AMIDST the most challenging period in the history of greyhound racing, an unlikely hero has emerged with a goal to rebuild and repair the sport.
New South Wales Opposition Leader Luke Foley has gone above and beyond in his plight to reform greyhound racing, with Labor forming an unlikely alliance with the Shooters, Fishers and Farmers Party and the Christian Democrat Party.
Foley has been the main man for the industry inside the walls of Macquarie Street, with his support culminating on Tuesday night with a speech lasting over two hours.
Speaking with hard facts and passion, Foley’s speech delivered a strong message to Parliament regarding the impacts of the ban on the innocent men and women within greyhound racing.
While Baird and Grant’s legislation to outlaw the sport as of July 1, 2017, was ultimately passed by the coalition’s cohort of MPs willing to tow the party line on Tuesday night, Foley’s speech is still one which should be read by everyone sitting on either side of the debate.
“The Premier is breaking the hearts of thousands of good men and women across this State,” Foley said, beginning his speech just after 4pm.
“I make it clear at the outset that the Labor Opposition utterly opposes this bill.
“There has been a lot of talk about principles in this place in recent weeks. The Premier anticipated this debate today with his own effort in question time when he got seven minutes. He talks about principle. Let me outline at the start the three principles that the Labor Party brings to this debate.
“First, governments and parliaments ought not engage in collective punishment of an entire group of people in response to the sins of a few members of that group. That is a principle that, until six weeks ago, I thought both major parties in New South Wales were committed to.
“The second principle we bring to this debate is that an entire industry should not be outlawed, declared illegal, unless all reasonable and genuine efforts have been made to regulate its antisocial features.
“The third principle we bring to this debate is the principle that our party has stood for in this Parliament since Labor members first entered it 125 years ago at the 1891 election: working‑class people and communities deserve respect and fair treatment at all times.
“They are the principles that the Labor Party brings to this debate and that is why we are totally opposed to this legislation, which will criminalise an industry, a sport and an Australian way of life, and shut down greyhound racing on and from 1 July 2017.”
The MP for Auburn, Foley condemned the Baird government’s decision to ban greyhound racing based on the actions of a few, effectively demonising every person with a collar and lead in-hand.
“What we have here is the extraordinary intervention by the State—a Coalition Government, with the Liberal Party as the largest party in that coalition—taking away property rights, closing down private business activity and closing down an industry that contributes $335 million per annum to the State’s economy.
“If a Labor Government did it there would be cries of socialism and communism ringing from those opposite and their cheer squad in the media. Yet here we have a Liberal Premier—a leader of a party that claims to champion private enterprise and the private sector economy—with the stroke of a pen or, more accurately, with the click of a keyboard to put it on Facebook, wiping out an entire industry, outlawing it, declaring it illegal.
“The normal processes of the criminal law seek to deal with those who have done the wrong thing and punish those whose guilt is established beyond reasonable doubt. Of course, that should occur when it comes to anyone doing the wrong thing in the greyhound racing industry—that is the normal process of the law.
“But why this collective punishment of the overwhelming majority of participants in this sport and industry who have only ever done the right thing as though they are live baiters and as though they engage in animal cruelty?
“They do not, they have not and there is no evidence to suggest they have. Even if one agrees with the conclusion of Justice McHugh, one then has to believe that 80 to 90 per cent of trainers have never engaged in the barbaric practice of live baiting.
“But instead of allowing the criminal law to punish the guilty—those whose guilt is proved through our legal processes beyond reasonable doubt—the Government introduces the most draconian legislation that punishes everyone in that industry, the thousands of participants.
“Further, this legislation punishes all those who derive a livelihood indirectly from the operation of this industry in New South Wales.”
The Baird Government was also slammed for its advertising campaign, which was funded by tax payer’s money with the intentions of demonising greyhound racing, with many of the ‘facts’ mentioned since being disproven.
“Those ads are Government propaganda, pure and simple, to combat citizens who have dared to stand up and defend themselves. That is all they have done.
“The peak industry body, Greyhound Racing NSW, has been muzzled. It has not been allowed to stand up for the people in the industry, so the people themselves, faced with the destruction of their livelihoods and their entire way of life, their recreational pastime and passion, had to come together and find a way to put their case to their fellow citizens and influence public opinion.
“They have done that—led by Brenton Scott from the Greyhound Breeders, Owners and Trainers Association, who, with very limited resources, has done the most marvellous work over the past six weeks with participants from all the greyhound racing clubs in New South Wales.
“What do they cop for daring to speak up for themselves? They get a tsunami of Government propaganda—and, just to add insult to injury, it is paid for by their taxes.
“We hear today $1 million; we will see where it stops. I suspect in the end it will cost a darn sight more than that for a propaganda campaign to combat citizens who speak up for themselves.
