Key issues & achievements

Securing an R&D levy and research funding

Thoroughbred Breeders Australia played a leading role in proposing and gaining support from the Australian Government for a research and development levy to fund ongoing research in the sector.

Under the levy, the Government has pledged up to $400,000 annually to be invested in areas such as disease control, welfare, reproduction and injury prevention.

These funds, which will match the breeding industry’s own contribution, will generate close to $2.4 million over the next three years for research and development projects vital to the sustainable growth and development of the Australian thoroughbred industry.

The levy begins in breeding season 2017 with the first of the funded research projects expected to begin in late 2017.

Industry access to 457 visas

In June 2017, Thoroughbred Breeders Australia welcomed changes to the skilled migration occupation list that benefit the breeding industry. This came following lobbying by TBA of the Federal Government which had previously announced the scrapping of these 457 visa categories.

At the time, TBA welcomed the reinstatement of the occupation ‘horse trainer’ to the list of occupations under which employers can hire skilled workers from overseas for up to four years and also provide them with a pathway to permanent residency. The occupation ‘horse breeder’, however, was only reinstated to the short term list providing employees with just two years to work in Australia.

Through the second half of 2017, TBA lobbied the Australian Government including Ministers and local Members of Parliament seeking the movement of the ‘Horse Breeder’ occupation from the short-term list to the longer-term list. The employees recruited through this 457 Visa category are small in number, but are highly skilled and critical to the operation of studs.

In January 2018, the Australian Government announced that a small number of occupation categories would have enhanced access to 457 visas. Following the lobbying campaign run by TBA, it was decided the ‘Horse Breeder’ category would be one of only two occupations moved from the short-term list to the longer-term list.

Rules of Racing & breeders

Thoroughbred Breeding Australia played a leading role in ensuring breeders were not significantly disadvantaged by Rules of Racing reforms brought in by Racing Australia in 2016.

These reforms included a proposal to bring breeders under all of the Rules of Racing. This would have resulted in significant and unecessary red tape being imposed upon breeders without the benefit of representation in terms of who makes the rules.

Following a campaign conducted by Thoroughbred Breeders Australia, Racing Australia redrafted the reforms that relate to breeders before they took effect. These new amendments significantly reduced and clarified the impact of the Rules of Racing with respect to breeders.

In addition, Racing Australia agreed to form a new body called the Australian Racing & Breeding Committee, with representatives of both racing and breeding, which will meet at least four times a year to discuss industry issues.

Herpes Vaccine

In 2015, a major concern of breeders Australia-wide was the unavailability of the herpes vaccine Duvaxyn EVH1,4.

With many farms using this product to protect their mare herds from the possibility of ‘abortion storms’, where whole paddocks of mares lose their foetuses in the space of a day or two, it was understandable that the global shortage of Duvaxyn was causing significant worry in the industry.

The shortage was caused by the vaccine’s manufacturer, Zoetis, moving production from Holland to America, with the result that manufacture stopped for over a year. Because of Australia’s strict bio-security laws, combined with bigger markets (America and Europe) demanding restocking,TBA was initially told the vaccine would not be available until the end of 2017.

Such a deadline was completely unacceptable to TBA and the industry. The seriousness of this issue was raised with government authorities and also with Agriculture Minister Barnaby Joyce and Shadow Minister Joel Fitzgibbon. As a result of this lobbying, the Department of Agriculture and other relevant bodies, such as the APVMA, did everything possible to allow supply into the country, while also putting pressure on Zoetis to resupply Australia first.

The result of TBA’s efforts, combined with those of the government and opposition, was that all veterinarians had supply of Duvaxyn by mid September 2016, more than 12 months ahead of schedule.

GST & export of horses

Thoroughbred Breeders Australia won a significant and timely victory in late 2014, convincing the Australian Tax Office (ATO) to reverse a ruling that threatened to undermine the international market in locally-bred horses.

Until August 2013, horses purchased for export did not attract GST so long as they shipped out within a year, during which time they could be broken-in and receive basic education, such as barrier trials.

But in an unanticipated decision, the ATO ruled in 2013 that to break a horse in and to trial it was to alter its status or “use” it. Such a change of status made its owner liable for GST.

This ruling was made despite many South East Asian countries requiring horses to be broken-in and barrier trialled before their arrival. This ATO ruling therefore threatened to undermine the overseas buyers bench at Australian yearling sales. In fact, in the previous season (2013), 362 yearlings were sold for almost $38 million to overseas buyers who intended to export them.

The ruling was also likely to damage the businesses of the many farms and studs across Australia that provide agistment and break-in those yearlings purchased for export.

TBA worked with the state breeding associations and the State Governments of Victoria, Queensland and NSW before making its compelling case to reverse this ruling to Ministers and agencies in Canberra.

This work resulted in the ATO scrapping its ruling on GST with respect to export of horses. This meant that overseas buyers can have their horses broken-in and barrier trialled without being liable for GST.

The ATO’s decision also helped establish a level playing field between Australia and New Zealand where horses that are exported are exempt from their 15% GST.

Cutting tariffs on export of horses to China

Neogitations for an Australia-China Free Trade Agreement (ChAFTA) beginning more than a decade ago provided an opportunity for the Australian thoroughbred breeding sector to increase its exports to China.

TBA undertoook a sustained period of lobbying trade officials to ensure that thoroughbreds were included in the Free Trade Agreement with China. At the time, the tariff on thoroughbred exports to China from Australia was 10 per cent.

In contrast, our export competitors, New Zealand, had already struck a FTA with China which meant Kiwi‐bred horses entered China tariff-free.

The final details of ChAFTA were ratified by the Australian Parliament late in 2015 and pleasingly included the tariff on thoroughbred exports dropping from 10 per cent to 6 per cent immediately followed by a full phasing out by January 2019.