) ensure that all financial arrangements and transactions associated with the Caulfield Racecourse Reserve subject to audit by the Victorian Auditor-General’s Office….

Again, I will begin with the first part of the motion:

That this house notes that—

(1) the recommendations of the 2008 report of the Select Committee on Public Land Development regarding Caulfield Racecourse Reserve have not been fully implemented… The recommendations regarding that particular site are worth again reading into Hansard, some five years later. There has been a lot of work done in the community with the local council and various MPs to try to get some of these recommendations implemented. Recommendation 5.8 states:

That the government investigate:

the history, membership structure, responsibilities and current arrangement of the Caulfield Racecourse Reserve board of trustees, particularly in relation to its duty to uphold not just horse racing, but all the purposes of the reserve in the original grant;

the purpose to which money raised by horse racing has been used; and

ways in which the government can ensure that the board of trustees operates in an open and transparent manner and in accordance with the terms of the grant.

So recommendation 5.8 goes straight to the governance issues at the Caulfield Racecourse Reserve, which is really the crux of the motion I have moved today. I will get to that in paragraph (6) of the motion. One would have to say that that recommendation has not been implemented.

Recommendation 5.9 states:

That the master plan for the Caulfield Racecourse reserve redevelopment be the subject of wide public consultation incorporating the municipalities of Glen Eira, Stonnington and Port Phillip.

Mostly that has been implemented. The redevelopment of a parcel of land known as the Triangle, near Caulfield railway station, has been the subject of some public consultation, but there has been a lot of public discussion and discussion between the racecourse board and the local council, which is the Glen Eira City Council.

Recommendation 5.10 states:

That the Minister for Planning strongly consider appointing community members and/or people with park and recreation expertise as nominees of the state government to the Caulfield Racecourse Reserve board of trustees to provide a balanced representation of interests and expertise. That has not been fully implemented. …..

Recommendation 5.11 states:

That the day-to-day management of the Caulfield Racecourse Reserve, by delegation from the trustees to the Melbourne Racing Club, be reconsidered. That has not happened either.

Finding 5.14 states:

The Caulfield Racecourse Reserve profits to the Melbourne Racing Club have been disproportionately directed to racing users, with inadequate provision for use of public park and recreation users as required by the original grant. Despite a minor investment of funds by the Melbourne Racing Club into some public facilities in the racecourse reserve, that finding continues to be the case.

Recommendation 5.12 states:

That the Melbourne Racing Club’s recent report relating to the Caulfield Racecourse Reserve fencing boundaries be publicly released. I do not know if that was ever publicly released. A letter was sent to me by the CEO of the Melbourne Racing Club some years ago mentioning the pros and cons of fencing, but the situation remains that if you circumnavigate the Caulfield Racecourse Reserve, most of it is shielded by a large tin fence, so that the public cannot see into the reserve. Access is still only through a couple of points around the reserve, and in my opinion the Melbourne Racing Club still tries to make that as difficult as possible for the general public.

Recommendation 5.13 states:

That the Caulfield Racecourse Reserve trustees direct a substantial amount from the profits made by the Melbourne Racing Club over many decades to the provision of public park and recreational facilities, including promotion of the public use of these facilities as recompense to the community.

Again only a relatively small amount of money is made available for public use, compared to that gazillions of dollars that the Victorian Amateur Turf Club, as it was known previously, and now the Melbourne Racing Club have made out of racing and associated activities, including a Tabaret, sports betting and various other activities, over many years. It really is scandalous.

Recommendation 5.14 states:

That the government support the joint communiqué between the Melbourne Racing Club and the Glen Eira City Council to the Caulfield Racecourse Reserve trustees, bearing in mind that further public consultation is needed with respect to the future use of public open space within the centre of the Caulfield Racecourse Reserve.

As I said, to some extent some of that has happened. Some works have been done in the centre of the reserve for public recreation facilities, but we still have a long way to go. Considering this work has taken five years, it is very minor. This is disappointing because following the tabling of this report some goodwill appeared to exist about bringing this reserve up to the standard of others around the world and making it a multipurpose, multi-use facility. It is a very large area of Crown land in the city of Glen Eira. Glen Eira City Council is starved of public open space, but this fight for genuine public access to the site from dawn till dusk has still not been won. That should be what happens.

