Horse racing deaths and welfare breaches could soon be laid bare in New South Wales.
The Information and Privacy Commission has told Racing NSW and Harness Racing NSW they must comply with freedom of information laws, The New Daily can reveal.
The two regulators had been dodging information requests, the Greens and animal welfare advocates allege.
Information Commissioner Elizabeth Tydd confirmed to Greens animal welfare spokesperson Mehreen Faruqi on June 13 that both agencies were accountable to the public.
“I have formed the view that both Racing NSW and Harness Racing NSW are established for public purpose and therefore are captured by the definition of public authority for the purposes of the GIPA [Government Information Public Access] Act,” she told Dr Faruqi’s office in a letter seen by the The New Daily.
“I have written to both agencies to advise them of this outcome and to inform them of their obligations under the GIPA Act and the requirements for systems to be implemented to discharge their responsibilities.”
In a statement Racing NSW CEO Peter V’landys said the agency had been accountable under freedom of information for as long as he could remember.
He said all information requests were responded to. Agencies are required to acknowledge a request within five days and advise of a decision within 30 days.
But the Coalition for the Protection of Racehorses made an information request – seen by The New Daily – to Racing NSW by email on June 11, and never received any response.
Spokesman Elio Celotto said it requested details on retirement and welfare breaches – including the number of horses sent to abattoirs – and penalties doled out.
Mr V’landys denied any knowledge of the application.
Racing NSW and Harness Racing NSW were both failing to provide information access on their websites, as required.
Racing NSW has since put the details online.
Mr Celotto said the coalition would try its request again now the commission has advised Racing NSW falls under the GIPA Act.
“We hope this amendment will mean we will finally get a response to our freedom of information request which to date has been ignored, he said.
Perhaps now we might get the real numbers of racehorses being sent to slaughter.”
The coalition had previously relied on steward reports to estimate one horse dies on Australian racetracks every 2.6 days.
Dr Faruqi said she believed damning information could be uncovered.
“Up until now animal advocates have had to rely on the horse racing industry’s discretion and public statements, but now we will be able to demand the release of this information,” Dr Faruqi said.
“For too long, horse racing has operated in the shadows with very limited information about how many horses die on track or are killed once they stop turning a profit.”
Harness Racing CEO John Dumesny told The New Daily the agency had “always known we were covered by GIPA”.
He said information requests were responded to, but acknowledged it was not complying with the requirement to put freedom of information details on its website.
“We’re working with the privacy commissioner to make sure it’s up there in an appropriate time and it’s on our website in a correct fashion.”
Mr Dumesny said the commissioner reached out to the agency as part of a general sweep, “correctly so”, to ensure compliance.
The Information and Privacy Commission confirmed it reminded the agencies they were required to comply with the GIPA Act on June 13.
“Both agencies have responded to the IPC advising of their implementation of programs to ensure optimal compliance with these statutory requirements.”
Last week’s Four Corners program on ABC looked into the welfare of racehorses after their careers end.
In a blog post, Racing Australia said the Four Corners program lacked substance.