Posted: 5:28 pm on 1st October 2013

HorseraceMonths ago, WasteWatch brought you news of two Queensland racetracks, one in Toowoomba, one in Mackay, which cost the Queensland taxpayer  over $25 million.

The racetrack at Toowoomba was one of 37 projects awarded by Racing Queensland Ltd between 2007 and 2012 without a public tender process. The ‘drought-proof’ synthetic surface, laid down at a cost of $12 million, later had to be ripped up, at a cost of $7 million, after allegations of dodgy construction.

The racetrack at Mackay, fast-tracked by the then Bligh Labor Government, cost the Queensland taxpayer $7.4 million, and just miraculously happened to be in the marginal seat of Racing Minister Tim Mulherin.

These racetracks, amongst others that were ‘improved’ at a total cost of $110 million, are now at the heart of the current Queensland Racing Commission of Inquiry. Also on the agenda is the Government’s decision to extend the wagering tax for another year, to help fund these racetrack ‘improvements’.

Then treasurer, Andrew Fraser, claimed all decisions on racetrack funding were made according to Treasury advice.

However, recently the Inquiry heard from Natalie Barber, who was then the head of the Queensland Treasury’s Resources and Economics Branch, and in charge of providing advice on projects like these.

In her submission to the Inquiry, Ms Barber said:

Treasury did not support the extension of the wagering tax… It was considered the extension would have been a fiscal impost on the State, when it was in a particularly difficult fiscal position.

With regards to the ‘improvements’ to the Mackay racetrack, Ms Barber said:

Treasury raised concerns about the quality of the Mackay business case, as it was not considered to have provided sufficient information to justify the total investment sought.

On a side note, the Inquiry itself will cost the Queensland taxpayer $3 million.

In summary, more than $113 million of taxpayer money will have been spent, by the time this mess is sorted out.

William Shrubb, WasteWatch Intern

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