Thoroughbred Breeders Australia (TBA) hosted an evening with the thoroughbred breeding industry at Federal Parliament House, Canberra in conjunction with the bipartisan group, the Friends of Primary Producers.
As with two previous events we’ve held with this group, we were fortunate to get a huge turnout of politicians, including the Prime Minister, Scott Morrison, Deputy Prime Minister, Michael McCormack, the Leader of the Opposition, Bill Shorten, and Agriculture Minister David Littleproud.
The event gives breeders an opportunity to explain our industry to politicians, to discuss its huge economic impact and, of course, the chance to build and develop relationships with people whose decisions often impact upon our industry. I’m pleased to say we had great support from amongst breeders, with TBA members from across the nation attending.
As well as the public event, TBA was able to secure private meetings with Scott Morrison, David Littleproud, Bill Shorten and shadow Agriculture Minister Joel Fitzgibbon. These meetings gave us to the time to discuss some of the key issues facing breeding, from the drought through to quarantine, visas and training.
Both Mr Morrison and Mr Shorten were very interested and supportive of the TBA’s national training scheme, Fast Track, which was initiated this year to provide a clear pathway into the breeding industry.
Tuesday evening’s event was also a celebration of the breeding industry and I am very grateful to the connections of Winx; Peter and Patty Tighe, plus Debbie and Paul Kepitis, for giving up their time to talk about their champion, who is such a flagbearer for the Australian breeding industry. Also among our guests was Michelle Payne, who talked about the challenges of training, plus the love for the animal that all in breeding and racing have.
More than 150 people attended the event and heard the Prime Minister say how important breeding and racing is to the country.
“It is a fair dinkum, serious business and industry,” Mr Morrison said. “It provides significant economic and employment opportunities especially for rural and regional Australia.
”We should feel proud of champions like Winx and the fact we produce horses of her quality.”
Labor leader Bill Shorten reflected on the needs of the industry, saying his side of politics heard the industry “loud and clear” on issues like drought relief and labour shortages.
“I understand that in this industry, for a small number of people, we need to bring in people from overseas,” the Labor leader said. “We don’t have the skills here, we don’t have the people here, so we need to have a visa system that brings people in.”
He said breeding was a great industry that couldn’t be taken for granted, noting the importance of farming and the investment of breeders into racehorse ownership.
It is also important to acknowledge the government’s Chief Whip, Nola Marino, and Joel Fitzgibbon, the member for the Hunter, who are the co-conveners of the Friends of Primary Producers. Both are great supporters of the industry and they and their offices worked tirelessly to ensure the event was a success.
Mr Fitzgibbon said the event had continued its history of reminding us the racing industry begins on a farm.
“Next time you’re at Randwick, Flemington or Moonee Valley think about where it all begins,” Mr Fitzgibbon said. “Breeding is an industry worth more than $1 billion to our economy and that sustains about 10,000 people across the country – that’s what we want you to be thinking about tonight.”
The Chief Whip, who with her husband both breeds and races thoroughbreds, said: “You breeders are terribly important to our small regional communities. You’re up early, there’s a lot of routine, and often not much reward. You also provide jobs for some people who may struggle to find employment elsewhere.”
“For those of us who love our horses, we watch those foals in the paddock, we watch them running around and look for a sign of hope, that they might be a future champion. It’s a wonderful thing.”
This event is a vitally important one in the Thoroughbred Breeders Australia’s calendar and the relationships it helps us to develop have already delivered strong dividends for the industry with funding for equine research, development of quarantine procedure and changes to visa regulations.