George Alex is a somewhat controversial figure, at least if you believe what you read about him in the mainstream press.
I don’t need to. I know the bloke, and only have good things to say about him.
The man I call Gorgeous George once hosted me in his house for a week; he put up my nephew and his mates from the rep basketball team on an hours notice at midnight when their plane home got cancelled, and even arranged for his mate to pick them up at the airport; he hosted my Dad and wife in Sydney for my uncle’s funeral, and looked after them well; and he’s an all round nice bloke, no matter what reporters who have never met him write in the paper.
What most don’t know is that George’s world was turned upside down at 16 when his immigrant father had a heart attack and dropped dead, and all of a sudden he found himself as the only boy in the Greek family and oldest child the breadwinner for his widowed Mum and two sisters.
He gave up his Uni dreams, left school and went to work to put bread on their tables and give them the future that his beloved Dad had come to Australia as a ten pound post war immigrant and slaved his guts outs to make sure they had.
George has done it too. He cares for him Mum and provides for her every need, he looks after his sisters and their kids, including a lovely lad named after his Dad who suffers a disability, and he helps out a whole lot of other people in need too. If some of them happen to have non-pristine pasts, well that’s just life and the way the cookie crumbles when you’re an immigrant kid growing up in the western suburbs.
A few weeks back George Alex was arrested on spurious charges of tax evasion involving companies that had fallen over. The authorities call it fraud, but if that’s fraud then Kerry Packer must have been Mr Big.
The truth is that some companies associated with people George was related to or knew – not him – collapsed under the usual strains encountered by companies in the hurly burly construction trade, and while these companies paid their workers and their entitlements prior to collapsing, they were unable to pay their tax.
Gee whiz, what a crime. It happens every day, and I will bet you everything that I own that if these companies had paid their tax and left their workers hanging high and dry like at least 2 companies run by multis did my daughter and her workmates, we’d never be hearing a word about it.
But here we are, and for weeks now Gorgeous George has been held in custody with ice addicts and bank robbers and rapists and blokes who beat their wives to death, and while some of these scumbags have been released back into the community without a yelp, George has been sitting there staring at the walls.
Well that’s all over now, or will be by Monday by which time his family and friends will have had the time to sign over their houses to meet the ridiculous $2 million bail security that a Magistrate from the NSW court has imposed as a condition of his release pending trial, or the dropping of the charges, whichever comes first.
It’s about bloody time is all that I can say.
Knowing the Twitter and email addict that he is – geez, on some nights the wog bastard used to send me literally hundreds of messages about all manner of things – the no social media restrictions placed on George will half kill him, and the effective house arrest he’s been placed under will mean he won’t be able to head down to Shark Park to cheer on his beloved Cronulla as is his wont, but the way they have been going this season I reckon that’s a blessing, even though I am sure Gorgeous won’t agree.
At least he will be well fed living at his auntie’s place, that’s for sure, because she’s a damn good cook, and you can take that as first hand truth. No doubt his ever loving and adoring sister Athina – a Goddess well named – will be slipping him plenty of his favourite chocolate treats too.
Let’s just hope the bail conditions included restrictions on his use of mobile phones as well. If not, I’m in trouble, for old Gorgeous has a very low boredom threshold, and the damn thing will never stop ringing.
I think I will change my number, and start sending him postcards instead.
Why is that Racing Queensland has a 3 year average employee separation rate of 38%?
Or a three year aggregate rate of 117%?
An employee separation rate means the number of employees that quit or get sacked from a company each year.
What these numbers mean is that more than of RQ’s employees on average exit the building each year, never to return.
In the space of 3 years, more employees have left Racing Queensland than actually work there.
It’s a true story.
RQ has just 85 employees.
But 97 people have come and gone only three years.
No organisation other than cold-call sales companies whose employees are paid on commission only turn over that number of staff.
In fact extensive research by the HR Nicholls Society, a leading employer association, shows that the average staff turnover rate across all industries was only 18 percent.
Racing Queensland’s turnover is more than double that figure, and remember here we are talking about a State Government department that pays public service wages and offers excellent conditions, including a 36.5 hour week, over time, flexitime, RDO’s, and superannuation contributions well in excess of the standard minimum 9.5% that other employers pay.
Given all these goodies, you’d expect people to be crawling over broken glass to get in the door, and chaining themselves to the desk to keep their jobs; but instead they are leaving in droves, and there is no sign of the outward tide receding.
It doesn’t make sense on paper. Why would so many people be walking out the door?
There can be only one reason, and that is this.
Racing Queensland has a serious management problem.
That’s speculation of course, because I don’t work there, but I ran public sector unions here and abroad for twenty years, and understand the dynamics of government workplaces better than most.
That I am correct in pointing the finger at Racing Queensland’s management is borne out by the numbers of ex-gratia payments and court ordered settlements made by Racing Queensland over the past two financial years since Brendan Parnell took over the reins as CEO of the organisation.
An ex-gratia payment is what we used to call piss-off money in the union trade, meaning that it is a cash payment of salary or wages that an employee is not entitled to, paid to them as part of exit deal to settle an employment dispute.
An ex-gratia payment can sometimes also be a golden handshake bestowed on a departing employee as a reward for their sterling service, but as this type of payment is totally prohibited in the public sector, in this case it can’t be that.
A court-ordered settlement is a payment that the Queensland Industrial Commission or the Federal Court (Employment Division) order an employer to make in relation to an unfair dismissal or adverse action case brought by a former employee.
Racing Queensland have made 12 of these types of payment over the past 2 reported financial years.
The total paid was more than half a million dollars.
That’s about $40 grand a head, and it doesn’t include the former CEO Eliot Forbes payout of around half a million dollars, because that’s recorded separately in the books.
Those numbers are outrageous.
In the previous two years Racing Queensland had only paid out only $89 000 in these types of exit payments.
Under Parnell’s leadership – if that is the right word – that number has multiplied by greater than 500%.
And this is scarce racing money don’t forget, not lollies.
There is something very, very wrong with our Principal Racing Authority.
In fact I would take it a step further, and say that this organisation is sick.
Just compare the QRIC staff turnover numbers and you can see it clearly.
