Special Commission of Inquiry still has many unanswered questions

I WOULD like to thank all those people who take the time to post comments about the articles I write. And, yes, this includes those who disagree with me, although not those who are just plain disagreeable.

A comment by John Tracey brought a wry smile to my face, suggesting the McHugh Commission report was being more subtle in its bias than blatant. My original headline was going to be titled ‘the subtle bias’, but while McHugh intended to be subtle, as John suggests, it just struck me as almost blatant.

The more I read the more I was struck by the overweening tone of the learned jurist looking down his nose at the hoi polloi involved in greyhound racing. Yes, I’m aware of Justice McHugh’s working class background, but he wouldn’t be the first to turn his back on his humble beginnings.

Substitute the words ‘horse racing’ or ‘live exporting’ for some of the comments he uses and we would be looking at a wholesale dismantling of almost anything involving animals.

I am suspicious of certain material which appears in the body of the report and is then meant to be deleted, inserted or replaced by way of Corrigendum which ends the entire report.

There are seven such corrections: four are replacements, two are inserts and one is a deletion, and it is the latter which is by far the most important.

In Vol 2, Paragraph 13.59 the report reads, ‘The Commission does not consider the greyhound industry in NSW is financially sustainable if there are but 593 meetings each year.’ It is this nail-in-the-coffin absolutist statement, one of the most prominent in the document, that is the only one to be officially totally deleted.

Surely the question to be asked is how did such a pivotal conclusion manage to make it all the way through the checks and balances prior to the delivery of the report, only to be almost immediately struck out? Did someone think no one would actually be bothered to read the report in its entirety, and even if they did would they also read the corrections section and wouldn’t notice such a major about-turn?

The blind acceptance of the alleged wastage figures surprised me. There does not appear to have been any effort made to properly substantiate the claimed numbers. They are estimates at best, simply because real figures do not exist. Even a cursory check would have found greyhounds which are supposedly dead are in fact very much alive, and living in the houses of their former owners or trainers or other adoptees.

On page 14 of Volume 2 of the report is a table supplied by Greyhounds Australasia of Litters registered per State/Territory. That table has been replaced in the Corrigendum by a new table of GRNSW Breeding figures, registered, named and raced pups: 2009-2015.

First thing to consider is that this second table notes, of the figures between 2004-2015, that there were, ‘3,103 more pups registered than reported whelped’. What? How the hell does that happen, and why didn’t someone, somewhere investigate the reasons?

Equally, the original table has 8,584 litters whelped in NSW between 2009 and 2015 with 54,079.2 pups as the result (the 0.2 is based on the fact Greyhounds Australia estimates every litter to contain 6.3 pups). By contrast, the GRNSW figures claim 8,415 litters whelped with 53,171 pups. Basically, GRNSW says there have been 169 fewer litters whelped than suggested by GA and 908 less pups. Are those 908 part of the alleged 68,000 dead?

As McHugh noted, ‘There is no precise correlation between these statistics and those supplied by GRNSW. The discrepancies are not readily explicable.’ (Vol 2, 11.40)

I get the impression the Commissioner, like the Premier, didn’t think there would be much in the way of general community opposition to the shutdown of greyhound racing. After all, from a purely political point of view Premier Baird would be aware the Liberal Party is not likely to lose votes as the assumption would be that the vast majority of greyhound supporters are likely to be Labor voters. The coalition National Party is only the junior partner anyway, so any disquiet among its members will likely be softened by their desire to stay in power alongside the Liberals.

Yet there has been a backlash against what is increasingly being seen as a wholesale attack on one industry. Not only has Luke Foley, the Leader of the Opposition announced the Labor Party would restore racing should it win office (shades of Premier Jack Lang), there is some disquiet among a handful of Nationals MPs, and media personalities such as Miranda Devine and Ray Hadley have gone into bat for the sport.

The next pivotal date for the industry is August 2 when parliament is due to actually debate the issue. Premier Baird and his circle clearly believe the fait accompli factor will win the day. Let us hope saner heads prevail.

Past Discussion

  1. Duncan, I suggest to all greyhound followers in NSW to get on the phone to their local state member of parliament to let them know how they feel. More to the point block their phone lines with this issue before August 2.

    It can only be won in the parliament.

  2. You forgot 11.35

    It has very much suited the industry under prior management to maintain substandard and incomplete records of lifecycle outcomes. It enabled GRNSW to claim, when challenged, that because there were many possibilities or “pathways”, no definitive conclusions could be drawn.  There are a variety of pathways that could follow at that point.43 11.36 One possibility or “pathway” that was rarely mentioned by the industry or its regulator was that many greyhounds were simply destroyed each year

  3. Its interesting you take issue with the dog numbers provided. But the industry itself not only doesn’t keep track of dog numbers but it doesn’t record what happens with them properly.

