New powers to probe racing
SCANDALS plaguing the horse racing industry will now be probed under new extraordinary powers given to its independent integrity commissioner.
Under legislation being introduced to parliament this week, Racing Integrity Commissioner Sal Perna will have a range of powers compelling racing's controlling bodies, jockeys, trainers and owners to cooperate with investigations.
The changes come after reports by Mr Perna and his investigation of the Damien Oliver inquiry by Racing Victoria Limited identified deficiencies in fighting corruption in the sport.
Key changes to the Racing Act 1958 will affect both Racing Victoria Limited and Mr Perna.
The amendments will also umbrella racing rules to non-licenced people involved in the sport, such as race analysts and professional punters.
During Mr Perna's investigations he attempted to interview jailed drug boss Tony Mokbel, a heavy punter who associated with racing figures, but he refused.
But Mr Perna said Mokbel was not alone in refusing requests to be interviewed by him.
"This government has been very supportive and this is an indication of that,'' he said.
"It's a boost to integrity in racing and it addresses the deficiencies I identified in my reports.''
Key areas of reform Mr Perna has called for which remain unchanged is for a national body to apply standards to the industry and for Victoria Police to have specialist racing investigators.
Victorian Premier Denis Napthine said the changes were essential to fighting corruption in the $2 billion industry.
"Victoria has the best racing in Australia but there is always a need to keep ahead of the game and maintain strong safeguards against corruption," Dr Napthine said.
"These changes,... mean the racing integrity commissioner has the necessary tools to conduct his investigations and provide effective oversight of the sector."
Penalties for refusing to answer questions are unknown, but are likely to be similar to contempt of court charges.
Dr Napthine also said the legislative changes would remove any doubt about Racing Victoria's power to apply the rules of racing to non-licensed people involved in racing.
"All people participating in racing whether licensed or non-licensed will now need to adhere to rules of racing or otherwise be subject to penalties such as exclusion from racing," he said.