Now I have been as critical of the QRIC Commissioner Ross Barnett in the past about racing matters, and perhaps even more, but I have never said that Barnett is anything but a brilliant public service CEO and a top class people manager, and it’s borne out here.
The QRIC has almost double the number of staff that Racing Queensland does, yet it’s annual turnover rate is only 5.5% over two years, and only 3.78% in the last 12 months.
Compare those numbers to Racing Queensland’s.
Average – 5.5% v 38%
Last 12 months – 3.78% v 28.9%
I’m sure that Ross Barnett is doing plenty of things right.
Just as I’m certain that Brendan Parnell must be doing a whole lot wrong.
Do you remember when you were little and you believed in dreams?
It was Santa who put the toys in your stocking, and the Easter Bunny who set the eggs for the hunt, and the tooth fairy who left a dollar under your pillow when one fell out.
The world was wide back then, and you looked forward at the future and all you could see were straight lines and stars.
Then one day you got a bit older, and started to ask yourself questions about these fairies and fat men and bunnies, and before you knew it you were realising that it was all just fantasy, and fluff and white lies, and then you asked your Mum and she admitted it, and you smiled and shrugged and felt old and smart, and from that moment on you knew that life was glittered with tiny little lies.
I believed James McDonald when he got done a few years back for having a thousand bucks on his winning ride Astern.
I believed him when he said that he’d made an error of judgement.
I believed him when he said it wasn’t that bad because he had bet on his own horse not another in the race.
I believed him when he said that all he had on the horse was the single thousand.
Well sort of, anyway.
I like J-Mac, and I love his skill as rider and admire the way he can float in the saddle of a horse like MJ soaring through air on his way to the hoop.
When I was living in New Zealand I had seen McDonald as 15-year-old kid riding at the bush track at Waipukurau just up the road from our farm, and I’d rushed home to ring all my mates back in Australia that I’d just seen God, in the flesh, right in front of my eyes.
I backed him and backed him and backed him, that season and the next, and won nearly enough to buy another farm (of course I later knocked that on the head, and knocked the one I had off too – easy come, easy go; if you live and buy by the punt you can’t really complain when you lose by it and still wake up breathing, can you?).
I wanted to believe J-Mac, so I did.
I cast aside all my doubts about why he’d get a shady racecourse dodger to put on his bet, or why the dodger had won $125 000 yet J-Mac only four, or why the dodger was willing to get warned off rather than hand over his betting records, or how when another horse looked like running past him it suddenly veered sideways left and ran to the outside fence, or why the Group 1 winner J-Mac stood up in the irons and celebrated like he’d won the Cup as they passed the post in a lowly $48 000 affair.
I believed because I wanted to believe.
But I was kidding myself.
Leopards are leopards.
They don’t suddenly step out of the nest one day as snow white turtle doves, fly into the forest, grow legs, spots, a tail and teeth, maul a gazelle and eat it, wipe the blood from their paws and faces, then run off to the tree again and turn back into a dove and fly up to the nest.
Leopards don’t change their spots, and crooked jockeys who associate with shady characters and bet large sums on horses don’t either.
There is no Santa Claus, or Easter Bunny, or Tooth Fairy.
Our parents lied.
I don’t believe J-Mac anymore.
This is the Stewards report into J-Mac’s ride on the favourite Keen Power in the 3rd race at Randwick a fortnight ago.
This is J-Mac’s ride, the last part of it anyway.
Before this point he’d begun with them from barrier 10, jagged the fave back to near last in preference to looking for a spot, run up into a traffic jam on the turn, and sat there like a stunned mullet instead of following the others out wide.
On a track on which the inside was clearly off, one of the world’s finest jockeys goes inside instead of out.
Look at his eyes.
Look at his eyes.
Can you see anyone else’s?
No, and you won’t in the pictures to follow either, and that’s because J-Mac is the only one looking.
The other ones have already done their jobs.
What James Mcdonald is looking for is Brenton Avdulla, and he’s spotted him.
Avdulla has just miraculously extricated his mount from a pocket on the turn by simply steering it up inside the amateur rider with no ability Nash Rawiller, a man with a very clean slate, and he didn’t even have to jostle.
Hugh Bowman on the horse in green with the yellow hoops has kindly looked after his no-hoping galloper’s welfare by easing back to allow Avdulla the space to come through underneath the timid Rawiller.
It was very nice of him you would have to agree.
Suspend your disbelief, I will show you all this in the next story.
Avdulla surges toward the lead.
Why is J-Mac looking to his left, when he is steering the favourite in to his right?
Are you that silly you don’t know?
He’s measuring the distance, working out when Avdulla is far enough in front that he come out and chase him and make it look like he’s serious, without actually having a hope in Hades of ever catching catch.
J-Mac is one of the best jockeys in the world remember.
Angus Garrard is the greatest young talent to take the reins on a Queensland harness racing track in the 21st century, and unlike some of his predecessors, he’s as clean as a whistle too.
The kid is only sixteen, and still at school for another year and a half, and for ill-stated reasons the racing authorities – QRIC – won’t grant him a license to drive at the main meetings on Saturday nights, yet the double he drove last night at Redcliffe made him the number 1 junior driver in Queensland ahead of much older young reinspeople who have been driving for years.
The double put at number seven on the all-comers ladder for the season too, ahead of a host of top-class drivers who have been steering winners around paceways for years.
This kid is a phenom, and I reckon that pound for pound Angus Garrard is the greatest sportsperson under the age of 18 in the whole of Queensland, and that he would give the number 1 spot across the nation a fair nudge too.
His spot at number 7 in the State clearly shows that young Garrard is up there with the best, and can hold his own against anybody, and do better than most of them too.
His night last night in the 3rd race at Redcliffe behind Billboard Bonnie (at top) proves it beyond any doubt.
You could go to harness racing racing meetings anywhere in the world for twenty years, and you might be lucky enough to see a drive as good as this one, but you will never see one better, and that’s coming from someone who has being going to the trots and following the sport assiduously for half a century.
So why can’t the wonder kid get a metropolitan drivers license?
The QRIC Licensing and Registration Manager Nicole Elliott – who started out her racing integrity career just 4 years ago as the microchip and ear brand checker at the dogs on a Thursday night – didn’t say when why when she knocked backed Angus Garrard’s application for a metro drivers license, and her colleague Kane Ashby, the horse jockey turned desk jockey who is the QRIC Internal Reviewer, didn’t say either.
