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Minister Martin Pakula - Travel Report, Japan, November-December 2015

Minister's name Hon Martin Pakula
Portfolio/s Racing
Did the minister's spouse accompany the minister in an official capacity? No
Accompanying ministerial staff Adrian Browne, Chief of Staff
Countries visited Japan
Date of travel 26 November 2015-3 December 2015
Number of official travel days (include day of departure and day of return) 8 days
Funding source (list Department/s or Agency) Department of Justice and Regulation
Air fares (including taxes and fees) $15,402.66
Accommodation (including taxes and fees) $5,496.41
Other expenses (including surface travel and travel) $8,359.48
Travel cost for Minister and ministerial staff $29,258.55

Purpose of travel

Victoria’s racing industry is a major economic driver for the state. Racing contributes over $2.8 billion annually in economic activity to Victoria and has over 114,000 people directly involved as employees and participants. Furthering ties with Japanese industry represented an opportunity to continue to build on the Victorian success story.

Japan is the world’s third-largest economy and Australia’s second-largest trading partner, accounting for over 10% of our total trade.

The main purpose of the trip was to facilitate improved linkages between the Victorian and Japanese racing industries. The Minister for Racing led a delegation of key Victorian racing personnel, including representatives from Racing Victoria, the Victoria Racing Club, the Moonee Valley Racing Club and the Melbourne Racing Club.

The visit provided an opportunity for the minister to encourage increased involvement by Japanese owners and trainers in the Victorian racing industry including participation in significant races, training, breeding, sales and racing related primary production. The minister joined the Australian Ambassador to Japan in a media event where the Japanese connections of Hokko Brave and Fair Game were presented with Melbourne Cup saddle cloths to recognise Victoria’s appreciation for their participation in the 2015 Caulfield and Melbourne Cups.

Building and promoting world class racing, training and quarantine facilities is a key aspect in attracting Japanese and other international owners and trainers to compete in Victoria. In 2015, through its Victorian Racing Industry Fund, the government provided $650,000 to Racing Victoria as part of a $1.3 million project to construct a fibre sand training track at the Werribee International Horse Centre. Australia’s post-arrival quarantine laws require that international horses must serve a period in quarantine before they are permitted to mix with the general horse population.

Extensive consultation by Racing Victoria with international trainers had identified that an alternative training surface was required in order to spread the training load and minimise the risk of injury to horses. The addition of the sand fibre track provides Victoria with comparable facilities to other international quarantine stations such as Dubai and Hong Kong and was considered by the industry and the government to be crucial to the future participation of Japanese horses in Victorian racing. The upgraded facilities received favourable commentary from a number of Japanese racing officials and participants.

The visit commenced with an economic and cultural briefing from the Austrade Commissioner and included a welcoming reception hosted by the Japan Racing Association (JRA). As part of his attendance at the Japan Cup meeting, the minister was escorted on a tour of the racecourse by the JRA Director of International Planning Division.

The delegation visited the MIHO Training Centre, located 90 minutes out of Tokyo and also flew to Hokkaido to inspect the Northern Farm and Shadai Stallion Station, both of which are owned and operated by the Yoshida family and produced the winning quinella of Delta Blues and Pop Rock in the 2006 Melbourne Cup. Facilities include indoor and outdoor uphill training tracks and an indoor thoroughbred training circuit.

Northern Farm is a thoroughbred breeding and training establishment that houses 2400 horses and has around 600 employees.

Other meetings aimed at building links and promoting Victorian interests were held with the:

  • Australian and New Zealand Chamber of Commerce and Industry (in Japan)
  • Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fishing (MAFF) - Japanese racing and gambling portfolio agency
  • Australian Ambassador to Japan (closed media interview) promoting the Victorian racing industry
  • Tourism Victoria to discuss the government’s Visitor Economy and strategies to attract international visitors to Victoria for racing events.

Racing industry related activities included:

  • Australian Equine Promotion Event
  • MIHO Training Centre
  • Northern Farm Visit (Hokkaido) - Arranged by Austrade with support from the VRC
  • Shadai Stallion Station Visit
  • Darley Japan
  • Meeting with Nosawa & Co Ltd Racing Transportation Company - Mr Masayuki Ogura, Deputy General Manager, Livestock Department
  • Meeting with Kitazawa Trading - Kitazawa is an importer of Hygain, a primary producer located in Gippsland whose customers include MIHO and Northern Farm training centres.

