Today I need to use my time to speak about the significant impacts of the broken WorkCover system on the horse industry within my region and across the entire state. I have spoken with several thoroughbred stud breeders, farmers and equine service providers, and the rising cost of WorkCover premiums is suffocating the growth of the industry and forcing breeders and businesses to operate in New South Wales.
The horse industry’s rate for WorkCover contributions has surged by an astounding 65 per cent in the past year with absolutely no warning and after stud service fees were set for the season. In the 2021–22 financial year the rate was 5.859 per cent, in 2022–23 it was 5.75 per cent and now for 2023–24 it is 9.487 per cent. The fact that nearly 10 per cent of farm pay is allocated towards WorkCover is ridiculous.
Many of these businesses I spoke with have yet to even file any WorkCover claims at all. These breeders are not facing the same risks as jockeys and track riders, and it is completely unfair that they are saddled, pardon the pun, with the same premium rates. One farm that only deals with retired horses has just had one genuine WorkCover case, yet they pay the same premiums as high-risk industries. It has been extremely difficult for these farms to find staff, and now it is a dilemma as to whether it is affordable to even keep them.
The current broken WorkCover system means less jobs and increased prices and is adding to the cost-of-living crisis we are in the middle of, so to the Minister for Racing: please ensure this industry is protected.