This is the internal review of a Queensland Racing Intregrity Commission harness racing stewards decision to disqualify veteran harness racing trainer Neale Scott from the sport for 18 months after he presented a pacer named Shardons Reactor to race (and win) at a trot meeting held on the grass at the heritage listed Deagon track on 13 September 2015.
Chief Steward David Farquharson led – and was the primary decision maker in – the original inquiry into the matters, and it was his conduct on the 3rd day of that inquiry that lead to his controversial dismissal from his employment with QRIC, and began the chain of events that now must see the man who sacked him resign.
Commissioner Ross Barnett has spelled out in no uncertain terms the standards of conduct that must be applied by each and every person working for or representing the Queensland Racing Integrity Commission, including – and most of all – himself, and by his repudiation of the promises that his organisation has made to the public and to industry participants in relation to the process that must be applied to the determination of internal reviews he has failed to meet those standards utterly.
Here are the simple reasons why.
Look at the document reproduced above. It is the decision on the application made by harness industry licencee Neale Scott for an internal review of a stewards decision made to disqualify him from participating in the sport for 18 months.
The Racing Integrity Commissioner elected to personally determine the application for review, and in making his decision on the matter made a decision that he would take advice from QRIC’s Internal Adjudicator Kane Ashby, the allegedly ‘independent’ reviewer of matters brought by licensees challenging penalties that they have been handed by stewards.
These elections made by Mr Barnett were wrong in every respect, and the consequences of his poor choices have far-reaching consequences.
Every journey into dark tunnels begins from a static point, and that starting point here is a simple expression of fact that the Commissioner should never have been determining this or any other of the voluminous number of internal reviews that he had elected to assume carriage of during his tenure in his role as leader of Racing Integrity across all three codes in the state of Queensland.
Equally, Mr Barnett should never have made the decision to accept assess advice in the matter from controversial racing integrity official Kane Ashby, and erred badly in his decision to create Mr Ashby’s role as QRIC’s ‘independent’ reviewer at all.
In saying that I intend no disrespect Mr Barnett or to Mr Ashby personally, and mean none. I am simply stating the obvious.
This is the process for the conduct of internal reviews of decisions made by QRIC racing stewards, and is reproduced exactly as it is stated on the QRIC website.
Neither Ashby nor Barnett has a legal background.
Kane Ashby is a former jockey and trainer who holds no legal qualifications and has no legal background other than the quasi/faux judicial experience he has gained by his participation in processes such as those like the Scott case which are conducted under the rules of racing, not under law.
Ross Barnett is a 40 year career police officer who holds degrees in Criminal Justice, Safety and Public Policy and Administration, but has no formal qualifications whatsoever in the law.
Criminal Justice degrees are earned in the sociology discipline, and are not in any way regarded in academic circles as falling into the category of law. Equally, any experience that Mr Barnett has gained by virtue of his role as a police officer are simply as a prosecution witness or in the preparation of prosecution briefs, and cannot and are not regarded as constituting a legal background.
This appears as obvious as the nose on your face.
So why are either men determining these reviews when by doing so they are clearly flaunting the avowed and advertised standards of their own organisation, the ones that by virtue of his role as Commissioner Barnett himself holds responsibility for publishing?
Where is the integrity?
What QRIC are publicly stating and guaranteeing industry participants is nothing other than a lie.
So is the statement that the reviewer is independent from stewards and other official officers of the organisation, and ignore the fact that official officers is a double entendre.
Neither Barnett nor Ashby is independent, and how on earth could they be?
No matter which way you look at it – up, down, sideways, back to front, whatever – the only reasonable conclusion that can possibly be drawn is that both men are officials and/or officers of QRIC.
If they are not, then what are they? Space monkeys or something?
Just look at the QRIC organisational chart below.
Now as you can see Kane Ashby’s role sits somewhere out there in the cosmos at the right hand of the Commissioner (our left as we look at it), but follow the reporting lines, which are the ones in blue.
The Stewards report to the Deputy Commissioner.
There isn’t one.
No person has ever been appointed to the role, it has never been filled, and other than in a chart printed on a piece of paper it doesn’t exist.
So you skip through the void and follow the line upwards to the next box, and guess where you land?
Right in Ross Barnett’s lap.
The buck stops with the Commissioner.
The stewards ultimately report to him, and he is responsible for the management of their employment, and nothing spells this out any clearer than the fact that Barnett was the person who sacked David Farquharson.
Or more correctly, Mr Barnett is the QRIC officer or official who sacked him.
How on earth then can the Commissioner be independent from the stewards? How can he claim independence from other officers or officials of QRIC, when in fact the exact opposite is true because all of the blue lines run back to the box with his name in it?
He can’t is the only answer.
QRIC has blatantly and demonstrably mislead the public and the racing industry about the internal review process, and it does not matter a single jot that the process detailed and published on the organisation’s website and relied upon in good faith as fact by industry participants is not quite consistent with the provisions of the Racing Integrity Act 2016, because the Commissioner holds the ultimate responsibility for this publication, and by his sworn and admitted evidence to the QIRC in the Farquharson matter Ross Barnett has himself set the standards that must be applied.
The Commissioner’s conduct and that of each of his staff must be entirely beyond reproach.
The representations that he and his organisation make must be able to be trusted by the racing industry.
If that is not the case the Commissioner cannot effectively perform the duties of his position.
His words, not mine.
Ross Barnett has hoist himself with his own petard, and if integrity means anything he now has but one choice.
The Commissioner must resign.