Why was there a Review into harness racing in Tasmania?
The Tasmanian Government announced an independent review into matters of alleged team driving and/or race fixing, and serious animal welfare concerns relating to the harness racing industry on Tuesday 28 March 2023.
The review looked into allegations of team driving, race fixing and animal welfare concerns in the Tasmanian harness racing industry as well as the management of complaints by the Office of Racing Integrity.
The findings are published in full in the final report:
Final Report - Murrihy Independent Investigation and Review (PDF 717Kb)
Who undertook the Review?
Ray Murrihy was appointed as the independent expert to undertake the review.
Mr Murrihy has previously provided independent expert integrity advice services to governments, sporting codes and law enforcement bodies. He is also a previous Chairman of the National Chairman of Stewards Group, an advisory sub-committee to Racing Australia on integrity and safety matters and was the Manager of Integrity for Racing NSW.
Why was an interim report released and then a final report?
Mr Murrihy provided an interim report on 31 August 2023 to the Government and requested an extension of time to provide his final report. The Government agreed to that extension to ensure that principles of procedural fairness were fully upheld in relation to the process of the independent review. The final report was delivered on 28 November.
How many submissions did Mr Murrihy receive as part of his review?
More than 45 submissions were received and over 50 interviews were conducted as part of the review.
Why were no formal charges laid when Mr Murrihy found possible evidence of race fixing, team driving and animal welfare issues?
Mr Murrihy has made recommendations to the Government following a review of:
A full hearing process by an independent stewards panel in which the accused is able to cross-examine witnesses is required if charges are laid under the Rules of Racing. This was out-of-scope in relation to the terms of reference for this review.
An independent panel of interstate harness racing and integrity experts has been formed to consider formal charges under the Rules of Racing. Animal welfare matters have been referred to the RSPCA and to Biosecurity Tasmania to consider, and if deemed appropriate, to investigate.
What matters will be referred to the independent panel?
The Final Report makes a number of findings for compliance with the Australian Harness Racing Rules (AHRR). That is the panel of independently appointed stewards are authorised to lay and determine charges, with the process guided by a specific hearing procedure.
The panel will consider all of the material that Mr Murrihy has obtained and may conduct open hearings to allow for the cross-examination of witnesses.
Races to be referred to the independent panel are:
The independent panel will also, as a priority, consider 15 other races identified during the review over the last three years to determine if any should be investigated.
The panel will also consider matters relating to the administration of injections and medications.
What are the 15 other races and where and when were they held?
During his investigations Mr Murrihy was provided with more than 45 submissions and interviewed 50 individuals. He also reviewed considerable amounts of footage and other material over a time period of three years, including betting records. He considered 50 races which were alleged to have questionable race tactics.
Of these, Mr Murrihy confidentially supplied a condensed list of 15 races to the government, recommending that they be reviewed by suitably empowered appointees. Mr Murrihy noted that it would take significant additional time and resources to undertake a review of these races himself.
The races have been referred to the independent stewards panel and will not be disclosed in order to preserve evidence while the panel undertakes further investigations.
Following this assessment, the races and the panel’s findings will be made public.
Who has been appointed to the independent panel?
The panel is made up of interstate harness racing and integrity experts. Panel members are authorised stewards appointed by the Secretary of NRE Tas and under the direction of the Director of Racing to investigate specific matters and if deemed appropriate, to lay and determine charges.
The panel members are:
Dayle Brown - Victoria
Former CEO for Harness Racing Victoria and has held positions at Racing Victoria, Greyhound Racing New South Wales, Deloitte and Betfair.
Larry Wilson – Queensland
Larry Wilson is a former Chief Steward for the Queensland Racing Integrity Commission (QRIC).
Barry Delaney – Victoria
Barry Delaney boasts 45 years as a steward across Victoria, South Australia and Western Australia.
What is the intended outcome from this independent panel investigation?
The panel will use the information from the Murrihy Review, including all interview material and evidence gathered, to determine if formal charges should be laid and if so, impose penalties or other actions available under the AHRR – rules 181 and 183.
The process will be guided by a specific hearing procedure to ensure procedural fairness and for witnesses to be cross examined.
What are the panel’s terms of reference?
You can find a summary of the terms of reference here:
Terms of Reference - Stewards Investigation (PDF 101Kb)
How long will it take the newly formed independent panel to decide if charges should be laid?
The panel convened on 22 January 2024 and have started reviewing the material.
The panel is not bound by a statutory timeframe and if hearings are held, the timeframe will depend on the availability of witnesses and due process.
The panel are aware of the importance of concluding their investigations as quickly as possible.