The second part of my motion reads that:

Glen Eira City Council has been advocating for better public access and various improvements at Caulfield Racecourse Reserve for many years and on 19March 2013 adopted, by resolution, a position statement on Crown land at Caulfield Racecourse Reserve which stated that the Crown land is reserved by law for three purposes—

(a) a racecourse;

(b) a public recreation ground; and

(c) a public park.

The third part of my motion states: the first purpose, a racecourse, is well catered for, but the other purposes are not.

As I have said, this has been going on for many years—decades in fact. Various councils have tried, with various ways and means, to provide better public access to Caulfield Racecourse Reserve and to ensure that the Crown land is used for the purposes clearly stated in the trust deed. These are: racecourse, public recreation ground and public park. Anybody who goes to Caulfield Racecourse Reserve will notice that the racecourse is its identity. Its signage is all about racing. The signage referring to public access is very small and cannot be seen from a distance.

In fact Mr Ondarchie would not be able to read it, even from the distance between the Chair and me or that between Mr Ondarchie and me. He would not be able to read the signage telling him that, as a member of the public, he had access to the reserve. But the signs about the racecourse and racing events are huge and dominate the landscape. That is still the culture which exists at that piece of Crown land.

Part 4 of my motion summarises what the council said in its motion, which was put and carried unanimously on 19March.  (summary of council’s motion regarding training, parking on racecourse edited out here).

The sixth action concerns the revenues for public purposes, and this is very important:

The Crown land is public land and should be used for public benefit. The land is currently used for many commercial purposes including a Tabaret with a very large monetary turnover, training of horses early in the mornings and commercial exhibitions such as caravan and camper shows. Virtually all income from the use of this public land accrues to a non-public body. This should be changed so that a racecourse, public recreation ground and public park are provided and any commercial activities are charged a commercial rent, payable to the governing body and available for the governing body to reinvest in a racecourse, public recreation ground and public park. This does not happen. Only a small amount of money has been set aside by the Melbourne Racing Club, delegated by the trustees, to run the racecourse reserve on a day-to-day basis for any sort of public park or recreation facilities, and the rest of it goes to the Melbourne Racing Club. It is scandalous that a private body has been able to do this for so long.

The seventh action that the council wants to see is provision of access: Suitable access from multiple points must be provided for the public to enjoy the land. Access for all abilities must be provided.

As I mentioned before, the Melbourne Racing Club, while it has paid some lip service to this matter, still makes the Crown land appear as if it is only a racecourse and that the public is not welcome there. Access points are very few and the signage for access is very small. You would have to be very determined, live locally and be one of the few people in the know to make use of this public land on a day-to-day basis.

The eighth action is compliance with government standards:

The governing body must accept and comply with the DSE guidelines for committees of management of Crown land or be compelled to comply. All governance should be open and transparent.

With regard to that point, during the adjournment debate on 15 August last year I referred a matter to the Minister for Environment and Climate Change asking that he ensure that the trustees for the Caulfield Racecourse Reserve adhere to the then Department of Sustainability and Environment guidelines for committees of management of Crown land or be compelled to do so, and also be required to administer the Crown land for the three purposes set aside in the Crown grant. I am awaiting a response to that matter. I have had no response from the minister, and that occurred some 14 months ago. My staff have called the minister’s office to see whether he was intending to respond, but so far there has been no response.

The ninth action that the council adopted by its resolution of 19March was headed ‘Compliance with auditing standards’: The governing body is responsible for approximately $2 billion of public land and the Auditor-General for Victoria should be its auditor. Who could disagree with that? Nobody knows, and what has gone on is not public knowledge. How much money is made by the Melbourne Racing Club and what happens to it? Over many decades only a small amount—and I will get to that in a moment—has been put back into public recreation and a public park.

