An inquiry is underway into the Queensland racing industry and already there’s plenty of tension as this blow-up between Queensland Racing and The Courier Mail demonstrates.

Great news value at The Courier Mail

From the November 23 sealed section

Last Friday afternoon, Tuck Thompson (real name) from The Courier-Mail arrived at the headquarters of Queensland Racing to investigate the conspiracy of the hidden security camera (is there any other type). The camera also records audio and resides in a rock on the front desk. It was installed after several receptionists had some unpleasant experiences.

After firing some questions at a somewhat startled receptionist, his photographer snapped off some shots of the door and then there followed some penetrating journalism as to:

  1. why was there a security camera;
  2. did everyone know it was there
  3. why was it necessary.

The Sunday Mail ran the story in its racing column. Obviously cranky at being beaten by its sister paper, Tuck Thompson and photographer were back on Monday and photographed, presumably the same door, again – and rang QR again with the sensational claim that the warning sticker wasn’t in Friday’s photograph.

Now apart from the fact that there’s a real chance they actually photographed the wrong door – and that staff members are willing to swear a statutory declaration that the sticker was in place last Wednesday – you’d have to think that there are some people at The Courier Mail with far too much time on their hands.

Another Courier Mail firebrand

From the first November 25 sealed section

Tuck Thompson responds to Monday’s item about hidden cameras at Queensland Racing:

Just for the sake of argument, what if a grubby little PR guy for a bent state agency slimed a legitimate story as payback for being caught out telling lies, would you run it? What if he told you a reporter was beaten on a story when he knew he had leaked it to a sympathetic columnist as damage control. Would you run that item, without checking with the reporter?

Used to think your site had credibility. My mistake.

Ross McSwain explains the sequence of events

From the November 28 sealed section

Queensland Racing spindoctor Ross McSwane writes:

Tuck Thompson of The Courier Mail and a photographer arrived unannounced at the front desk of Queensland Racing on Friday 19th November. At issue was the installation of upgraded security – specifically, the installation of a security camera.

Mr Thompson wanted to talk to senior management about the camera and the fact that it has an audio function (there have been concerns raised by receptionists relating to inappropriate language. It has a mute function and is activated by the receptionist should she feel the need).

Unfortunately, no one was available so the photographer took several pictures and left. Mr Thompson called Ross McSwain and wanted to know why it was installed; was the installation related to the current racing inquiry, did it record audio and was it general knowledge that the foyer was under electronic surveillance.

I checked the facts and at 5.21pm provided The Courier Mail with a written statement which said:

The advice on the front door at eye level of the office says: Warning Electronic security surveillance system fitted here. Mr Bentley (Chairman of the Board of Queensland racing and official spokesperson) said the camera also had the capacity for audio recording. The installation was taken on legal advice.

All relevant staff were briefed at the time of installation. Staff working at the reception area have previously complained of unacceptable remarks made to them at various times. There are two monitoring stations for the camera. Two silent alarms have also been fitted to the reception. The audio is not available for general listening.

I took a call later that evening from Mr Thompson and went to bed fully expecting to see it in The Courier Mail on Saturday. It wasn’t. It did, however, appear in a racing column on Sunday. I did not speak to the columnist.

On Monday Mr Thompson and the photographer were back at Queensland Racing. This time the issue was whether there was a warning sticker in place because it didn’t appear in Friday’s photograph. I said I had no idea why it didn’t show up, asked if they had the correct door, checked with the relevant staff and had them contact the person who installed the equipment. They verified that the warning sticker was in place and I sent the following statement:

The sticker was placed on the door by the individual responsible for the installation after he completed checking the equipment sometime after 5.20pm on Tuesday 16 November 2004.

To say I am somewhat astounded by Mr Thompson’s response, as published by Crikey, under the banner of The Courier Mail would be an understatement.

Complaint filed about Courier Mail racing editor

From the November 26 sealed section

The inquiry into Queensland Racing arose becaue of allegations raised by corporate bookmarker Michael Sullivan about betting fluctuations. It was subsequently broadened to encompass a range of allegations – the origin of which is a vicious power struggle currently underway between the tribes that make up the racing industry.

Although inquiries are funny things, sometimes they suck in those other than the intended. For instance, Crikey hears that a written complaint has been received at the investigation about Courier Mail racing editor Bart Sinclair, who has fabulous access to the jockeys’ room.

When you have a wide-ranging inquiry, the onus is usually on investigating all matters raised so Bart can probably expect a call, although we’re not for a moment suggesting he has has done anything wrong.

One question to ask is whether Bart ever relayed information from the jockeys or press rooms to third parties? Bart did also score a couple of harmless mentions in Kevin Perkins’ infamous book The Gambling Man, but as theSMH Sauce column pointed out, the book never saw the light of day due to a flurry of defamation actions.

We look forward to the hard hitting Courier Mail reporter Tuck Thompson kicking down doors and firing off aggressive emails to get this story about his racing editor colleague into the monopoly Brisbane paper. Don’t hold your breath.

If Sunday Mail editor Michael Prain is any good, he’ll ensure the story gets a run this weekend.

Get Crikey for $1 a week.

Lockdowns are over and BBQs are back! At last, we get to talk to people in real life. But conversation topics outside COVID are so thin on the ground.

Join Crikey and we’ll give you something to talk about. Get your first 12 weeks for $12 to get stories, analysis and BBQ stoppers you won’t see anywhere else.

Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
12 weeks for just $12.