NEW South Wales Opposition Leader Luke Foley will be a special guest at Coonamble over the long weekend as the industry prepares for its annual blockbuster greyhound racing carnival.
All up, the carnival attracted over 1000 nominations this year, enough for 130 races, however, due to the traditional Sunday meeting not being drawn by Greyhound Racing NSW (GRNSW), a total of 84 events are expected to be run and won on the grass circuit.
The Coonamble Carnival is the biggest on the NSW country calendar, with trainers from all over Australia descending on the north-west community which is six-and-a-half hours from Sydney and has a population of just 3,000 people.
Despite being non-TAB events, the carnival injects $1.6 million into the local community, with the Coonamble Bowling Club generating half of its profits over the weekend and hotels and motels booked-out years in advance.
The sleepy country town estimates it will lose $1.88 million if Premier Mike Baird’s ban becomes a reality next July, with job losses also expected.
Foley recently told Australian Racing Greyhound it was important for him to get out to Coonamble over the long weekend to hear from the people who will be hurt by the Baird government’s ban.
“I want to travel to Coonamble on the weekend and just meet people who go there for this famous carnival and listen to their stories about what the ban will mean to them,” Foley said.
“I will be speaking with greyhound participants but also people who run businesses in the town that rely on the patronage of the greyhound racing community.
“I am extremely concerned about the impact of Mr. Baird’s ban on country communities – I think there is no better example than Coonamble – this is one of the biggest events of the year for the small town and to think that this will be lost from their annual calendar is a sad thought.”
However, all is not lost, with community support building for the greyhound racing industry. Foley also wants to tell participants to not lose hope as pressure continues to rise for Baird to back down on the ban.
“What I want to say to people when I am there is don’t give up, we can defeat this ban,” Foley said.
“[Community support] is growing because Australians believe in a fair-go and the greyhound fraternity have not been given a fair-go.
“The corridors of the parliament [are] full of chatter from within the government ranks about a need to back down and reverse the ban.
“I am encouraged that the grass roots campaign right around the state will eventually force a capitulation from Mr Baird. You can’t treat innocent people and law abiding citizens this way in a democracy.
“Whether it will take a big swing at the Orange by-election in November, or pressure [from] right around the state to back down my message is for people to keep up the campaign.”
The Orange by-election is set to be a massive test for the Coalition, with the ultra-safe Nationals seat in doubt due to a number of controversial issues made by the government, one of which is the ban on greyhound racing from July 1, 2017.
Foley said the community can send a powerful message to the Baird government when the polling booths open on November 12.
“Orange is the safest of safe National Party seats, the Labor Party hasn’t won it since 1944, but we are determined to put forward a strong campaign so that people can send Mike Baird and Troy Grant a strong message at the by-election.
“There is a string of city centric decisions including the greyhound ban that hurt country communities…but all is not lost; the pressure is having a big effect.
“I do not believe in a democracy where a Premier can ignore the voice of the people forever.”
Other important guests at the carnival will be Nationals MP Kevin Humphries, who crossed the floor in an attempt to block the greyhound racing legislation, and Scott Munro, who recently quit the Nationals Party and is running as an independent at the Orange by-election.
The Coonamble Carnival kicks off with 14 races on Friday afternoon, the first of which is scheduled to jump at 2.00pm.