Task Force Roderick Report On The Harness Racing Industry
TASK FORCE RODERICK REPORT ON THE HARNESS RACING INDUSTRY
Mr McMANUS: My question without notice is addressed to the Minister for Police. Is he aware of Opposition allegations that the Task Force Roderick report recommended the removal of a person involved in administration of the harness racing industry? Will he release the report?
Mr WHELAN: Task Force Roderick was established as a result of allegations of race rigging in the harness racing industry.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I call the member for Gosford to order.
Mr WHELAN: Those allegations were made to the office of the former Minister for Sport, Recreation and Racing - the honourable member for Sutherland - in September 1993. That means that the allegations were known to the member back in 1993. The allegations were subsequently passed to the Commissioner of Police, and Task Force Roderick was formed in July 1994. The report was completed in February this year, six weeks prior to the last election. It raises the question of why the former Minister, the member for Sutherland, did not act on those allegations or associated issues related to harness racing until last week when he raised them in the House. Moreover, it raises the question of why he chose to identify a prominent figure in harness racing and allege that Task Force Roderick had recommended the sacking of that person, when the allegation is completely untrue. If there is a scandal, it is in the way the Opposition has handled the matter. It says more about the Opposition's failure and desperation than any other issue.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I call the member for Northcott to order.
Mr WHELAN: Stung by criticism, the honourable member for Sutherland seeks to shore up his position by identifying members of the public and making unsubstantiated claims about them. The only explanation is that he has followed the example of his leader.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I call the member for Davidson to order for the second time.
Mr WHELAN: Hot on the heels of his leader, with a denunciation of KPMG and his leader's unprecedented attack on a government staffer, the member for Sutherland has used parliamentary privilege in the most inappropriate manner, as his leader has done in the past. Neither of them was prepared to make those allegations outside.
Mr Hartcher: On a point of order: it is a well-established rule of this House - I cannot recall the exact Standing Order - that an attack on a member must be by way of a substantive motion. The Minister for Police is using this question as an opportunity to launch an attack on the honourable member for Sutherland. I therefore ask you, Mr Speaker, to rule, consistent with the standing orders, that the Minister must desist; and, if he wishes to continue in that vein, that he must move a substantive motion.
Mr WHELAN: I was making passing reference. I understand why the honourable member is so sensitive on the issue.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! The Minister has assured the House that he was making only a passing reference. He will now return to the subject matter of his answer.
Mr WHELAN: The honourable member is too sensitive. Even his mate Joe reckons that he is a dud. Joe reckoned that he was the third head to go. The Leader of the Opposition and the honourable member for Sutherland have made the outrageous allegations I have referred to, and neither of them have had the courage of their convictions to repeat the allegations outside the House. This whole of this exercise has been mischievous.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I call the honourable member for Northcott to order for the second time.
Mr WHELAN: There is no substance at all from any honourable member opposite.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I call the honourable member for Northcott to order for the third time.
Mr WHELAN: The Opposition and its leader are playing a dangerous game. In relation to persons identified in the report and comments I made in the House yesterday, I make the following point. The allegations made to the honourable member for Sutherland and to Task Force Roderick were serious but were later found by police to be unsubstantiated. I quote from page 24 of the report:
It was the strong opinion of the police, backed by legal advice, that the report should not be released publicly. I am mindful that it would set an undesirable precedent if the Government indicated its preparedness to identify a lot of the information, including police informants. For those reasons I have asked the Commissioner for Police to read the report with a view to deleting names and any confidential or sensitive police operation material. Subject to the Commissioner's advice, I intend to release the report either later today or tomorrow. I repeat that the report states on page 24:
It might be noted that no arrests, charges or prosecutions have been preferred or recommended by members of this task force.
I am advised that the report's recommendations did not single out any individual for disciplinary action or prosecution. However, the report made a number of recommendations relating to the administration of harness racing. These recommendations were passed to the Independent Commission Against Corruption, which is currently working with the Harness Racing Authority and the Department of Racing to reform the industry. Given the ICAC's involvement in this steering committee, do the honourable member for Sutherland and the Opposition, and particularly that genius in the other place, the Hon. Richard Bull, suggest that the ICAC is not independent? Are they suggesting the Independent Commission Against Corruption is somehow compromised by being part of the harness racing steering committee? Any sensible person should await the deliberations of the ICAC on these matters to avoid any unnecessary duplication by a parallel independent inquiry.
The suggestion that this Government does not take the administration of any form of racing seriously is quite unfounded, given its swift response to the jockey tapes affair. When this matter came to the Government's attention it was immediately referred to the State Crime Commission for investigation. Following its report the Government appointed Mr Temby to investigate measures to fight corruption in the racing industry. The Commissioner for Police has been asked to examine the Temby report with a view to implementing its recommendations in relation to the policing of illegal activities in the racing industry.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I call the honourable member for Eastwood to order.
Mr WHELAN: I repeat that subject to the Commissioner's advice I intend to release the report either later today or tomorrow.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I call the honourable member for Ermington to order for the second time.
It must be noted that no arrests, charges or prosecutions have been preferred or recommended by members of this task force.