The Caulfield Racecourse Reserve has been mentioned in Parliament since the tabling of the 2008 report. The former member for Caulfield in the other place, Mrs Shardey, on 6 October 2010, which is three years ago, raised the issue about the lack of consultation on the land swap at Caulfield racecourse. Of course that has been an issue of much contention, and I will refer to it shortly. On 3 May 2011 the current member for Caulfield in the other place raised the issue of the agreement between the Melbourne Racing Club and the Glen Eira City Council for a $1.8 million upgrade of the reserve, and he also mentioned the Booran Road reserve, and what will be happening there still remains a puzzle. There has been some movement on that particular issue, but I draw the chamber’s attention to the amount of money involved—$1.8 million has gone into an upgrade of the centre of Caulfield Racecourse Reserve for a public park and recreation facilities. Out of all the hundreds of millions of dollars that has been made out of that public racecourse and reserve over decades, Melbourne Racing Club has generously put $1.8 million into the public facilities in the centre of the Caulfield Racecourse Reserve.

It is something, but one could not possibly say that is recompense for the amount of money that is being made by the Melbourne Racing Club, before that the Victorian Amateur Turf Club, over decades of occupying that land, running it solely as a racecourse, keeping the public out as much as it can and now it has thrown a few peanuts at the public by way of the $1.8 million.

I mentioned part of the council’s resolution, the ninth action, which was compliance with auditing standards, and I note that Cr Delahunty from Glen Eira City Council has written to the Auditor-General asking that he take over auditing the accounts of the Caulfield Racecourse Reserve. It seems to me that would be a sensible idea because it is Crown land, and the Victorian Auditor-General’s Office should concern itself with money and commercial activities on Crown land.

That brings me to the fifth part of my motion, which states that:

(5) the most significant barrier to achievement of these actions over many years has been the inappropriate and outdated governance structure that has been allowed to continue by successive state governments; and

(6) calls on this state government to—

(a) amend the membership of the trustees of Caulfield Racecourse Reserve to reduce the number of racing industry representation, include more community representation and retain representatives of Glen Eira City Council;

(b) ensure that the trustees of the Caulfield Racecourse Reserve comply with—

DEPI, now the Department of Environment and Primary Industries, although it is very difficult to find on that website—

guidelines for committees of management of Crown land and that the meetings, decisions and actions of the trustees are open and transparent;

(c) ensure that the governance arrangements over the Crown land achieve the equal purposes of a racecourse, public recreation and public park; and

(d) ensure that all financial arrangements and transactions associated with the Caulfield Racecourse Reserve are subject to audit by the Victorian Auditor-General’s Office.

I mentioned before that I would return to the issue of the land swap. …..As far as I have been able to work out—and I have asked the question of the Minister for Environment and Climate Change about that particular issue and I got the answer not very long ago—no payment was received by the government for the 54 square metres of land added to the Caulfield Racecourse Reserve, which is the small amount of land at the Booran Road corner. I am sure the minister knew that was not what I was talking about, so I will have to take that issue up with him again. But as far as I know, full recompense has not been paid to the taxpayers of Victoria for the Crown land that has now been acquired by the Caulfield Racecourse Reserve for development and exchanged for a smaller parcel that is now, as I understand it, under the committee of management of the Glen Eira City Council.

There is a very long history of the public being locked out of this reserve, which is meant to be for the public. Following the tabling of the report there seemed to be a period where there was goodwill and a sense that things might happen, but I think the council became very frustrated. One of the other councillors, CrMagee, was selected as chair of the trustees. He tried to bring in some changes, introduce proper governance and get the trustees to agree to abide by the Department of Sustainability and Environment guidelines; they did not. He tried various other things. I think the council just got frustrated, and that is why it adopted this resolution—to get something done.

The crux of my motion is that the governance structures are problematic and inappropriate. There is certainly a problem with conflict of interest. Decisions are being made as to what happens on that parcel of Crown land, which is supposed to be administered as racecourse, public park and public recreation in three equal parts, but the managing body is stacked with racing industry representatives and all the decisions go towards racing interests. One has to say that we have a huge conflict-of-interest issue, and it really should not be allowed to continue.