I was talking the other day about the Angus issue to a mate of mine who has been one of Australia’s best drivers for about four decades, and he reckoned that a driver had to hold a B-Class license – that’s the license the kid holds; it allows you to drive at any meeting other than a metropolitan fixture – for at least 12 months before they could be promoted to the A-Grade, pretty much the equivalent of going off your P’s onto an open car driver’s license.
He was wrong though.
There is no such rule, either in the licensing provisions of the Australian Harness Racing Rules, or in the local rules. There is no policy about how long a driver must hold a B-Grade license before they can be upgraded to an A-category one either.
All that the rules say is that a person can’t hold an A-Grade license until they are least sixteen, which Angus Garrard is.
Here’s the question.
If this kid who has driven 75 winners eight months into the extended season, and barring mishaps is a certainty to top the ton, can’t hold an A-Grade license, then how can anyone who is below him on the State Premiership ladder hold one either?
It doesn’t make any sense.
Then again, not much that the QRIC does in Queensland does.
Imagine if Athletics Australia had told Cathy Freeman that she couldn’t compete in the top grade at the 1990 Commonwealth Games at age 16, or Swimming Australia had put the kibosh on Tracey Wickham going up and down in the 400 and 800 freestyle in Canada in 1978.
We’d be short a whole lot of “Gold, Gold, Gold for Australia!” medals wouldn’t we?
So why the hell are a bunch of people who wouldn’t know a champion reinsman if he drove right over them holding Angus Garrard back from his destiny to become one of the all-time greats of the game?
I guess we’ll find out at QCAT, won’t we.
What a crying shame it is that the poor kid has to resort to that, just to get a fair go.
Oh well, such is life.
Angus Garrard will be here long after those who knocked back his license are gone and forgotten.
Don’t you worry about that.
Update – Angus Garrard has finally been granted a license to drive at metropolitan meetings, and will begin his city career in early June,
According to the records we have been able to access, at sixteen years and nine months of age he will be the youngest reinsman since 1968 to drive at Albion Park on a Saturday night.
We predict with confidence that he will win next year’s open driver’s title.
So I cop the above message on this brand new, whizz bang third party Yeah Good app that my daughter insists on installing on my supposedly smart phone, which is actually pretty dumb because it doesn’t crouch and roll when you drop it like any phone with half a brain would, and as a result gets so many breaks and fractures that you have no choice other than to ring the mobile vet on your missus’s healthy phone, and tell him to bring a large vial.
The message is of course from the former King of the Brisbane Rails Ring, who is currently making a comeback to the track as an expert clocker, jump out analyst, trot trial expert and professional harness racing punter come layer.
None of this a surprise.
The King’s time has always been on the clock; he doesn’t mind jumping out of trench when the Turks, Wogs and Huns get close; they say at his age the pound of prunes (only just of date) that he gallops down every morning for brekky provide him with very good understanding of the trots; he’s always loved a bet; and we wont talk about the laying here in case certain people are reading, other than to say that if a man is too tight to spring the 4 bucks for a new Chesty Bonds, then he should at least shout her indoors a teabag to darn the damn thing before he goes out.
Anyway, the King says I’m wrong about Kevin Kent being an SP Bookie, and have it totally arse up about Kent’s SP bookie mate Joe Cerutti ever living at Camp Hill.
Now Otto, the supposed smart money would say that the King might know a little bit about the SP trade, in the same way that spin bowlers like Shane Warne are likely to know a thing or two about hard pitches, bouncing balls and cracks in the green.
But the smart money lives in the moment. If a dollar is there to be grabbed, or a bullet to be ducked, then the smarties grab or duck it.
The former King of the Brisbane Ring has always been on the smarter side of the punting IQ divide. That’s why he got to wear the crown and ponce around like the Old King Cole on cold, windy wooden betting stands, in the same way that Charlie HRH sits up high on the throne every morning, afternoon and night.
It’s a lofty, elevated rare air that genius’s like the King imagine that they breathe, but it’s not the same O2 ingested by the smartest men in the room.
That’s probably because those blokes are too clever to mingle with the peasants and catch the Coronavirus.
In March 2015, greyhound trainer Anthony Hoyland was fined $1000 after one of his winning charges threw positive to Benzydamine, a banned in competition anti-inflammatory analgesic that some in the dog business reckon helps a super-fit though over-worked dog keep on trucking through its gears, without feeling any pain.
Ten months later, in January 2016, another A. Hoyland trained greyhound winner threw a positive swab, this time to Cobalt.
In the same year the famous gallops trainer Peter Moody would be suspended for 6 months for exactly the same offence, and the premiership winning harness reinsman Neale Scott – who had no priors in a 40 year career – copped 18 months on the sidelines (later reduced to 9 on appeal) when a horse he trained and drove at a picnic race day at Deagon threw positive to the big C too.
Anthony Hoyland must have been blessed by the bishop when he was a baby.
How else could you explain him only being outed for 12 weeks?
That Bishop must have been bloody Holy, for the gifts of his blessing of the Hoyland child live on all these years later.
In November last year a dog of Anthony Hoyland’s named Codrington Park threw a positive swab to the drug Dexthmesaone after winning a race at Albion Park.
Dexmethasone is nominally an anti-inflammatory drug, but that’s only part of the story, because it’s also one of most widely used pep-pills in cancer treatment. The medical staff use it to give chemo patients and final stage cancer victims a kick to combat the fatigue and the other drugs.
I know – I nursed my Mum and Dad full-time through cancer for almost a decade, and they were given it heaps. It worked wonders too. Mum would drop a pill and go from being almost a total invalid, to getting up and wanting to go to the pokies withing hours.
It’s not coke or meth, but it’s damn good gear that Dexamethasone.
Last year a galloper trained by a smalltimer called Col Thurston swabbed positive to the drug in a lowly race at Gilgandra.
Col was a cleanskin, but the stipes suspended him for three months.
Just six months ago a winner prepared by a Perth trot trainer named Aden De Campo threw up a positive to Dexamethasone.
De Campo had 2 priors; he copped six months.
