An Act of Sedition
As the government feels it necessary to introduce its new Anti-Democracy Laws on Melbourne Cup Day — laws which re-introduce the offence of sedition — it may be my last chance to inform the world of my inflammatory opinion on horse racing.
[I should first point out that the timing of the introduction of this legislation into Parliament is by no means the worst thing about it. There are many excellent reasons to hate it, such as those outlined on Media Watch last night, and in Chas Savage's savage rant in the Age. And let's not even talk about the process by which it was created. I can't add any more here that hasn't already been said elsewhere, so now onto our feature presentation...]
One of the more astute observers of Australian society is ex-Prime Minister Bob Hawke. On Robert Hughes' documentary series Beyond The Fatal Shore, the Silver Bodgie (as our ex-PM is rather mysteriously known) was interviewed at the horse races. He graced us with his opinion on the notion that Australia is an egalitarian society. He observed that the racecourse was a microcosm of Australia, stratified like the tiers of the grandstand. The various social classes mix and mingle but there is definitely a heirarchy. In most other countries this might be a relatively banal observation, but in Australia there is the myth that everyone is your mate and that everyone gets a Fair Go, so for me the racecourse analogy was an interesting, if not revelational, one.
All this is to say that providing entertainment for the many strata of Australian society is one of the very few redeeming features of horse racing.
Horse racing is not much more than gambling, and deserves to be treated as such. It no more deserves to be televised than the keeno draw down at your RSL club. It is certainly not a sport.
Yes, the horses are wonderful and majestic to look at. So is Uluru. Yes, it requires much skill and dedication to train the horses. Just like the exhibitors at the model railway exhibition I took the young'uns to a few months back. None of this matters to the punters, who barely even see a horse on the first Tuesday in November. Take away the gambling, and then see if it still qualifies as the race that stops the nation.
Sports are fundamentally human endeavours. They allow us to demonstrate courage, will, skill, teamwork, and other noble human traits. A horse may display characteristics that bear a superficial similarity, but it is all anthropomorphism.
Now for the potentially seditious part. Horse racing should be treated exactly like any other hobby (think model railroads) as far as the government is concerned. The gambling that takes place should be treated just like any other form of gambling (think keeno at the local RSL). These two should be separated. As a hobby, it should be entirely free of specific government intervention. As gambling, it should be regulated up the wahzoo. So does the government think like this? Wanna bet on it?
The New South Wales Government maintains a comprehensive program of policy development aimed at ensuring that the legal framework meets the needs of the racing industry, the Government and the racing public.
Substitute "model railway enthusiasts" for "racing industry" to fully experience the absurdity here. They go on to say that the policy development mainly consists of industry deregulation, but still they are committed to the "ongoing viability of the industry".
Let's be clear: the horse racing "industry" (a word which was once associated with the manufacture of goods and services) is entirely driven by gambling. I am not against gambling per se, but it is ludicrous for the government to be promoting it. It is a zero-sum game that does not deserve to be supported by the government.
Apparently they don't think so:
The racing industry makes a major contribution to the economy of the State both in material and leisure terms. The industry provides direct full and part-time employment for 50,000 people and indirectly creates a range of other employment opportunities. It contributes an estimated $1 billion to the State’s GDP, including the contribution of approximately $151 million (excl’ GST) in revenue annually to Government from wagering on racing events.
There you have it, gambling is apparently contributing to the economy. This is a NSW government publication. Who do they think they're fooling with all this horseshit?
Horse racing needs to be destroyed in order to be saved. Ban all gambling on horse racing. At least until the "industry" collapses. When it reaches economic parity with all other hobbies, then we can talk about allowing gambling again.
What do you reckon, any chance of this outsider getting up?