IN HIS 2014 report to the shareholders of Berkshire Hathaway, the famed ‘Sage of Omaha’ Warren Buffett commented on the rise and fall of conglomerates from the late 1960s onwards and how that rise had been largely facilitated with dubious accounting practices. Buffett noted, ‘For many, gushers of easy money washed away ethical sensitivities.’
One of the clear elements to come out of the latest disclosures surrounding the live-baiting saga, as reported in the Sydney Morning Herald, is the way ‘ethical sensitivities’ were indeed well and truly washed away. What’s even more disturbing is the admission the people charged with operating greyhound racing in New South Wales (and, frankly, I suspect the same attitude was prevalent across the other states as well) ‘always knew this day would come’ according to an excerpt from an internal email sent between staffers at GRNSW.
So, they were basically saying they were well aware of the inhumane and illegal activities taking place under their control and instead of rigorously policing and rooting out the wrongdoers, were complicit in allowing it to continue.
Let us be thankful the state government’s in Queensland and NSW took the action they did in removing these poor excuses for administrators.
There are certain four-letter words which seem to cause the Twittersphere to go into meltdown if they are uttered in public by some C-grade personality. Yet ‘spin’ is one four-letter word which should send shudders down the spine when it is uttered, unless it happens to be in the context of a cricket match.
According to email exchanges between former CEO Brent Hogan as well as others within the GRNSW office, an external ‘strategist’ (in other words a ‘spin doctor’) with racing connections had been hired (at what cost?) to help manage the fallout from the live-baiting scandal.
Basically it was a way of saying, ‘how best can we cover our collective backsides until this all blows over and we don’t lose our cushy jobs?’
According to one emailed excerpt the ‘strategist’ wrote, ‘We’ll be right, we’ll get through this.’ Ah yes, the ‘we’re too big to fail’ attitude. That comment reeks of the arrogance and complacency that has been allowed to grow up around the administration of greyhound racing across the country.
Invoking the Sage of Omaha again, Buffett stated the ABC’s of business decay are: Arrogance, Bureaucracy, and Complacency. Well, greyhound racing across the country has all three in spades.
Not surprisingly, anti-greyhound campaigner Dr John Kaye, a NSW Greens Party MP, is now claiming the Special Commission of Inquiry headed by Michael McHugh QC is nothing more than a sham. Kaye obviously steers away from any attack on the integrity of McHugh, instead directing his comments to what he calls ‘the credibility of the inquiry process’ and suggesting the NSW government had failed to ‘make an appointment that was comprehensively independent of the regulatory body.’ Agree or disagree with him, his words carry weight.
Public perception in this modern day is possibly even more important than it once was when the public consumed their news by way of newspapers, radio and television. The social media behemoth means everybody with a smartphone and an Internet connection can make a comment about anything and everything and it’s pretty obvious the average person in the street is not a fan of greyhound racing and its participants. One-in, all-in seems to be the mantra these days: that is, there are no grey areas anymore, almost everything is viewed from a black or white prism of purely good, or purely bad.
Ask most people who have no real knowledge of greyhound racing if they think participants are engaged in ‘blooding’ their charges to make them keen to race and the answer would be an almost universal ‘yes’. Right or wrong, that is the public perception. It’s a perception that can only be changed over time if the overstuffed bureaucracy surrounding the sport is pared down, the spin-doctors and strategists are tossed back into the primordial slime from which they emerged, the arrogant empire-builders are shoved into a parallel universe and the culture of complacency is reversed by engaging with the likes of animal welfare groups to stamp out what are not just abhorrent, but completely unnecessary, practices.
Greyhound racing is populated by many good, caring people. Most are content to treat what they do as a hobby and it is those good people who have had to wear the fallout from the utterly reprehensible failure of so many of the well-paid bureaucrats employed to administer the sport. Too big to fail? The ABC of business says otherwise.