An open letter from Chris Waller

Champion trainer Chris Waller has penned an open letter for on why he believes there needs to be a rethink on training tracks opening before sunrise. Proposed changes to the 457 visa system could have a significant effect on the racing industry but Waller feels there is another issue that must also be addressed.

The fact is, times have changed and with penalty rates plus a limit on hours staff can do, we really are struggling to attract the right staff. And the main reason is our early starting times.

We no longer get staff from pony clubs, part-time students or young people leaving school.

We are only attracting a small percentage of the population who have a passion for horses or else don’t really have a choice in what they are doing.

I am fortunate that my staff are extremely passionate people.

Our staff get paid good money but no one wants to get up at 3am anymore to work.

As Gerry Harvey came out and said ‘Australians are lazy’ and this is partly right but who would blame them if they have a choice of starting later if they could so why work in racing if you can get paid the same or even less and still have a life.

How do you expect a strapper to get seven or eight hours sleep when they have to get up at 3am?

Occupational health and safety is going to be the next challenge and it’s only a matter of time before they walk in and put the red tape up saying all of our training tracks will be closed until daylight.

This will mean starting times will be 7am in winter, which is the case in many European countries.

Surely we aren’t that far behind the times that we need to be told this without seeing it for ourselves.

Could a life be saved if staff are able to be more alert and working in better conditions? Not to mention the endless amount of debilitating injuries that constantly occur due to being fatigued, shadows and darkness.

Training tracks need to be repaired but surely this can be done between 11am and 5pm and there wouldn’t be the need to work at night.

Yes, there will always be a minority against change but I work in this industry and have done so since I left school, in fact before I left school.

People often wonder why I get emotional when I win a big race, well if you could understand the sacrifices I have made in my life to be in this industry, that’s one thing and a personal choice, but when I thank my staff who do the same for less rewards then it brings me to tears every time I mention them.

It’s time the industry saw this and made some changes, subtle changes. It doesn’t need to be drastic.

I am asking for the opening of the training tracks to be delayed by an hour or possibly an hour-and-a-half and at 3am in the morning, this is a massive difference.

It might not sound much to the educated few that continue to fight this but believe me it will see the industry stay with the times and give the participants a life that they too deserve.
Chris Waller