“This is life in Mike Baird’s New South Wales. Once this bloke makes his mind up, do not argue with him. You will not change his mind and he will use your taxes to run a propaganda campaign against you.
“The print and radio promotions state that up to 70 per cent of greyhounds are deemed to be wastage by the industry and that 4,074 dogs are slaughtered each year. But the numbers brought to the table by industry participants show that those figures are overblown.
“The Government further demonises the industry in its ads by saying, ‘Due to its systemic cruelty greyhound racing is only legal in eight countries, with a majority of the states in the United States of America having imposed a ban’.
“In fact, only two American states have imposed a ban. There has never been a time when the majority of states in the United States of America have conducted greyhound racing, but the only states to have outlawed the sport are Idaho and Arizona.
“Do not let the facts get in the way of a taxpayer-funded propaganda campaign. The ads proclaim that 136 greyhounds die racing every year—with a little marked cross for dramatic effect in this propaganda advertising.
“Between 1 January and 21 March 2016 only two greyhounds suffered catastrophic injury, yet it was reported as fact that 136 die every year.
“This is what the Government has resorted to in an effort to shape public opinion because there is widespread community concern that an entire group in society is being treated in this way.
“In an interview with the Daily Telegraph the Premier is reported to have said, ‘Greyhound racing is shrinking, the number of participants, the attendance, the economics. It’s down to eight countries. It’s now going to be down to four states in America.’
“Is it? When the special commission of inquiry commenced its work last year greyhound racing in the United States was taking place in Alabama, Arizona, Iowa, Florida, Texas and West Virginia. That is six states, not four—just bump it up by 50 per cent because, as the Premier of New South Wales, you make it up as you go along.
“As I said, do not let the facts get in the way of a good argument. And even if what the Premier said is true, what relevance does it have to greyhound racing in New South Wales?
“The Premier tells us constantly that this industry is in terminal decline. I am aware of market research that says that people who bet on greyhound racing are, on average, around 10 years younger than those who bet on thoroughbred and harness racing. I was surprised when I first heard that.
“Indeed, it may challenge the assumption that some of us had that this was a sport followed by older Australians in the main—namely, those 300,000 people who bet on greyhound racing in our State each year are, on average, up to 10 years younger than those who bet on the horses. Is it an industry in decline?”
Foley lamented that the closure of the industry would be a sad day for the greyhound breed itself, with the majestic animal born to chase dating back through history. The only species of dog mentioned in the bible, the greyhound has roots in Europe and even accompanied Captain Cook and Joseph Banks to the shores of Australia aboard the Endeavour in 1770.
Foley has vowed to continue the fight to save greyhound racing, even if that means re-introducing it if he wins the next state election in 2019.
Foley explained in his speech that the industry had been formerly banned in NSW before making a resurgence three years later with the help of another member for Auburn, Premier Jack Lang.
“The regulation of greyhound racing occurred in 1927. The Greyhound Coursing Association was set up by Frederick “Judge” Swindell and the prominent retailers Hugh Foy and Anthony Hordern. Crowds of up to 30,000 working-class punters would be at the racetrack to bet on dogs chasing mechanical lures, known as tin hare racing.
“It goes back to 1927 because this State has seen before a wowser Premier outlawing greyhound racing—the Tories did it in 1928. Anglican clergy denounced the new sport “as a pastime that bred parasites”, accusing men of neglecting their families to gamble at the track, so a conservative Premier outlawed it.
“Three years later Labor Premier Jack Lang, the member for Auburn, brought back greyhound racing and placed it on a proper regulatory footing in New South Wales, so we have been here before. In 1932 racing started at Wentworth Park in Glebe.
“There is a long history when it comes to the place of greyhounds in our society, the life of Australia and the presence of a sport subject to regulatory control in our State.”
Justice Michael McHugh’s report from the Special Commission of Inquiry was also referenced by the Leader of the Opposition, with Foley noting that many aspects of the report have been scrutinised by the industry who are currently fighting in the Supreme Court to have it declared invalid.
“The stated justification from our Premier and Deputy Premier for this bill is the report of this special commission of inquiry.
“Many of the conclusions reached by the special commission of inquiry are heavily contested. The Opposition objects to an announcement of a ban without any natural justice being afforded to the participants in the greyhound industry.
“They ought to be allowed to put their case and their arguments and have them tested, scrutinised and debated before any decision is taken.”
In Particular, Foley questioned why submissions by former Greyhound Racing NSW (GRNSW) Chairman Percy Allan never made it into the Commission’s report, with Allan detailing to The Weekend Australian that he had provided an alternative model to show a way to achieve zero wastage.
“Wastage is one of the three key planks the Premier relies on to advocate for a ban on greyhound racing in New South Wales, yet a distinguished former Secretary of the Treasury states that he presented detailed modelling to show that greyhound racing could be regulated to ensure close to zero wastage rather than being banned.