Anthony Hoyland has two priors too.
Last Friday the Queensland Racing Integrity Commission Stewards handed down Hoyland’s punishment for positive swab strike three, Dexamethasone.
It was a suspended sentence.
Hoyland won’t spend a single day on the sidelines.
We’re tough on Drugs up here in Queensland, punters.
Dr Paul Browning is one of the best people that I have ever met. The word good was invented to describe him. The word brilliant was too, but Paul’s far too humble to allow anyone to use it.
For more than 30 years I didn’t trust anyone, not a single soul, not even my parents or my wife. I wanted to, but when what happened to me happens to someone when they are just a kid, trust gets brutally severed and survival becomes the only thing that matters. Survival meant looking at everyone as if they were ravenous wolves, and being blind to angels.
It was a terrible way to live and I hated it, but I had to survive. Even during the darkest days of those three decades of hell, the days when self-loathing and a terrible overwhelming feeling of futility would creep up out of nowhere and clobber me to the ground, still something drove me to keep on going, even though in the child-rape ravages depths of my deepest depression I hadn’t cared at all if I lived or if I had died.
I was drowning, sinking like a stone. It wasn’t a matter of if I was going to fall to the floor of the sea, only when. But then one day as I was trudging down the road to my personal Damascus an epiphany appeared before me wrapped in a man from Tarsus, and it was Paul.
That day I stopped cowering in the shadows and being afraid of the dark, and gave up pretending to be what they wanted me to be, and I tore off the chameleon skin I’d been wearing forever to mask my pain and hide my scars from the gaze of the world.
Paul Browning set me free.
He restored my faith in the goodness of man, and led me out the darkness and taught me to reach out and touch the sun. It’s warm, and it’s bright, and it feels good, and I like it. I like it a lot, and I never want to let it go.
Paul helped save my wife Maggie too.
Maggie’s story is hers to tell, not mine, and she has told it with her hands, through art and through form. Paul gave her a place to creates the Beginning of Peace, a living artwork that Maggie has built at St Paul’s to celebrate the inner beauty of tenders souls not grown old, innocents crushed by cruelty, lost kids who couldn’t find a way to live through the pain. It’s sadness and joy, and cruelty and hope, and the water and the sun, and the stars and the moon, and a whole lot more.
But most of all the Beginning of Peace is a statement of sorrow and regret, a symbol screaming out this is wrong, and we share your pain, and we care.
It’s a visceral promise that it will never happen again.
You see Paul Browning understands what so many can’t and don’t, and that is that it’s not compensation that’s important to child abuse victims. We’ need it and we’ll take it because the brutes have fucked us up and slashed our lives and they need to pay for their crimes; but moneys just blood for blood, stones for stones and eyes for eyes.
What we want is far simpler, and so much more important.
We just don’t ever want it to happen to anyone else again.
That’s all. .
Dr Browning listened, and he understood.
Paul listened because he cared, and he understood because he loved.
I was lost and he led me home.
He was a shepherd out looking for his lost sheep, and there I was. He offered me his hand in peace, and I took it, and once I was lost, and now I am found.
Paul carved one word into the rocks, and he wrote it on the water, and he painted it across the sky, and he meant it.
A single word that was worth a thousand pictures.
When I needed him, Dr Browning was there.
Paul’s my neighbour.
I trust him.
It’s a joy to call him my friend.
Every night for the two weeks in November 2015 that St Paul’s School — in Bald Hills in Brisbane’s north — was scrutinised by the Royal Commission Into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, Dr Browning retreated to his study to unload the sickening stories he’d heard but couldn’t repeat, even to his wife Rebecca.
They were stories of boys drugged, hypnotised and masturbated by the adults entrusted to their care; stories of cover-ups and moving on the vile perpetrators, resulting in hundreds of teenagers being sexually abused; stories of emotional scars trumping physical ones, and of victims who could no longer stand the shame they didn’t deserve to feel and suicided to escape it.
“It was an extremely lonely time for me,” says Dr Browning, 53.
“I didn’t think it was fair to share stories that weren’t mine, and the only way to deal was to write it all down. It was pretty awful, horrible stuff, and it makes you incredibly angry that someone could do this to a life.
“How could they rob a child of a life of joy and promise?”
Those “someones” were paedophiles Kevin Lynch — a counsellor at St Paul’s between 1989 and 1997 — and Gregory Robert Knight, a music teacher at St Paul’s between 1981 and 1984.
Dr Browning wasn’t principal at the time of the abuse and was not required to attend the hearing, but he choose to sit in. To listen. To understand. To find a way forward after the unconscionable past.
St Paul’s wasn’t the only prestigious school embroiled in the sordid affair.
Lynch was a teacher and counsellor at Brisbane Grammar School between 1973 and 1988.
More should have been done, and students should have been believed.
Dr Browning agrees.
Speaking to Qweekend as his new book Principled: 10 Leadership Practices for Building Trust is released, he says the reputation of a school, or any organisation, pales against the rights of an individual to feel safe.
“It is staggering to think that these boys were not heard or someone didn’t notice,” he says.
“Our primary responsibility as educators is to protect young people and we are entrusted with them by their parents … we have to notice changes in a child’s behaviour and ask the question, ‘Are you OK, what’s going on?’.
“The reputation of the institution is worthless if you’re causing pain and damage to a person.
“Sadly and naively in the Church’s case, these perpetrators sought forgiveness of their superior, and promised they wouldn’t commit again, but the reality is they do commit again, and they need to be held accountable.
“Lynch committed for such a long period of time and caused untold damage to hundreds of kids.”
Lynch suicided in 1997, a day after he was charged with nine counts of child sexual abuse.
When Knight resigned from St Paul’s in 1984 he was given a favourable reference by then principal Gilbert Case who, the commission found, told the students they were lying and threatened to punish them if they persisted with the allegations.
Knight went on to teach at Darwin’s Dripstone High School where its principal contacted police after an abuse complaint.
This led to Knight being convicted in 1994 of 15 charges, including two of carnal knowledge, against five boys. He was sentenced to eight year’s jail, with a three-year non-parole period.
Knight was jailed again for three years in 2005 on more than 20 counts of indecently dealing with a St Paul’s student in 1984.
