GOLD Coast mining billionaire Clive Palmer has called on the State Government to order an immediate inquiry into what he deems to be the ‘waste and incompetence’ of Racing Queensland.
Palmer is angered that Racing Queensland Chairman Bob Bentley had approved spending of around $12 million on a stable complex at Caloundra on the Sunshine Coast.
“Assuming 260 stables were built at a cost of $12 million, the average cost of each stable would be an astronomical $46,154,” says Palmer.
“If these figures are correct, the government will be honour bound to open an immediate enquiry into the waste and incompetence of Racing Queensland. The question is how many other projects has Racing Queensland engaged in that have also incurred such waste and inefficiencies?”
Palmer says the racing industry wanted to know how many of the Caloundra stables were occupied.
“Is it as the industry suggests that only 60 or 70 stables are rented out of the 260?
“Mr Bentley, everyone is asking the question, where is the return on the funds you have invested? Is this really a waste of capital as everyone is suggesting?”
Bentley has agreed to meet Palmer to give him a full briefing on the Sunshine Coast stables project which has been operational for more than nine months, but says at no point had he been approached by the GC United owner.
“Mr Palmer has never sought a briefing from RQL about either the Sunshine Coast stables project or the state of harness racing in Queensland,” says Bentley.
“Instead of launching ill-informed attacks through the media about a project which was announced long ago and has been operational for nine months, I am more than prepared to sit down with him to tell him the facts. Mr Palmer is also welcome to contact the project manager for the Sunshine Coast stables project.
“If he did, he would be told that the $12 million wasn’t just for 260 quality stables, way beyond the standard of anything currently available, but was for civil works for a further 160 stables into the future.
“If Mr Palmer bothered to speak with me first, I would have also told him harness and greyhound racing is already struggling and unless drastic change is made to the way both are conducted in Queensland the two codes would surely die.”
Bentley points out that the 2009/2010 financial year prior to the amalgamation of all three codes, harness racing’s loss was $1,349,000 and greyhound racing sustained a loss of $958,000.
“In addition, the Albion Park facility operated as a joint venture between both codes and it alone sustained a loss of $408,587,” he says.
“For the first three months of this financial year harness code wagering saw a downturn of 12.5 per cent and the greyhound code 5.3 per cent compared to the same time last financial year. The harness downturn is despite an extra 10 race meetings being held in 2009/2010.
“For greyhound and harness to prosper the status quo needs to change as a combined loss of $2,715,587 is not sustainable.”
Palmer, an avid harness racing supporter with around 200 horses, is also critical of Racing Queensland to sell Brisbane’s famous harness racing venue Albion Park and the decision to scrap racing at Parklands on the Gold Coast in favour of a Commonwealth Games village adjacent to the hospital site.
Palmer slammed Racing Queensland for ‘not being upfront’ about the asset management plan for Albion Park, which will see harness and greyhound racing relocated from Albion Park to Deagon and Ipswich and the scrapping of a proposed premier dog track at Logan.
Last month Palmer told Gold Coast Business News that he would consider utilising land for the temporary running of the Parklands trots at his luxury 76ha Avica Resort, currently used as the corporate headquarters for his Queensland Nickel entity.
“I would make the land available if it would save Parklands for a period until a new track could be made available,” he says.