Bishops offer help but Pell has "no idea", AJC gripes

Australia's Catholic bishops have promised to help horse industry people affected by equine influenza but the Australian Jockey Club says Sydney Cardinal George Pell has "no idea" of the hardships facing trainers at the Randwick Racecourse World Youth Day venue.

In a statement yesterday, the President of the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference, Archbishop Philip Wilson, said the Bishops were deeply concerned about the ongoing nature of the flu outbreak and its serious effects on the lives of those involved in horse industries.

"The spread of the disease and the ban on moving horses and on thoroughbred racing is taking an enormous toll on workers in these industries and also on many small businesses and individuals in associated industries," Archbishop Wilson said.

"In many cases, their livelihoods have come to a complete halt, and, due to the nature of such an epidemic, there has been no clear consensus on when things might improve for them.

"We are aware of the serious impact this is having on many thousands of working class Australians and their families, and we wish to express our solidarity with them at this difficult time."

Archbishop Wilson said the Church, through its social services agencies, stood ready to help anyone suffering hardship due to the Equine Flu crisis. People in need of such help should contact their nearest Centacare office, Archbishop Wilson said.

"We will continue to pray for our sisters and brothers in the horse industries who are affected by this situation and urge all Australians to also keep them in their thoughts and prayers," he said.

Pell "a bully": trainers

Meanwhile, Sydney Cardinal George Pell, has been labelled a "bully" by the horseracing industry for saying it has no control over Randwick Racecourse and that World Youth Day will take place there no matter what.

Despite delays caused by the equine influenza outbreak and negotiations between the NSW Government and the Australian Jockey Club over the use of the site, Cardinal Pell categorically stated on Wednesday that there was no alternative to Randwick.

"We have no contingency plans. We will be going to Randwick and the racing community doesn't control Randwick. The course is owned by the Government and the NSW Government has assured us that the venue will be available for us," Cardinal Pell said.

His comments enraged the Randwick Trainers Association, which insisted it had legal rights over the racecourse and the staging of the event at Randwick next July was not set in stone. The association says it will cost more than $45 million to move Randwick's 700 horses before the event.

It also fears that the track will have deteriorated significantly before next year's Spring Carnival after having hundreds of thousands of people on the site,
The Sydney Morning Herald reported.

"That bloke that came out with that comment, he's just on another planet," the association's vice-president, John O'Shea, said of Cardinal Pell.

Mr O'Shea, who himself is a Catholic, said trainers, were the legal tenants of the course because they had signed leases with the Australian Jockey Club, which in turn had a lease with the Government.

"The bottom line is this guy Pell is a bully and he is trying to bully us like he bullies his own constituents, ie, the Catholic priests. We are not going to be bullied like that, mate, I'll tell you that."

The president of the association, Anthony Cummings, and Racing NSW's chief executive, Peter V'Landys, echoed Mr O'Shea. Mr Cummings said: "[Cardinal Pell] is not interested in the hardship that the people at Randwick are undergoing... If His Holiness had any idea at all about what is happening here, he would not allow it."

A spokesman for World Youth Day, Jim Hanna, said organisers had tried to accommodate the needs of trainers by revising the event's construction schedule so that horses would only need to be moved for several days, rather than 10 weeks, as planned.

"We have adjusted the plans several times already to take into account their concerns. That is not the behaviour of a bully," he said.

A spokesman for John Watkins, the minister for World Youth Day, said the Government had consistently stated the event would be at Randwick. He said the racecourse was held in trust for specified public purposes and the trustees were appointed by the Government.

Back off, irate horse trainers warn Pell, SMH 4/10/07
Catholic Bishops express solidarity with those suffering because of the Equine Flu crisis (ACBC, Media Release, 4/5/07)

LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)
WYD org
Australian Jockey Club

WYD prep "quarantine madness", Minister warns (CathNews, 25/9/07)
WYD at Randwick "square peg in round hole": McGauran (CathNews, 21/9/07)
WYD construction an equine flu risk: Randwick trainers (CathNews, 19/9/07)
WYD as big as the Olympics: Anglican Archbishop (CathNews, 19/9/07)
WYD gifts tax deductible (CathNews, 17/9/07)
Vic govt comes to WYD funding party (CathNews, 5/9/07)
WYD registrations exceeding expectations (CathNews, 4/9/07)
WYD stays at Randwick, Premier rules (CathNews, 31/8/07)

5 Oct 2007