When Dr Browning took the top job at St Paul’s in 2008, he was confronted by ongoing ramifications of a related scandal.
The school community was haemorrhaging after the forced resignation in 2003 of Australia’s governor-general Dr Peter Hollingworth, who had mishandled abuse allegations when head of the Diocese of Brisbane during the years Lynch and Knight were employed at St Paul’s.
Dr Hollingworth had also been part of a panel which promoted Gilbert Case to executive director of the diocese’s Anglican Schools Office in 2000, as investigations continued into paedophile activity under Case’s 21-year reign at St Paul’s.
For Dr Browning, coming to St Paul’s after a halcyon run as founding principal of Burgmann Anglican School in the ACT, was a rude shock.
“I was struck by a total absence of trust, nobody trusted each other or the boss, everyone was looking over their shoulder or (at) who might be accused of something,” he says.
“I knew a little about what happened (with Dr Hollingworth) in 2003 … you kind of think it is consigned to the history pages but when I arrived the culture was so different, so toxic.
“It affected the way teachers worked, and it affected learning in the classroom.”
Teachers were “protective of their patch” and avoided unnecessary interactions with students.
Staff turnover in the previous year was 30 per cent.
Dr Browning knew he had a huge task ahead. The trouble was, he wasn’t exactly sure how to rebuild trust that had been so comprehensively fractured.
He began slowly, cautiously.
Practical steps included making himself visible on the school grounds and more accessible to staff and students.
“Can you believe you had to get past three receptionists and two locked doors to get to see the headmaster? Even the building design spoke of mistrust, and there was a room for confidential photocopying. Where’s the transparency?”
Dr Browning spent three months listening to teachers in a staff of 220, asking what they’d like to improve.
He undertook a PhD at QUT to identify specific practices that respected transformational leaders use to create and maintain trust, and he did lots of reading and reflection.
Dr Browning’s efforts paid off.
Last year St Paul’s was named Australian School of the Year in the Australian Education Awards.
In the same awards in 2018, Dr Browning was crowned School Principal of the Year (non-government award), and St Paul’s took out the categories of innovation in curriculum design, professional development, and strategic plan.
“It hasn’t been easy, in fact it took about eight years, much longer than I thought it would to turn the culture around,” he says.
“In any organisation if you ask people, ‘Do you trust your boss?’, most say no, but the ability of an organisation to improve and innovate is severely diminished if there are low levels of trust.”
It has opened a centre for research, innovation and future development which has been visited by leaders from more than 150 schools.
Cambridge University has acknowledged St Paul’s as one of the top 100 innovative learning organisations in the world.
And Dr Browning himself has been internationally recognised, invited by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the UK’s Sutton Trust to speak at an education summit in Washington DC.
He says without a healthy culture based on trust, none of the school’s achievements would have been possible.
“If the culture’s wrong, no strategy will work.”
He might appear to be a born educator, but like many young people, Paul Browning had no idea what he wanted to do when he left school.
Graduating from Chevalier College, a Catholic co-educational school in Bowral, in NSW’s Southern Highlands, he took a gap year.
“I’d started to teach Sunday school at the local church and I saw how I could positively impact the lives of young people, and I fell into teaching.”
With an education degree from the University of Wollongong, Dr Browning became a primary teacher at Gib Gate, an independent school in Mittagong, just north of Bowral.
He loved it, and over the years taught the children of many famous residents including rocker Jimmy Barnes, Mark Opitz (who produced AC/DC, Cold Chisel and INXS) and Billy Birmingham, aka The 12th Man.
After nine years, he left to open Burgmann Anglican School in 1998, growing it from a “green field site to a preschool to Year 12 school spread over two campuses”.
A decade later, he moved to Brisbane for the St Paul’s challenge, with his family – early childhood teacher wife Rebecca, now 50, and children Alexander, now 25 and completing a PhD in mathematics at QUT and Millicent, 23, who is studying interior architecture at the same institution.
He hasn’t regretted the decision, but admits it’s been tougher than expected.
Likening running an independent school to being the CEO of a large corporation, he is responsible to a board for strategy, finances, human resources, governance and capital infrastructure and, naturally, the development of students, curriculum and pedagogy.
But Dr Browning also had to cure an insidious hangover he had no hand in making.
Of the scandals that rocked the school to its core, he says: “It’s not the sort of work you sign up to do when you become a principal … it was a long, protracted incident, yes, I wasn’t responsible, but I accepted responsibility for it.”
Part of that acceptance was opening communication with victims of child sexual abuse in the 1980s and 1990s.
Dr Browning has spoken with dozens of wounded men, including Brenden Sheehan, a former student who wrote a blog under the pseudonym Archie Butterfly.
On October 6, 2015, a few weeks before the Royal Commission hearing, Mr Sheehan, then 46, revealed that he had been drugged and sexually abused as a 13-year-old by a teacher (Knight) and a senior student at St Paul’s.
That student was Greg Masters, by this stage Master-in-Charge of Swimming at Brisbane Grammar School.
It was another blow to the culture of trust Dr Browning had been working so hard to create.
Past students and their families, in particular, were looking to him for justice, and ultimately, healing.
As other students broke their silence, they wanted to know if Dr Browning would try to cover up the ugly truth as previous heads had done, or bring it to light.
He chose the latter.
Dr Browning admits that interacting with victims was unsettling.
“You do get a little frightened – you’re initially communicating with them via email and their anger is palpable.
“I’d not seen anger like it, and it’s totally understandable, and some directed it at me because they didn’t know where to direct it.
“One victim would text me up to 100 times a night, that how traumatised they are.
“Their biggest pain is that they weren’t listed to, they weren’t heard, they’re telling the truth, their story, it happened to them.”
On the final day of the Royal Commission hearing, Dr Browning asked if he could make an apology.
“Until that point the room had been filled with anger, you could physically feel it, but then the mood turned to sorrow and grief.
“The commissioner then called for a break when I’d finished, and a victim from (Brisbane) Grammar embraced me, and he said to me, ‘I’m here for those people who don’t have a voice any more’.
“That was a really hard thing to hear, the number of men who ended their life because of the pain … horrendous.”
In February 2016, Mr Sheehan arrived at St Paul’s following lengthy email exchanges with Dr Browning.