Benefits of travel to the State of Victoria

The benefit to Victoria’s tourism industry and economy from international participation in the Melbourne Cup Carnival is significant. In 2014, international visitors coming to the Melbourne Cup Carnival spent $195 million. Almost 8000 people from 43 countries visited Victoria, primarily to attend the carnival.

Significantly, the 2014 involvement of Japanese thoroughbred Admire Rakti in the carnival saw a 133 per cent increase in the number of Asian visitors attending the Victorian Spring Carnival races.

Benefits to Victoria include the establishment of closer ties with the Japanese racing industry, its owners and trainers and the opportunity to encourage increased involvement by Japanese interests in the Victorian racing, breeding and sales sectors.

Racing industry representatives have confirmed the importance of the trip in furthering the internationalisation of Victoria’s racing product. Annual prizemoney for Japanese thoroughbred racing is more than AUD$1.3 billion and annual wagering turnover on Japanese thoroughbred racing is almost AUD$33 billion. This compares with annual Victorian thoroughbred prizemoney of AUD$174 million and annual wagering turnover of just over AUD$3 billion.

In addition to their attendance at the 2015 Japan Cup meeting, the minister led the delegation at a series of racing industry-related meetings and site visits, coordinated by Austrade and including an Austrade event showcasing Australian racing to Japanese owners and trainers.

Racing Victoria has advised that Japanese involvement is critical to the acceptance of Victorian racing as a truly global product. Feedback from the racing industry stakeholders has confirmed that they received unprecedented access to Japanese racing and training facilities during this trip and that the attendance of major Japanese owners and trainers at the industry forum and the various meetings was entirely due to the presence and leadership of the minister.

Racing Victoria noted the multi-use of racing facilities including the inclusion of shopping malls at racing precincts. Exposure to high quality racing, training and breeding facilities such as those in place in Japan will better inform decisions by Racing Victoria and the large metropolitan racing clubs about the future needs of the Victorian industry as it seeks to grow its engagement with the global industry.

Escorted visits to Japan’s key thoroughbred training and breeding establishments provided valuable insight into how Victorian racing might improve its interaction with stakeholders in Japan and elsewhere in Asia.

The Victoria Racing Club (VRC) advised that it took the opportunity to initiate dialogue about the possibility of telecasting the 2016 Melbourne Cup into Japan, subject to the involvement of Japanese horses. The VRC also took the opportunity to strengthen its ties with the JRA and key government and business contacts in Japan.

Similarly, the Moonee Valley Racing Club has acknowledged the significant benefits that were achieved and the opportunity that was provided to build strong ties with Japanese trainers and owners through its Cox Plate.

The Japan Cup attracted international racing officials and valuable connections of the four international runners in the 2015 Japan Cup. This provided opportunities to promote Victorian racing opportunities to a worldwide audience.

The visit to the Northern Training Centre highlighted opportunities for local Victorian producers such as Hygain, a Gippsland based feed producer that has achieved significant success in the ultra-competitive Japanese racing market.

Next steps / follow up

The opportunity has been created for key Victorian racing industry bodies to establish ongoing dialogue and exchange of information with their counterparts in Japan. Mutual areas of interest have been identified, including:

  • encouragement of reciprocal opportunities for horses from each of the nations to compete in major races, such as the Melbourne and Caulfield Cups, Cox Plate, Japan Cup and Tenno Sho
  • pursuit by the industry of improved opportunities to shuttle mares and stallions in order to create a greater diversity of bloodlines and enhance the breeding industries, both here and in Japan
  • consideration by the Victorian racing industry of consolidating trainers and horses into larger, more professionally run and better equipped training facilities, such as those in place in Japan
  • consideration by government and the racing industry about how best to integrate information and advice about Victorian racing product into overseas markets, for example through existing government services (Victorian Government Business Offices, Tourism Vic etc).

Office of Racing will work with key racing industry stakeholders and other government agencies to examine opportunities to leverage the work commenced or progressed as part of this successful visit to Japan.

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The department acknowledges Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people as the Traditional Custodians of the land and acknowledges and pays respect to their Elders, past and present.