PREMIER Denis Napthine has slammed suggestions a planned fund-raiser in Warrnambool involving trainer Gai Waterhouse is inappropriate.
Opposition racing spokesman Martin Pakula raised the issue in State Parliament this week, saying a Liberal Party fund-raiser involving the Premier and a leading trainer showed bad judgment.
Mrs Waterhouse will be the guest speaker at the 2014 May Racing Carnival event, which will raise funds for the Coalition’s campaign for next year’s state election.
Dr Napthine told The Standard yesterday he believed Mr Pakula’s comments were petulant.
“I think it’s absolute and utter nonsense,” the Premier said.
“There’s no conflict of interest whatsoever.
‘‘There’s plenty of leading figures who have participated in Labor Party fund-raisers over the years and the ALP has remained silent.
“So it’s really a complete beat-up,” Dr Napthine said.
The South West Coast MP secured Mrs Waterhouse for the cocktail function, to be held on the middle day of the three-day racing carnival.
The event is also expected to draw other high-profile dignitaries and local business identities.
Mr Pakula told State Parliament on Wednesday that the Premier, who also serves as racing minister, should not involve a licensed trainer in party political fund-raising activities.
“(Waterhouse’s) family is heavily involved in bookmaking, an industry over which the Premier and Minister for Racing also has significant influence,” the Labor MP said.
“For the racing minister to involve Gai Waterhouse in a party political endeavour ... demonstrates arrogance and bad judgment on his part.”
Mrs Waterhouse was a first-time visitor to this year’s carnival, attending the Grand Annual Steeplechase and associated events.
Warrnambool Racing Club chairman Des Roberts told The Standard this week he was pleased Mrs Waterhouse and Dr Napthine would be attending the 2014 May Racing Carnival.