Leading the way for women jockeys: Melbourne Cup winner Michelle Payne. Photo: Joe ArmaoFemale jockeys are inching closer to a historic paid parental leave agreement which will provide income protection should they seek to start a family.
New Social Services minister Christian Porter has hinted females who work in dangerous occupations will be eligible for maternity leave payments under planned changes to the Federal Government’s paid parental leave scheme.
Currently jockeys aren’t eligible for any subsidies because they are required to stop riding after the first trimester of their pregnancy and current regulations require mothers to work 10 of the 13 months before giving birth if they want to access government funding.
The Australian Jockeys’ Association has campaigned for more than three years to have its female members included in the paid parental leave scheme and remain cautiously optimistic of having a system in place in the new year after lodging its latest proposal.
AJA chief executive Paul Innes is scheduled to meet Porter in January.
“In this day and age when we’ve got close to 25 per cent of women jockeys it’s absolutely vital the rights they have are as well-protected as any other person in the workforce,” AJA chairman Ross Inglis said.
“Right now, in effect, there isn’t equality and in this day and age it’s just not acceptable to have gender inequality. I’d be staggered if the government wasn’t positive in its response to our request because the whole intent is to protect women in the workforce and protect their income when they become pregnant.
“[There have] been a number of riders that have been affected and we’re trying to encourage young women to become riders. It’s difficult enough to do that with the dangers as it is. [This] will mean a lot to female riders in this country.”
Females account for more than half of recent apprentice intakes in NSW and Victoria, Australia’s biggest racing states, and many older jockeys have been reluctant to fall pregnant given they would be left out of pocket.
Melbourne Cup-winning jockey Michelle Payne, who on Tuesday had a Victorian train named in her honour, told Fairfax Media in an interview before her historic Melbourne Cup triumph last month she was considering winding down her riding commitments to begin training and think about having a family.
That will be a lot more manageable should the federal government push through changes to maternity leave payments.
In other news, the Victorian branch of the AJA will welcome a new boss in Stephen Baster after long-time president Neville Wilson relinquished the role this week. Darren Gauci will remain as vice-president.
Meanwhile, Mark Kavanagh has upped the ante on Racing Victoria’s integrity department in a letter addressed to his owners on Tuesday where he has conceded in all likelihood there will be a finding of guilt against him at the Racing Appeals and Disciplinary Board.
Findings in the cobalt cases involving Kavanagh and fellow Flemington trainer Danny O’Brien – as well as vet Dr Tom Brennan – will be handed down on Wednesday afternoon.
Kavanagh said he intends to escalate the case to the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal where his legal counsel will probe the handling of the Magicool sample, and claims the two official laboratories “failed to comply with or oversee compliance with all pertinent mandatory obligations imposed upon them by the Rules of Racing”.
He also bristled at the fact witnesses in the stewards’ RAD Board case weren’t allowed to be cross-examined by his legal counsel, an option he will have through subpoena at VCAT.
“Their evidence was all tendered without questioning [at the RAD Board],” Kavanagh wrote.
“I am not [aware of] another case before a regulatory tribunal in Australia’s history where the accused person was not permitted to cross-examine any prosecution witnesses when they specifically sought to do so.
“Due to my lawyers not being permitted to cross-examine they have conceded that I will be found guilty of presenting at the very least.
“On appeal at Victorian Civil Administrative Tribunal I intend to examine the handling of the Magicool sample in detail.”
Kavanagh also stressed he had “nothing to hide” with the second phone he had accessed earlier this year – handed over to stewards on the last day of his inquiry – in order to speak to his Sydney-based son Sam.
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