December 1, 2023

Peter V’landys’ last-minute meeting with MPs over bill concerns

By Alexandra Smith, Jordan Baker and Michael McGowan
Updated December 1, 2023 — 7.16amfirst published November 30, 2023 — 8.58pm
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The Minns government has abandoned controversial legislation to extend the term of Racing NSW chairman Russell Balding rather than support amendments that would have subjected the sporting body to greater oversight, including by the Auditor-General.

The government pulled the bill from parliament in the early hours of Friday morning, meaning Balding’s term will finish on December 19 and the government will need to appoint a new chairperson.

Russell Balding was seeking two more years at the top of Racing NSW.Credit: Jessica Hromas

In a statement, the NSW Racing Minister David Harris accused the Coalition of “interfering with the future commercial viability of Thoroughbred Racing”, while opposition leader Mark Speakman said the government had chosen to abandon their own bill “rather than accept stronger oversight and governance”.

The calamitous final sitting day of the year saw the government lose a vote over the Coalition’s amendments, before eventually withdrawing the bill. The defeat is an embarrassing loss for the Minns government, but also highlighted deep divisions within the Coalition after one of its own shadow ministers attempted to lobby his party to drop the amendments.

“Last night, the Opposition and Cross Bench moved a series of amendments that were untested and risked the future viability of racing in NSW,” Harris said in a statement.

“They did so knowing the Government could not agree and force the Legislation to be abandoned, ending the attempt to extend Mr Balding’s time.”

Earlier on Thursday, powerful Racing NSW chief executive Peter V’landys met Coalition MPs and Racing Minister David Harris in NSW parliament ahead of the vote on the highly divisive bill to extend the term of Balding for a further two years.

Harris had maintained that Balding’s extension was necessary because “there are significant issues on the horizon confronting the industry, including complex regulatory changes, which potentially impact racing economically”.

A condition of the Coalition supporting the extension of Balding’s term was that Racing NSW be subjected to greater scrutiny, including being called before budget estimates hearings and audits by the Auditor-General.


The Coalition had been bitterly divided over whether to support the bill and, in chaotic scenes, had to reconvene their party room and shadow cabinet several times this week in an attempt to land an agreement.

Racing NSW boss Peter V’Landys met Coalition MPs in the final hours before the controversial bill was debated.Credit: Rhett Wyman

Their amendments were ruled out of order in the lower house on Tuesday night, but the Coalition late on Thursday successfully moved them in the upper house.

V’landys said he was asked to attend parliament by the Coalition’s racing spokesman Kevin Anderson to “brief the opposition on any unintended consequences of their proposed amendments”.


Anderson has been a strong supporter of extending Balding’s term.

“I also provided an option where we could be under greater scrutiny to parliament,” V’landys said.

“We welcome this as it gives us the opportunity to correct the significant misinformation which borders on dishonesty that has been said about Racing NSW during this week.”

V’landys said he could not outline the option he suggested for greater scrutiny because it was “confidential at this stage”.


V’landys also met Liberal MP Damien Tudehope, the leader of the opposition in the upper house, who has concerns about whether it would be appropriate governance to extend Balding’s term.

Tudehope would not disclose the conversation he had with V’landys.

Harris needed to rush through the extraordinary new laws on Thursday – the final sitting day of the year – because Balding’s term expires on December 19.

A spokesperson for Harris said: “Opposition spokesperson on gaming and racing Kevin Anderson brought Peter V’landys to meet with minister Harris in Parliament House today to discuss racing NSW matters.”

Balding, a former managing director of the ABC, was also in NSW parliament on Thursday. In a statement, Balding said his visit to parliament was unrelated to Racing NSW.

“I was there in an official capacity in relation to one of my other board roles,” Balding said.

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Alexandra Smith is the State Political Editor of The Sydney Morning Herald.Connect via Twitter or email.
Jordan Baker is Chief Reporter of The Sydney Morning Herald. She was previously Education Editor.Connect via Twitter or email.
Michael McGowan is a state political reporter for The Sydney Morning HeraldConnect via email.


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