MrsMILLAR (Northern Victoria)—I am pleased to speak on behalf of the government in relation to this motion. I could in fact not be more pleased to stand to speak against this motion which in light of recent completed capital investment upgrades is lacking in substance.

The Melbourne Racing Club has a rich history at Caulfield Racecourse Reserve and operates with its local community firmly in mind. That history started with the Victoria Amateur Turf Club’s first meeting at Caulfield on 5 August 1876. In the motion Ms Pennicuik refers to the Glen Eira City Council advocating for improvements at Caulfield Racecourse for many years. I put it to the house that for 137 years the Melbourne Racing Club has been successfully holding race meetings; providing employment to large numbers of people in the local community—it currently has over 2000 employees, rising to 2500 during the Spring Racing Carnival; providing entertainment, enjoyment and a range of social benefits to the local community; providing economic benefit to local businesses and the wider Victorian economy; and, in addition to all of these significant and definable benefits, continuing to create racing history year after year. All of this speaks for itself.

There will always be those who seek for their own purposes to denigrate what others have created of their own free will. I am not going to speculate on the possible motivations for this motion, but nor will I remain silent as those across the chamber launch an unwarranted attack on this esteemed racing club, its proud history and the benefits and services which it continues to deliver to the local community and this state. Instead of giving recognition and appreciation for benefits and facilities extensively enjoyed by the local community, particularly the significant improvements over this period, this is an attempt to chip away at the edges and to undermine the legitimacy and achievements of the club.

This club continues to be open to engagement with the trustees and the local council on any and all matters in relation to the reserve, and this commitment has been made many times. As I have detailed in noting the recently opened capital improvements at the racecourse reserve, this motion is totally without substance. For these reasons the government will not be supporting this motion.

Ms PULFORD (Western Victoria)—In the few minutes that remain in this debate I would like to put the Labor Party’s position on Ms Pennicuik’s motion and speak on specific points contained within it. The Labor Party will be opposing this motion. The decision by the Glen Eira City Council was, we believe, a breach of an agreement less than two years old—an agreement between the club and the council that would have provided for the club to spend some $2 million to increase public use of the facility and provide new facilities, like toilets, barbecues, a children’s play area and the like.

On the point of the removal of horse training and car parking from the Crown land, this is not something the Labor Party supports, and Labor members are on the record in relation to this matter. There are significant consequences to those actions, and we do not support this blunt instrument.

In relation to paragraph 6 calling on the state government to amend the membership of the trustees of Caulfield Racecourse Reserve to reduce the number of racing industry representatives, I say that what we know is that right now the club has a trust that is operating independently. There is in fact a reasonably well-publicised disagreement between the club and the trust over various matters at the moment, and it is indeed the role of council, I would suggest, to represent the community’s views.

I will also just make a comment about paragraph 6(c) of Ms Pennicuik’s motion, and I am conscious of the short amount of time I have available to contribute to this debate. The motion proposes equal purposes for the Crown land—a racecourse, public recreation and a public park. I know we are in the middle of the Spring Racing Carnival, and I know that a lot of members enjoy going to the track year round and that a great many more Victorians go at this time of the year. I am not sure how you take one-third of a racetrack and still have it as a functioning racetrack. This is an impractical suggestion, and it is not made in a way that could possibly be cognisant of the practical realities ….Finally, it is disappointing the government led by the Deputy Premier and Attorney-General has continued to hold to their absurd definition of public land based on an obscure administrative order from 1988. The committee believes that this approach is obstruction pure and simple and is an attempt by the executive to frustrate the will of the Parliament. It is wrong that the government should seek to define or limit the ability of the Legislative Council to scrutinise its activities.

Finally, in 6(d), Ms Pennicuik’s motion seeks to ensure that all financial arrangements and transactions associated with the Caulfield Racecourse Reserve are subject to audit by the Victorian Auditor-General’s Office. I will make the point that this is a matter that comes under the Audit Act 1994, and if this is what the member seeks to do, perhaps she might like to introduce amendments to that act. The clock says my time is up. The Labor Party will be opposing this motion.

Business interrupted pursuant to standing orders.

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