A Greens-led effort to cut public funding for horse racing in the ACT failed on Thursday night, with the minor party accusing Labor of going against the will of the community by continuing to hand money to the sport.
Jo Clay, the Greens' spokeswoman on animal welfare, said the social licence for the horse racing industry had run out and said a grant without a competitive process amounted to a special deal out of step with other forms of sports funding.
Ms Clay's motion to cut back funding for horse racing by 40 per cent was defeated in the Legislative Assembly on Thursday evening by Labor and the Liberals voting together to block the proposed budget amendment.
Labor's Chris Steel said the debate had been had before and the Greens' "political stunt" caused enormous stress to the Canberra Racing Club and Canberra Harness Racing Club and people employed in the industry.
"Bringing on these amendments at the 11th hour exacerbates this further," Mr Steel said.
The Greens had attempted to filibuster during debate on the territory's budget bills so its amendment to cut horse racing funding would not be debated late on Thursday, but instead be brought on during a future sitting.
However, the effort failed and the amendment was debated after 6.30pm.
Ms Clay said in a statement after the debate the funding for the memorandum of understanding between the ACT government and the Canberra Racing Club and Canberra Harness Racing Club was not an open grant or procurement process and was not how Canberrans' money should be spent.
"We know that three in four Canberrans don't want $41 million of taxpayers' money going to be the horse racing industry," Ms Clay said, citing a reader poll published by the RiotACT.
"I'm incredibly disappointed ACT Labor and the Canberra Liberals have combined against the will of the community."
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The Canberra Liberals' Mark Parton told the debate horse racing was not dying, despite the remaining racing codes in the territory receiving the lowest per capita funding of any Australian jurisdiction.
"I'm sick of this city being a social experiment," Mr Parton said.
"I'm sick of crazy fringe extremist ideas being brought to this place and then becoming law somehow because Labor and the Greens are trying to out progressive each other, and I pay tribute to at least the Labor members in this place for standing their ground on this."
Ms Clay told the Assembly the most recent Thoroughbred Park annual report showed it received $6.6 million in taxpayer funding and paid out $6.1 million in prizemoney.
"In essence, it looks an awful lot like we are handing over ACT taxpayer money to fund horse racing prizemoney. But of course I can't be clear, dollar for dollar, where our public money is going, because it's not set out anywhere," she said.
Mr Steel said the memorandum of understanding between the two racing clubs and the government required the clubs to comply with animal welfare obligations, integrity, viability requirements, governance and efficiency.
"Another important aspect of this agreement is that clubs are required to develop new external income streams to support sustainability and their longevity," he said.
Ms Clay had sought to similarly amend the budget last year to reduce funding under the horse racing memorandum of understanding by 20 per cent, after Labor and the Greens split in cabinet over the minor party's refusal to support the $40 million, five-year agreement with Thoroughbred Park.
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