It was the first time since 1984 that Mr Sheehan had been on the grounds.
The account of their face-to-face interaction is one of the reflections in Dr Browning’s book, and a powerful example of how trust can help people, and organisations, move forward.
Dr Browning says writing Principled took only three months, largely because of the research he’d completed in his doctorate, but also through what he experienced during that harrowing period of the Royal Commission.
“The words just poured out of me because I’d written them before in my journal,” he explains.
“Most of us think that being a good leader means being a person of integrity but it’s more than being honest.
“It requires the ability to listen and listen really well, the willingness and the courage to say sorry and the courage to actually fix it, and what happened at St Paul’s is a prime example – it happened, we can’t ignore it, and we need to allow people to have their say, and to assure them it won’t ever happen again.”
10 TIPS FOR BUILDING TRUST
1. LISTENING: Good listeners speak for no more than 20 per cent of the time, and it is mostly to clarify or reflect what the speaker is saying. Stop interrupting, talking over or offering advice.
2. ADMITTING MISTAKES: Failing to do so looks like arrogance or narcissism. Displaying vulnerabilities, both personally and professionally, engenders employee admiration and trust.
3. OFFERING TRUST: Allow employees to do their job. No-one likes being micromanaged. But they do like feeling appreciated and supported.
4. CONSULTATIVE DECISION MAKING: Captain’s calls should rarely be used. Give people the chance to be part of the decision making process and explain the final decision.
5. PROVIDING AFFIRMATION: Thank others for what they do. It might be public acknowledgment at staff briefings, sending emails or handwritten notes, or simply speaking privately.
6. VISIBILITY: Don’t sit in your office. Get out and listen to the ‘pulse’ of the organisation, to people’s stores. Being face-to-face allows both parties to better understand each other.
7. DEMEANOUR: If a leader is unpredictable, erratic or prone to losing their temper, others will feel threatened. Even under great stress, remain calm and in control.
8. COACHING OR MENTORING: Coaching is task-oriented; mentoring relationship-driven. Both matter. Never suggest the solution. Help a person recognise their preferred action.
9. CARING: Express concern over wellbeing, understanding another’s viewpoint, speak warmly to staff to create a sense of safety.
10. KEEPING CONFIDENCES: It is a privilege to be trusted with people’s personal joys or despairs. Forgo the power kick that sharing that knowledge might bring, and if you feel trusted information should be shared, always ask permission first.
Principled by Dr Paul Browning, published by UQP ($33), is out now
Back in 2011 the ever-excellent racing website Letsgohorseracing featured a story with a biteabout a barrier attendant named Clayton ‘Chopper’ Warren, who had been stood down from work after a woman and her daughter watching the Townsville Cup meeting in TV had noticed the bloke grab a skittish horse by the ear and then, in best tradition of Mad Mike Tyson and Chopper Read, take a great big chomp at the said lug.
The understandably upset race loving lady made a completely justified complaint about the matter to the then Racing Queensland controlled Stewards, who with their hands forced had no option to hold an inquiry into the matter, but doing their damnedest to keep the whole Man Bites Horse did so in camera, which means behind closed doors under a veil of secrecy for those not familiar with the term.
Chopper Warren was found guilty of a charge of conduct prejudicial to the image of racing, and stood down from the sport until he had undertaken sufficient and appropriate remedial training under the supervision of RQ officials to correct his errant horse ear chomping barrier behaviour.
Oddly, no-one outside the inner circle of the secret steward’s commissariat ever quite got told what exactly that remedial training entailed, or how long a spell Chopper had to spend on the sidelines in the sin bin, although some wags with a sense of black humour suggested they might have sent the equine ear biter down to Tommy Noble’s illegal training at Churchable so he could learn to let his lust for blood loose on possums tied to lures away from the public eye, instead of sating it on national Sky Channel broadcasts.
Well Jesus died on a cross so our sins can be forgiven (or at least that’s what I’m told), and even rabbit punching murderers get parole, so we shouldn’t really be surprised that fast forwarding nine years Chopper Warren has found a new and most rewarding career in the racing industry.
Yes sportsfans, I’m pleased to announce that these days Chopper Warren is a senior official of the Queensland Racing Integrity Commission, working in a team run by the newly appointed pontiff of Gold Coast racing integrity Paul Gillard, and he proudly sports the gold badge of an authorised officer empowered to investigate incidents of animal cruelty.
That’s a joke with a bite isn’t it?
Don’t laugh out loud too much though, for its true.
I make this statement in advance of my evidence before the Royal Commission between 4—7 February 2020.
From the outset, | wish to make clear I have always wanted to assist the Royal Commission and provide evidence as best I can. My health, which has been an issue for me since 2004, coupled with my personal circumstances (including the full-time care of my children) have made it exceptionally difficult to do so.
I suffer from a number of medical conditions, including a condition known as trigeminal neuralgia which first arose after I suffered a stroke in 2004. This condition causes me to experience acute, debilitating nerve pain on both sides of my face. My pain is exacerbated by stress, uncertainty and anxiety. I am prone to developing deep ulcerations in my legs. On twelve previous occasions, these ulcers have required surgical debridement. I have previously been told by my doctors that these ulcerated cavities are caused by stress. I developed ulcerated wounds on four occasions in the period January to March 2019 and received medical treatment. The Commission has received evidence to this end.
I gather that it has been suggested that one line of a transcript of a conversation on 5 April 2006 indicates that I could feign illness to avoid a court appearance. That one line should be read in context of the 50 odd pages of the transcript of my discussion with handlers on that day (5 April 2006) about adjourning a client’s case in which I was appearing as counsel (not as a witness). The handlers were workshopping potential bases for an adjournment. There is a later passage in the transcript of me stating at the end of that discussion to the handlers that a reason to adjourn that case was required, but I could not and would not lie to a court. I make this point only because it has been unfairly suggested that I might have been feigning illness to avoid giving evidence to the Commission
I was interviewed recently for the ABC programme , ‘The 7.30 Report’. My purpose in participating in that interview was to try and improve my circumstances, of which the Commission is aware of given a number of private hearings relating to those circumstances.
