Hi Tony, maaaaaate: the ties between the WCC and racing

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Warrnambool City Council Mayor and Liberal Party member Tony Herbert. Image: WCC

Carol Altmann – The Terrier

News today about the ructions within the local Liberal Party branch was interesting on all sorts of levels, including the fact it exposes – yet again – the thick ties between the Warrnambool City Council and the Warrnambool Racing Club.

Let’s check the count so far. If you have been reading The Terrier:

Cr  Kylie Gatson: We already know that Cr Kylie Gaston ran for the Labor Party at the last state election and Labor Racing Minister Martin Pakula was the main force behind ensuring the Warrnambool Racing Club got what it wanted from the council in accessing Levy’s beach for large-scale racehorse training

Cr Peter Hulin: We already know that Cr Hulin, who supports the Levy’s move, was a former Liberal Party member but handed out how-to-vote cards at the last state election for former MP and racehorse owner James Purcell, whose son, Aaron, is a local racehorse trainer.

Cr Sue Cassidy: We already know Cr Cassidy, who supports the Levy’s move, is married to David Cassidy who operates sign company, Cassign, that sponsors races at the Warrnambool Racing Club. Liberal Party member Peter Herbert, the mayor’s brother, is a mate of David’s and not very happy about the “plover lovers” – as he likes to call them – who are opposed to racehorse training at Levy’s because the endangered Hooded Plover nests there.

Mayor Tony Herbert: We already know Cr Herbert, who supports the Levy’s plan, chairs the council’s Visitor Economy Advisory Committee that includes Warrnambool Racing Club CEO Peter Downs.

And now, in today’s story, we have Mayor Herbert also turning up as a rusted-on member of the Liberal Party where the chairman of the Warrnambool Racing Club, Nick Rule, is a significant player.

Mr Rule owns a racehorse with Federal Liberal MP Dan Tehan.

In his maiden speech in Federal Parliament, Mr Tehan thanked Mr Rule for being part of the Liberal fundraising team that saw him elected to the seat of Wannon.

Wannon MP Dan Tehan and Warrnambool Racing Club chairman Nick Rule share a racehorse, and political allegiances. Image:

Now Mr Rule, as chairman of the Warrnambool Racing Club, has to deal directly with the council – and Mayor Herbert in particular – to get the approvals that are still required to allow racehorse training at Levy’s Beach.

The fact they already share a connection, through the local Liberal Party branch, might explain the letter sent by Mr Rule to the Mayor on January 16 this year.

This was an important letter.

It was asking the council to provide consent for the racehorse training and assurances to the Environment Minister that this was in line with all coastal and marine management plans and policies.

It also asked for the council executive staff to be given the power to issue training licences.

These were both “critical” requirements, Mr Rule said.

Despite the importance of this letter, Mr Rule didn’t even bother to sign it or put it on Warrnambool Racing Club letterhead.

It arrived, unsigned, from Hammonds Paints, where he is managing director.

 

“Hi Tony…..As per our discussion earlier today…..

Kind regards, Nick.”

There is such a lack of formality, such an expectation of being heard without having to be all official about it, that all that is missing is “maaaaaatttteeeee”. (You can see the full letter here).

Lo and behold, the letter was tabled and dealt with by the council just 17 days after it arrived. (By contrast, the residents in south Banyan St lobbying to have street trees planted have been waiting about four years.)

The same fast-tracking happened last December.

Mr Rule wrote a letter to Mr Herbert on December 10 – this time it was signed and on WRC letterhead – saying the club had asked the Planning Minister to change the planning rules so racehorses could train at Levy’s. If the change went ahead, the club wanted the council’s support as well, the letter said.

“This is a matter of great urgency,” Mr Rule wrote.

No problem! Kazaam!

The council called a special meeting and gave almost unanimous support (vote: 6/1) on December 21 – just 11 days later.

 

I remember, in 2014, I needed council permission to place a scissor lift and five witches hats near the Robert Ullman whale mural, in East Warrnambool, which was being restored over a weekend.

The little permit took more than a fortnight to be processed.

Like the people waiting for their street trees in Banyan St, I obviously don’t have the right connections.

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7 thoughts on “Hi Tony, maaaaaate: the ties between the WCC and racing”

  1. I have written to Ciaron Maher racing who may be considering buying Weir’s Warrnambool stable (he’s bought Ballarat) to encourage him to not take advantage of the training at Levy’s and to use his profile and ‘love of Warrnambool’ to discourage others from wanting to do so.
    Consider doing same: Ciaronmaher.com.au
    Also wrote to councillors seeking details of plans for Levy’s and got a big fat nothing except from the Mayor saying ‘I’ll get back to you’

    1. Mick Price is another you might want to consider writing to as he is sending 40 horses to Warrnambool to be trained at Levy’s by MW Racing!

      1. All of these trainers are only doing what the council and State Government are allowing them to do. In my view, the responsibility – and consequences – lies squarely at their feet.

  2. Sue Cassidy’s husband David who is a sponsor of Wbool racing, you forgot to mention he sponsored footy clubs, cricket clubs probably schools and I bet he sponsored Peter Project as well. I’m against councilors being directly affiliated with political parties however it’s impossible in a small city for people who stand for council not to be involved in the all areas of the community they are contributing to our city.

    1. You are absolutely right Bernie, Cassign is involved in much more than the WRC. A potential conflict of interest arises, however, because the council is voting on a matter that directly concerns the WRC. This is why the relationship between the WRC and Cassign is relevant here. It is exactly the same as Cr Gaston running for the Labor Party and voting on matters that are Labor Party policy, or Cr Hulin supporting a racehorse owner and trainer in Mr Purcell. All of the councillors are involved in many public projects and causes and have multiple connections, but these only become relevant when they directly relate to a matter being voted on by the council: this is why the conflict of interest rules exist in the first place.

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