    I am currently speaking with GRV who are in turn chasing up GRNSW over the incorrect reporting of deaths of dogs in a database controlled by GRNSW officials.

    As an example.

    The dog ‘Rise above it’. If you were to google its name, you would see the GRV’s database link come up as the first result. It states the dogs current status as ‘Retired’. However I know this is bogus. I know this because the dog was killed on the track on July 2nd at The Meadows. Its in the stewards report, look it up.

    I spoke to GRV who told me that information comes directly from NSW. They are currently chasing them up as to why there is this discrepancy. I am personally speaking to the official from GRV and you can be sure I will make sure I get a full detailed answer from him once he has received an explanation.

    And therein lies the problem, you have stewards saying a dog is dead. You have all the other racing authorities claiming its simply retired. How is anyone supposed to keep accurate figures and be transparent, when you have greyhound officials be told that a dog has been euthanised, and then typing ‘Retired’ next to its name. Is that to cushion the blow so the public facing databases don’t have to see the true extent of dog deaths?

    How can we trust any figures when even now the industry is actively lying to us. It was only recently the Stewards of NSW stopped deliberately lying by being forced to include euthanised dogs in their report. A ten year old could see that the intention was for transparency. So why greyhound officials still actively attempt to deceive the public by entering false and misleading information in their database is very very odd, and perhaps an explanation as to why you are being shut down.

  4. Hi Duncan,

    Thanks for the mention. I am using the terms subtle and blatant bias as defined in administrate law relating to selection panels. Your article referred to administrate law as well.

    If you reject a candidate on a selection panel and give the reason that the candidate is disqualified because he has a beard and people with beards are untrustworthy then this is blatant bias.

    If you reject the candidate on the grounds that other candidates proved to the panel they had better experiences proving they were trustworthy than the other candidate (bearded) then the bias is subtle because the panel still thought that bearded people are untrustworthy but it was not obvious to the delegate who had to sign off on the appointment.

    Sorry for getting old and still trying to teach my grandmother how to suck eggs but here comes the important distinction.

    All humans are bias and administrate law allows a “curing” process. The blatant bias is obvious (meaning blatant and the process can be cured by being aborted. This was the case in the above “bearded store man”

    If the bias panel had resorted to subtle bias the bearded store man would have found it much more difficult to overturn and get the selection which he did do on appeal.

    The curing process for the report to the Governor by the special commission of Inquiry ‘ is for the parliament (not the Government) to consider matters pertaining to social licence. This process cannot be done effectively because the premier has made the issue support for his Government or support for the Greyhounds. No-one effected could regard this situation as fair.

    The Government has the regulatory power within its acts to issue suspend or cancel racecourse licences but as in the past it can involve heavy compensation.

    Thanks again Duncan for your articles I have a view of why the inquiry have amended the record and I have concerns over some of the recommendations although most of them refer to things that people have been bringing up for yonks.

  5. DaveSampson75  one dog Dave that’s an “Ernie”. You knew the dog was dead because you looked it up in the Stewards report and then you claim the stewards lie about this in their reports. Make up your mind Dave.

  6. DaveSampson75  No Dave Hugh would be classified as disagreeable you are much further up the scale, more like persistent pain in the arse.

  7. lone widow  I agree lone widow. I have already done this. Emailing supporters and detractors. I don’t know if we can win in the parliament maybe the courts?

    We now have Dr Mehreen Farqui appointed ( not elected to the NSW parliament ) they didn’t worry about a by election apparently three votes from the people at the Greens head office is enough to get you a spot these days- accusing Luke Foley of political opportunism because he is supporting an industry where a lot of people would have voted for him. On a mandate of three votes from her mates, nobody else in NSW got a say and apparently from a wealth of knowledge about the racing industry in Australia ( perhaps a degree in civil engineering from a university in Pakistan has a lot of modules about the racing industry in Australia, maybe they are more progressive there) has now become the saviour of greyhounds, posing with them demanding the ban become Australia wide. This is not political opportunism? Jumping on the animals rights bandwagon, demanding the destruction of an industry she would know absolutely nothing about claiming she loves greyhounds. Saving greyhounds- garnering votes- she must have figured out that next time she might actually need some else besides her mates to vote for her and heavens if she doesn’t manage a second term there will be no super for her. Disgraceful.