The report raises concerns about the treatment of complaints by the Office of Racing Integrity. What is the Government/NRE Tas doing to address this?
The Murrihy report finds that the “current system lacks a truly independent avenue for racing participants to file complaints regarding ORI personnel and their accountability”. The report finds that there are accountability gaps in the current legislative structure. These gaps are proposed to be addressed in the Racing Regulation Bill.
The legislation, if passed, will further strengthen the complaints process with the introduction of a Tasmanian Racing Integrity Commissioner, who will have powers to set integrity and animal welfare standards.
In the interim, clear policies and procedures are needed to inform:
The Office of Racing Integrity implemented changes to the complaints management process in late 2023, including a complaints management framework and updated its complaints handling process.
What recommendations in Mr Murrihy’s interim report were previously supported by the Government?
In his interim report, Mr Murrihy reinforced the recommendations from the Monteith Review, which informed the Racing Regulation and Integrity Bill 2023 and the Racing Regulation and Integrity (Consequential Amendments) Bill 2023, which were tabled in Parliament on 15 November.
Other recommendations in the interim (and final) report included support for a proposed Equine Welfare Code of Practice, which sets enforceable minimum standards for
The Government provided in-principle support to the recommendations, noting some are a matter for Tasracing. The Government anticipates that Tasracing will have regard to Mr Murrihy’s advice in the development and implementation of the Tasracing Code of Practice for equine welfare and management.
When finalised, the Code of Practice will be referred to Biosecurity Tasmania for review and consideration as to whether there should be any provision under the Animal Welfare Act 1993 in respect of the Code.
Mr Murrihy states that the Animal Welfare Act 1993 currently has no regulations to prescribe welfare standards for a horse training property and that the Tasmanian Equine Welfare Guidelines 2008 are unenforceable. How will the Government address this?
It is clear from Mr Murrihy’s review that the regulations governing horse welfare at training establishments is deficient in that they do not prescribe a minimum standard.
Tasracing are currently responsible for drafting a Code of Practice for Equine Welfare and Management. Mr Murrihy’s advice will inform the development and implementation of the new Code and it will include minimum standards to be met at training properties. This Code will be linked to the Rules and therefore enforceable under the Australian Harness Racing Rules.
The Racing Regulation Bill will require Tasracing to develop an annual Integrity and welfare plan.
The Government recently amended the Animal Welfare Act 1993 to strengthen animal welfare outcomes in Tasmania. These reforms included:
These amendments included a range of significant changes to powers that enable the inspectorate (Biosecurity Tasmania and the RSPCA Tas) to operate more effectively.
The application of this Act will be considered to any charges that are laid in relation to allegations in the Murrihy report of mistreatment of horses.
In Tasmania there are Tasmanian Equine Welfare Guidelines and the Animal Welfare (Land Transport of Livestock) Regulations 2013.
A review of the Animal Welfare (Land Transport of Livestock) Regulations 2013 will start soon. It will seek to make the guidelines enforceable and specifically address welfare standards to be met at horse training properties.
Who will investigate the allegations of mistreatment of horses?
Animal welfare matters, including allegations of the mistreatment of horses outlined in the Murrihy Review, have been referred to the RSPCA and Biosecurity Tasmania to consider. They will investigate if deemed appropriate.
What penalties apply under the Animal Welfare Act 1993?
Offences under the Act can result in a penalty of up to five years in jail and/or 200 penalty units (currently $39,000). Regulations carry penalties of up to 50 penalty units.
What is a tongue tie and is it appropriate?
Tongue ties are commonly used and accepted in Australian racing to keep a horse’s tongue in its correct position during exercise, so it doesn’t become displaced and restrict the airway.
When used correctly, a tongue tie allows a horse to breathe more comfortably during exercise and enables a rider or drive to maintain effective control of the horse. The use of tongue ties is permitted, subject to conditions, under the Australian Rules of Racing (AR206).
What is a form reversal?
A form reversal is where the performance of a horse unexpectedly reverses. For example, the horse has been performing well and suddenly performs poorly or vice versa. A review can be undertaken. Mr Murrihy found that in the case of “Reds Good to Go, in Race 8 at the Burnie track on 10 February 2023, that ORI, through its stewards should have instigated a formal form reversal inquiry and considered invoking additional sampling measures.”
What other findings did Mr Murrihy make?
Mr Murrihy found that on-track competition in Tasmania is stifled by the current ratings, programming and balloting model, particularly in lower class races.
The review also found that the proposed new integrity unit should have a heightened focus on the auditing of therapeutic substances and medications in racing establishments.
Mr Murrihy concludes his review by fully supporting the legislative reforms proposed by the Monteith Review.