The politics of racing. That the Sydney media are failing to give much coverage to the current chaos in the administration of the NSW Racing industry comes as no real surprise. The racing writers for the daily papers are hopelessly compromised because they do not want to bite the hand that feeds them. Their coverage of the so-called sports of thoroughbreds, trots and greyhounds should actually be classified as an advertorial as it is paid for by the TAB. Without the huge subsidy to papers from the gambling giant, supposedly to cover the cost of printing the fields, the bean counters at News Ltd and Fairfax would have almost all racing writers declared redundant.

Bloodstock agent John Brown, an old mate of mine from the days when I still had a bet, told me this week that Sky Channel, owned by the TAB itself, is no more interested than the papers in covering the latest strange developments which are making a farce of the NSW Government decision to establish a five person independent body to administer racing. The Government started out with the very best of intentions to stop the practice of Racing NSW directors being appointed as representatives of racing participants and thus prone to protect the vested interest of their own organisation. The industry was in theory going to have a real regard for the best notions of corporate governance and a head hunting firm chosen to draw up a short list of suitable directors. The industry would give this independent board thus chosen advice by being represented on an advisory committee.

Between the theory and the practice something went terribly wrong. The Government failed to define what it meant by independent other than to say you could not be a director of a body like a racing club or a breeders’ association at the time of appointment as a director. Hence race club members and breeders could resign on a Monday and move to the board of Racing NSW on the Tuesday.

The head hunters Korn Ferry came up with a short list of 10 potential directors of which six are current or past directors of participants. Of the other four one was a former employee of the country’s major breeder John Messara – leaving three in the truly independent category. Recently two of those have withdrawn from the race in disgust at the prospect of being part of a controlling body just as dominated by vested interests as the one it was designed to replace.

Joining the pessimists. As a non-share owner I have often looked somewhat wistfully at those graphs of share price indices which periodically appear in newspapers showing the wonderful way that compound interest seems inexorably to drive the line upwards. They are always accompanied at times like these of sagging stock exchange prices by the sage advice that share holders needs to take the long term view which makes the falls mere blips interfering with the ascent. And then this morning I happened to come across a graph of the Topix index of the Japanese Stock Exchange which just put the thought in my mind that sometimes the long term might be very long term indeed.

The world’s favourite. I’m sure it is not a factor exercising the mind of American voters, but there would surely be an amazing wave of anti-American feeling if Barack Obama does not end up becoming President of the USA. Support internationally for the Democratic Party candidate seems to be near universal and affected very little by whether the non-Americans are conservative or liberal in their own political convictions. The readership of the British based, but truly international, magazine The Economist are hardly likely to be mad lefties but they are overwhelmingly cheering for Barack.

Peter Fray

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