The 7.30 program team made arrangements to meet me at a remote location and it was only possible as I had the care of my children arranged. I had to rely on a medical professional to look after them during that period. Had it not been for that person’s assistance, I would not have been able to participate at all. In addition, that person was well known to the children and they were comfortable in that medical professional’s care.
That interview spread over two days. It was only meant to last a couple of hours on one day. However, my health was such that the ABC production team terminated the interview on the first day and made arrangements for the following day. On that second day, my children again had sufficient care for a limited period. I returned on that second day and answered further questions. I am led to believe I may have answered only half of the questions that had been prepared.
Throughout the interview, I required breaks and took medication to alleviate some of the pain I was suffering from and continue to suffer from on a daily basis. The Commission has before it medical evidence from multiple practitioners all of whom reach similar conclusions as to my health. Between them, those practitioners have been engaged in my care for well over a decade.
I appear to give evidence with the intention of assisting the Royal Commission as best I can. However, I do so without having has the opportunity to prepare properly. I have not reviewed the evidence of other witnesses beyond a few selected sections of transcript and redacted statements and I have not had access to primary documents (including my own court books and diaries) or my work laptop. I have been unable to refresh my memory from this material.
I have not logged onto the Royal Commission website and have not watched any of the live stream. This is due to security issues, my personal circumstances and my health. I only received occasional updates from my legal team and others.
Additionally, my legal team was only granted access to thousands of pages of transcripts of conversations I had with my handlers on 29 July 2019 (due to Senior Victoria Police members’ denying them access to the material and they have been unable to consider this material. They were also subject to undertakings preventing them from talking to me about the contents of my recorded conversations, again at the behest of Victoria Police). That undertaking was lifted on 4 December 2019.
However, it was not possible to review those documents or discuss matters with my counsel until last week given my remote location and difficulty accessing secure material. I also had little time to consider the material due to my personal circumstances.
Suitable arrangements were only able to be made last week to allow me at least some opportunity to prepare in advance of me giving evidence. I liaised with my counsel for 2 days. It was hoped that I would be provided in advance a limited number of documents, including the transcript of evidence of two witnesses and the statements of 7 witnesses. It was also hoped I would be provided redacted SMLs. Unfortunately, Victoria Police delayed the process of me receiving this material and I did not receive all of it until the first day of my discussions with my legal team. It meant I could not read the material in advance of the discussions. The redactions have made processing the content even more difficult.
I understand that many police officers who have given evidence called by Victoria Police have had access to material and have ample time to prepare in advance of their evidence. I am in a very different position. It has been anything but procedurally fair.
I am therefore unfamiliar with most of the voluminous material before the Commission, much of which I understand to relate to my alleged conduct between 2003-2011.
To be clear, I am unaware, beyond the odd press report or brief summary by my legal team, as to what evidence has been received beyond the two witnesses whose transcripts I have been provided. To put this in context, I am unaware as to the evidence of my handlers, the investigators etc. The two transcripts of evidence I have seen amount to two days of evidence. I am aware the Royal Commission has received evidence from March 2019 to present.
My counsel has sought to have available during our discussions RC/81, which I am told is the pseudonym list. That never eventuated. Consequently, I am at a disadvantage when reading some of the material I have. I will try not to mention the real names of several people but it may be difficult as I am unaware of all pseudonyms used and am also told some cannot be used in any event in a public hearing.
I also am being asked to recall matters from a very long time ago. Not only has the passage of time impacted on my ability to recall all matters, but in addition, I suffered a stroke on 24 July 2004 (which affected my memory, particularly of the latter part of 2004) and other very serious health issues.
In the past, (prior to the Royal Commission) I have provided statements and given evidence.
Generally speaking, I was better placed to provide detailed evidence on those occasions than I am now, for the reasons I have explained. I have provided a witness statement in 2009 relating to the prosecution of Paul Dale as well as having given evidence before Justice Ginanne in 2017 and Tony Fitzgerald at the OPI in 2007.
However, it should be borne in mind that when I appeared before Fitzgerald, I was trying to protect my identity as a Human Source and had been assured by my handlers that I would not be asked any questions that would reveal my status. The first question asked at that hearing had the tendency to do so and it caused me significant angst as I was acutely aware that if this was revealed then the transcript may end up in briefs of evidence for many accused and my life would be in jeopardy. I was aware something similar happened to at least one person during the time I was a registered informer. My evidence before Fitzgerald should be seen in this context.
Further, I have seen a draft statement relating to Operation Briars. I can say that, during the taking of that statement in Bali, I did not say that Mark Perry confessed to me. I believe that Ron Iddles will confirm this. I have never seen that entry until I was shown it recently. It must have been added without my knowledge. I assume it must have been added by DI Waddell, but that is a matter for him to answer.
I also provided a statement to REDACTED relating to a REDACTED. I understand that statement was provided to the OPP.
I have been told by my legal team that text messages from old phones of mine have been retrieved and are before the Commission. The messages that were able to be retrieved range from 2009 to April 2013. There are no messages after April 2013. I believe that is because I changed phones and messages thereafter are not available as those phones are not available, primarily due to matters relating to circumstances and security.
I understand that I am required to answer questions that will inevitably relate to matters that are privileged. I do so cognisant of section 32 of the Inquiries Act 2014. I am well aware that the privilege is not mine but the particular client I may be asked questions about.
I also wish to add this detail. The reporting I have been made aware of suggests:
a. That I am an illegal drug user. That is ridiculous. Apart from minor recreational cannabis use when at University, I have never taken illegal drugs.
b. That I provided information against all of my clients. That is wrong. I did not inform on the large majority of the clients I represented. They were represented to the best of my ability and often received favourable outcomes.
c. That I was promiscuous. Allegations about my personal life, many of them blatantly false, have been the subject of extensive media reporting for a protracted period. My privacy has been invaded comprehensively, but the picture that has been painted of me is far from the truth in many respects.
d. That I met Simon Overland at Kew Golf Course. I have never met him.
The media coverage, which at times has been inaccurate, has caused significant damage to me, both physically and mentally. Consequently my nerve pain, PTSD, severe anxiety and depression have become worse.
The impact of my interactions with Victoria Police coupled with the subsequent media coverage has also caused me numerous sleepless nights due to the significant detrimental impact it has had on my children and their futures.
