NEW South Wales opposition leader Luke Foley has welcomed Premier Mike Baird’s decision to reverse the controversial greyhound racing ban.
Foley has been a vocal opponent of the ban since it was announced on July 7, and believes mounting public and political pressure caused Baird to break, sensationally back-flipping on the ban just weeks ahead of the Orange by-election.
A poor by-election result for the Coalition government could have potentially cost Deputy Premier Troy Grant his position as leader of the NSW Nationals Party, with polls leading into the by-election revealing a massive swing against the Nationals.
Foley said despite Baird having ulterior motives, he is glad common sense has prevailed.
“I have to admit there were some days during the last three months when I felt privately that the government would not capitulate, but I had to get up every day and tell people in greyhound racing to keep the fight going and that eventually we would win,” Foley told Australian Racing Greyhound.
“Yesterday we did and I think it is a victory for all the good men and women in greyhound racing who stood up to be counted.
“I don’t believe for a minute that they backed down because Mike Baird started listening.
“The back down is purely and simply to save his political skin and Troy Grant’s skin. The tsunami that was coming in Orange forced them to change course.
“But we have finally got the right decision out of them, even if it was for the wrong reasons.”
Foley said he feels honoured to have fought alongside the good people of the industry, having spoken at an enormous rally in Sydney in front of more than 2,000 greyhound racing participants and supporters.
“I’ll never forget the sight of the people in Hyde Park and in Macquarie Street. I think almost all of the people there had never engaged in political protest before in their lives. This was the silent majority standing up to get their voices heard.
“It has been a privilege to stand with so many people for whom greyhound racing is a way of life and I have learned a lot from them.
“I have got around to greyhound racing clubs in places like Grafton, Dapto, Bathurst and Coonamble and these people have taught me a lot, essentially that governments should leave law abiding citizens alone and allow them to get on with their lives.
“Governments have a role to implement proper standards, but that’s it. To outlaw industries and destroy people’s way of life is just a bridge too far in a democracy.”
While Foley said he is disappointed the ban happened at all, he feels a great sense of pride that his party was able to stand united in support of greyhound racing.
He is now asking participants to show their support and gratitude for Labor when the polling booths open at Orange.
“The ban should never have been introduced and whilst I was delighted to see the capitulation I also felt sadness because none of this was necessary.
“Thousands of people have people have been put through heartache and mental anguish for three months and none of it was necessary – the reform was happening.
“I am proud as the leader of the Labor Party that we have stood up for the people in greyhound racing and I am now asking that the people in greyhound racing remember that and give us a hand on November 12 if they can get to the Orange electorate.
“I think there is a bond between the Labor Party in NSW and greyhound people and that goes right back to Jack Lang in 1930. As premier he repealed a ban on greyhound racing that was introduced by a conservative government and there has been a closeness between Labor and greyhound racing for very many decades since.”
As the industry prepares for sweeping changes directed towards animal welfare as well as integrity and regulatory functions of the code, Foley said now is the opportunity for the government and the industry to work together.
“What should happen from here is that the government ought to sit down with humility and meet the greyhound industry as equals and talk in good faith about ongoing reform.
“After the government got it so wrong, they really have to do some listening here.
“If they come into a room again and dictate to the industry what is going to happen, I think that would be a mistake.
“They need to open their ears because there are a lot of good people in greyhound racing with ideas about how the industry can continue to reform, but at the same time continue to provide a livelihood and form of entertainment for many thousands of Australians.
“[The intercode] needs to be looked at. Twenty-two per cent of punter’s bets on racing are on the dogs, yet the industry only receives 13 per cent [of TAB turnover] so they are missing out.
“It has to be part of the discussion. The government has been forced by people with power to get off their high horse and drop the ill-considered ban, it would be a huge mistake to now formulate a new plan without actually meeting the stakeholders as equals and listening for a change.”