With thousands of people directly involved in the horse racing industry across Australia, the effects of the equine influenza outbreak will be felt by many, and not for an insignificant amount of time.

Already the Federal Opposition and the NSW government have called for a full enquiry into how a strain of horse flu got into the country, while horse trainer Anthony Cummings said the outbreak will cost the breeding industry hundreds of millions of dollars, and some people may seek compensation.

So the question arises – does the racing industry have a case against Customs, quarantine officials or the federal government? It is a question that is too early to answer and is still one being asked after the foot and mouth disease outbreak in the United Kingdom at the turn of the millennium.

Before any talk of litigation is to continue, the Government would have to put its hand up and commit a significant amount of resources, both financial and other, on a full investigation into the situation.

I, for one, would argue against that. The horse racing industry is a global business which earns billions of dollars a year and I believe there is already too much injustice in Australia and our region for the “Sport of Kings” to take up all those resources.

As Australians, we have it relatively easy as far as wealth goes and rather than spend our time trying to survive, we can spend a weekend at the races, or the footy, or dare I say it, the cricket. If only we could be so passionate about human rights.

I know we love the office party spirit of Melbourne Cup lunches, when ladies wear their hats and all the men pass on their expertise on the field after we draw our potential winners from a hat.

As we are enjoying the bounty of living in the lucky country, there are too many other disasters in Australia’s recent history that should themselves be the subject of inquiries which result in compensation.

To put this into some kind of perspective, think of our Indigenous Australians. On Melbourne Cup day we take the chance to escape from our jobs for a few hours, yet the Aboriginal people, who live in abject poverty and misery and have everything to escape from, have nowhere to escape to.

With the recent South Australian court decision to award damages to a member of the stolen generations, I would rather see the government accept responsibility over this situation and put together a system of compensation for those who have not lost a week or two at the races, but who have been robbed of their lives.

It is the tragedy of Australia when all we see in the media is talk about horses catching a cold, while people are living in third world conditions in a developed country, all in the shadow of APEC week.

The Australian Lawyers Alliance is an association of lawyers and other professionals dedicated to the protection and promotion of justice, freedom and the rights of the individual.

Peter Fray

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