A lot of people accuse me of bagging out the Queensland Racing Integrity Commission, and I have to confess, they’re right.
I’m not against the concept; the idea of breaking up the commercial and integrity functions of the sport is the way to go in my view. For far too long horse racing had hung onto the vestiges of its land gentry origins and been run like an old boys club, the trots had trundled along like a polyamorous breakaway Mormon sect in which everyone from the garbage man to the CEO and in between were blood relatives, and the dogs were just managed by dodgers.
The situation had to change, and it did and that’s a good thing.
What’s not is that the QRIC should have been staffed and run by people who knew racing, and it wasn’t. Instead it was run by ex-coppers who knew so little about the ins and outs of the various codes that the organisation’s claim to racing cred was that one of its middle managers was loosely related to a long-retired jockey, although what wasn’t said was that the joker (or should that be jokeress?) had a bit of a conflict of interest for a while because she was renting stables to Les Ross.
That’s only a bit of trivia though; it was the lack of racing people directing the integrity show that was the problem from the start.
Let me say something loud and clear at this juncture. I’m not an all-round knock for the QRIC Commissioner Ross Barnett. He was a good cop, an even better assistant boss of the police force, and is an excellent manager of people, paperwork and public dough. If you wanted a government boss to bring you in on budget each day, every day, then Ross Barnett was your man.
The problem was that the Commissioner didn’t know a pull up job from a bitter twisted dob, and after 3 years in the top office he still doesn’t.
It’s not Barnett’s fault, and it’s not fatal. He was upfront about racing being a whole new frontier for him, so no-one can complain that he was trying to pull the wool over punters eyes, and he has proven to be a most prudent and fiscally conservative CEO of the QRIC too, but like Achilles and all the rest of us the former top cop had a wide-open heel.
His was his love of the force, and his respect for the people in it. Barnett thought that he could bring his trusted and no doubt highly-skilled former sidekicks and staff from the police service over to the QRIC , and that within five minutes of the door flung open they’d be kicking goals like Mal Meninga.
What Barnett needed was a management team stacked with straight, honest, experienced racing folk, the type of blokes that Terry Bailey and his Melbourne crew might have been if they hadn’t formed a view that catching crooks was so important that it was worth cutting corners to make it happen.
The Commissioner doesn’t cut corners, but he doesn’t have the passion for the pursuit of cleaning up the codes and keeping them squeaky that Bailey and the boys did, so instead of us getting a flying squad stamping down on bad eggs and cheats we ended up with a bunch of former shift workers earning the same dough working family friendly hours, who sit around listening to other people’s phone calls and misinterpreting them, target presumed villains like Ben Currie while missing what’s going on right in front of their eyes, and regard running RBT’s at trackwork as the pinnacle of racing integrity enforcement.
What a crying shame it is, for its a golden opportunity wasted. Racing in each of the three codes is as crooked now as its ever been, and no number of 100% clean breath tests at thoroughbred workouts, or reduced disqualifications at the trots, or clean winners swabs at the greyhounds is ever going to change it.
People who don’t know punting and racing can’t spot rorts, even when they are staring them right in the face.
Let me give you just a couple of examples.
Only the winners get dope tested at the greyhounds. Losers go swab free, even if they get beaten twenty lengths at ten to one on. And no-one at QRIC ever twigs that dog people might by and large have skipped uni, but they ain’t a million MBA’s close to being dumb.
The shonks know that they are going to get done if they spike their dogs with drugs to speed them up, so they give them dope to slow them down instead. Ted the Red is $1.40 in a four dog field, so its trainer Tina the Schemer slips it a couple of sleeping pills and boxes the other three in the trifecta. Ted runs around like he’s dreaming and runs last, the trifecta pays 84 bucks for every six units Tina invests, and the winner swabs all shiny and clean.
Come in spinner.
Its worse at the trots. Over on the outside track they team drive in big jackpot pool trifecta and First 4 races, and week after week the desperate dodgers in a fast-dying (thanks to mismanagement and lack of imagination) sport knock one of the big guns in the betting market out of the place into back near last, and collect the loot from exotic bets into the jackpot pool that their cousin has put on at the pub without the execution victim in them. It’s all just innocent driver error of course, even when one of the nation’s top reinsman like Noddy makes a mistake that you wouldn’t witness at a gymkhana from kids over the age of four.
And then of course there are the gallops. Missed starts, horses stuck wide, runs not taken, bumping up bums, copping checks, going to the line hard held in zip fastened pockets that jockeys have sewed themselves: these are just the beginning of the multitude of methods that the jockey boys and girls use to earn a quid, and we haven’t even started on the trainers yet.
The QRIC crew just don’t get it. They run for the Betfair betting sheets – if they call for any at all – and when they don’t spot any suspicious activity they shrug their shoulders and sound the semaphore and declare all clear.
You silly sausages. No-one who pulls horses or dogs up or tanks trotters lays them on Betfair anymore. They bet into exotic pools, mainly trifectas and First 4’s. It ain’t rocket science and nothing new is ever born into this world. The crooked trot drivers in the US were doing it as far back as 1973, the year that more than 2 dozen of them got outed for fixing First 4’s, although the Yanks called them superfectas.
Crooks in Queensland are pulling exactly the same scam almost 4 decades later, and their nefarious activities are so blatant that you’d almost award them a medal for bravery, if only it weren’t so easy.
If the QRIC leaders new racing they would no this, but they don’t, and so they keep sailing across smooth waters smiling at the sun and all the pretty girls, and they miss the whole thing. They don’t even see the bent industry participants laughing at them behind their back.
There is an easy fix to all this. Just leave the egos and the retired police badges at the door, and engage a team of experienced racing analysts and pay an Archie-style expert to lead them, and Bob’s everyone’s bloody uncle.
Ross Barnett is keeping the troops in line and the budget sweet; his deputy Mark Ainsworth is leading the racing intelligence derived dope and dazzler raids and busts; the IT crew and the ex-cops are doing what they do best; and all of them are dancing to the tune that the racing expert identifies the crooks to be singing.
How hard is it really?
Not hard at all.
It just means swallowing a bit of pride and stepping up to the plate.
For racing’s sake lets hope that one day it happens.