“Ought that not form part of the consideration and debate about whether greyhound racing has a future in New South Wales? Of course it should. Percy Allan is no mug. His submission ought to have formed part of the consideration by the special commission of inquiry and informed the subsequent debate.”
Foley probed the Commission’s claims that greyhound racing had lost its social licence, pondering what that actually means.
“This is an imprecise concept. It has never been defined. Licences are issued by the State in many industries. A social licence is not something that has been issued by this Parliament, yet it is being used as justification for the outlawing of an industry.
“Perhaps members ought to have a discussion in Parliament about what a social licence is. What is the concept that is often used in the community by advocates to ban all sorts of activities?
“What is the Parliament’s definition of a social licence? How does one gain one? How does one lose one? Can one be regained if it has been lost? The statement has been made that greyhound racing has lost its social licence and that the industry ought to be wiped out.
“Please tell us how one gains or loses a social licence. The concept is intangible. It is unwritten. It must be distinguished from a statutory licence, which is tangible and in written form. It can be defined; it can be measured. It is not so for a social licence.
“In the history of debates in the New South Wales Parliament I cannot find an example of the absence or loss of a social licence being used to justify a decision to shut down an industry. I hazard a guess that it has been used in the other places by the Greens in private members’ bills that they have introduced to shut down all sorts of activity. I am unaware of the Parliament ever passing legislation on the basis of the revocation or loss of a social licence, yet that is occurring in this chamber.
“We are, presumably, to take at face value the statement that greyhound racing has lost its social licence and will be shut down as of July next year. I do not accept that. Please tell me when and how the industry lost it, how it is measured and how it can be regained.
“My point is that this is an undefined concept that cannot be measured or owned. We need to do better than that. By all means, let us have a debate about a social licence. Let us have a debate in the community and in the Parliament about a social licence, but we must afford the participants in the industry a chance to put their case before we declare that they have lost their social licence.”
Foley also mentioned the Labor Party’s proposal to reform the industry based on recommendation’s two through to 80 from the Special Commission report with a high focus on animal welfare, life bans for anyone engaged in animal cruelty and an improved regulatory structure to ensure integrity is maintained .
Foley argued that the greyhound racing industry should not be isolated and banned based on the actions of a few, with no compensation mentioned in the legislation for those who are set to lose their livelihoods due to the legislation.
“One industry ought not be singled out for special treatment. That is what the Government is suggesting we do. It is bending over backwards, through the Deputy Premier and the Minister for Primary Industries, to say that no-one in any other industry that deals with animals has anything to worry about because it will not do anything to them.
“That is the stated intention of the Government. The people in the greyhound racing industry have every right to say, “Why are we alone being picked on?”
“The State Government uses sentient animals in experimentation and research activity. The Premier, who writes emotional Facebook posts about the slaughter of greyhounds, presides over experimentation and research activity that uses dogs as guinea pigs.
“The Premier’s Government formally approved the use of 3,890 dogs for experimentation and research last year. It approved the use of 3,093 dogs in 2013-14 and 3,655 in 2012‑13 through its Animal Research Review Panel, an agency that reports directly to the Minister for Primary Industries. We talk about live baiting.
“This Government approved the use of more than 1,830 rabbits for research and experiments last year, resulting in the death of 88. Pigs, cats, cattle, horses and sheep were also approved for use in research.
“We must lift standards across the board in industries that use animals on a daily basis. We on this side of the House are opposed to the selective moral outrage that is on display here and that singles out only those involved in the sport of greyhound racing.
“There has been a lot of talk about animal welfare, and I have spent some time addressing those concerns. I turn now to human welfare, the welfare of the people who participate in greyhound racing. The legislation is extreme in its callous disregard for working people, people who derive their livelihood from greyhound racing.
“The bill expressly provides, in clause 29, that no compensation is to be paid.
“Of course, nothing in the way of assistance or compensation has been brought to this debate. The Premier, who ambushed these people, just tells them to trust him; he will look after them in the long run. Well, I think the participants in the industry have learnt one thing for sure—they cannot trust this Premier to look after their interests.”
Foley closed his speech by stating that the outlawing of greyhound racing will set a precedent for other industries and that it seemed an unfair punishment for those within the sport who are completely innocent.
“Greyhound racing is an activity in which a minority of our citizens participate but I have a message for the majority of New South Wales citizens who, let us face it, do not care passionately about the future of greyhound racing. If the Government can do it to these people it can do it to anyone.
“Think about what is our passion in life, our recreational pastime, our industry. If the Government gets away with legislating to outlaw and criminalise a sport, industry and way of life in this country it can do the same to any of our interests.
“I reflect that the great Australian historian Manning Clark talked about the punishers and straighteners in our public life. I think Premier Baird has become the great punisher and straightener in Australia’s national life. If he does not like our way of life he will impose his moral choices on us.”