MINING tycoon Professor Clive Palmer has called on the State Government to ‘rein in’ Racing Queensland (RQ) chairman Bob Bentley over proposed plans to sell Brisbane’s famous harness racing venue Albion Park.
The Gold Coast billionaire is an avid trot supporter with more than 200 horses in his stables. He says the latest asset sale proposal by RQ would be the death of harness and greyhound racing in Queensland.
Palmer has also criticised the State Government for its grab for the Gold Coast’s harness racing track at Parklands – which will be lost as part of the proposed venue for the Commonwealth Games.
“The Inter-Dominions were voted the most successful in history when held on the Coast and contributed $11 million to the State’s economy,” he says.
"Closing down these facilities is destroying small communities of people, it's disgraceful. These clubs put their assets into Racing Queensland with the promise of improved facilities and capital and then they're shut down.
“How much is Bob Bentley spending on the Gold Coast Turf Club and Magic Millions? What has he done to recover for harness racing the $40 million in present day value for the money invested from the sale of Stephens Paceway?
“The government has a moral obligation to repay Parklands in today’s currency, which amounts to around $50 million. It’s time for a change of attitude, change of plans or, if not, a change of Racing Queensland’s senior administration. The Government should also ensure that Bob Bentley is instructed to provide accountability.”
Palmer told Gold Coast Business News that he would consider utilising land for the temporary running of the trots at his luxury 76ha Avica Resort, currently used as the corporate headquarters for his Queensland Nickel entity.
“I would make the land available if it would save Parklands for a period until a new track could be made available,” he says.
Palmer slammed Racing Queensland for ‘not being upfront’ about the asset management plan for Albion Park, which will see harness and greyhound racing relocated from Albion Park to Deagon and Ipswich and the scrapping of a proposed premier dog track at Logan.
“’Bob the Builder’ must be reined in by the State Government before he creates further chaos,” says Palmer.
“I cannot believe a venue which is so entrenched in the fabric of Brisbane can be sold off to the highest bidder, possibly to make way for more high density housing. This will mean the end of the major codes of harness and greyhound racing in Brisbane and a sad end to a unique part of the city’s sporting and social landscape.
“It’s simply not good enough for Queenslanders to learn via a media leak that the State’s premier metropolitan harness and greyhound destination is being flogged off for urban land development.”
In July 2003 disgraced Racing Minister Merri Rose orchestrated the transfer of the $23 million Albion Park Raceway to the harness and greyhound racing codes, citing it as ‘a milestone for the racing industry in Queensland’.
“Albion Park is the major facility for both codes and the transfer of ownership will give the codes greater control over their destinies,” she said at the time.
“This is a major transfer of a valuable asset to the racing industry and is a clear signal of the Government’s support for an independent and viable industry.”
On the same day Bob Bentley commented that the track was ‘probably the most utilised racetrack in Australia and the ownership by the two codes would ensure that this would continue’.
Bentley could not be contacted today for comment.
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