GREYHOUND Racing in New South Wales is one step closer to being banned within the state as of July 1, 2017, after legislation to enforce the ban was passed through the Upper House on Wednesday night.
The matter was rushed directly through the NSW Legislative Council, amidst claims the tactic was used by Premier Mike Baird to avoid igniting a heated debate within the Lower House.
Leader of the Government in the Upper House, Duncan Gay, was unwavering in his support of the ban.
“Whilst this has been an incredibly hard decision, the Government believes it is the right thing to stop greyhound racing in New South Wales from 1 July next year,” Gay said.
“The bill strikes an appropriate balance of banning greyhound racing from 1 July 2017 while, importantly, providing a progressive industry transition that will enable participants to wind down their operations over the longer term.
“The Government recognises the need for an orderly and staged transition to ensure that the industry has the assistance it needs while looking after the welfare of the animals and the owners during the transition process.
“We will provide for an orderly shutdown. We recognise that this cannot, and should not, happen overnight.”
Greens MP Dr Mehreen Faruqi was scathing of the industry, announcing the bill had the full support of her party.
“(The Greens) commend the New South Wales Government for having the guts to stand up for animals and to draw a line in the sand to end a sport that is built on the deaths of thousands of greyhounds every year,” Faruqi said.
“The special commission of inquiry report makes chilling reading.
“This sport cannot survive without the deaths of thousands of dogs. Justice McHugh’s report estimates that over the past 12 years 97,783 greyhounds were bred and at least 50 per cent to 70 per cent were deliberately killed simply because they never were, or no longer were, capable of being competitive. That is up to 68,448 dogs killed—more than 15 a day.
“Added to that we have the 10 per cent to 20 per cent of trainers who engage in live baiting and the 180 greyhounds a year suffering what is called “catastrophic injuries”, such as skull fractures or broken backs that result in their immediate death or euthanasia.
“A further 365 suffer major injuries each year. Forty per cent of greyhound pups born are killed because they do not have the instinct to race. These shocking statistics are entirely consistent with the information The Greens and animal welfare organisations have been receiving from tip-offs and whistleblowers for a number of years.
“Premier Mike Baird is right when he admits that there is genuinely no other option but to shut down the greyhound racing industry. The commission’s findings are clear that there are systemic, endemic and large-scale animal cruelty issues; there have been integrity and governance failings as well; and there is no confidence that this industry can be reformed.”
The industry was not without its support within the Council with the Labor Party, the Shooters Fishers and Farmers Party as well as the Christian Democrat Party all voicing their opposition of the ban.
“I think you’ve done the wrong thing. I wish that the Premier had of reconsidered, he hasn’t. I’m not stupid, I can count,” said Robert Brown of the Shooters, Fishers and Farmers Party.
“I know this bill is going to get up but I just say to you all, you know, karma is real. What goes around comes around.”
The honourable Peter Primrose, the Labor MP from Camden, argued the bill should not be passed and that the industry should be given the opportunity to reform.
“NSW Labor stands for two things: cleaning up the industry and keeping it alive for the vast majority of participants who have only ever done the right thing,” he said.
“Nobody condones animal cruelty. The vile practices of a few in the greyhound racing industry are sickening. The crooks should face life bans from the sport and time in prison.
“I repeat: The vile practices of a few in the greyhound racing industry make all of us sick to the stomach. Those responsible should be hit with life bans from the sport and should serve time in prison.
“Premier Mike Baird’s social media guru announced New South Wales Government policy on Facebook without any consultation with the thousands of people who rely on the greyhound industry for their livelihoods.
“Former High Court judge Justice Michael McHugh has provided 79 recommendations to drastically restructure the industry, which is a road map to improve animal welfare. It is the way forward and it should be implemented. At the very least, it should be considered.
“Greyhound racing provides employment to thousands of our State’s citizens and enjoyment to many tens of thousands. A cleaned up, reformed industry can continue to do that. Mr Baird and Mr Grant are criminalising the livelihood and hobby of thousands of New South Wales residents.
“They are not glamorous jobs but they provide honest livings for trainers, suppliers, part-time bar workers and showground employees.
“Those people are largely battlers who just want to make a living, feed their families and pay the bills. They do not deserve to be punished for the actions of a minority who do the wrong thing.”
Criticism has been hurled at the Baird government for pairing with the Greens to table the Greyhound Racing Prohibition Bill 2016 just ten minutes after the bill was distributed to councillors.
“One copy of the bill was made available to the Opposition at 10.50 a.m. today,” Primrose said.
“We have not had the opportunity to read the bill, let alone to consult or to seek advice from Parliamentary Counsel in relation to possible amendments.
“Even worse, today the Minister has come in at the directions of Premier Mike Baird and Deputy Premier Troy Grant and said this is an urgent bill. They did not even choose to make it available to Opposition members last evening when notice of the bill was given so the Opposition could at least have had the opportunity to review it.
“This is a House of review. Our job is to review legislation. That is why we are different to the lower House: that is our task. The Minister for Roads, Maritime and Freight moved that this bill is urgent, but did not provide the Opposition with a copy of it.
“In his second reading speech the Minister talked about consultation and working with an orderly transition, but there is little wonder people in the community are concerned.
“The Minister used those weasel words in this place in his second reading speech, yet the due process accorded to this Parliament under its standing orders has been totally abused by the way the Minister has introduced this legislation.
“They have been totally trashed by The Nationals and Liberals. How can we possibly be expected to go through this bill in any detail when we have not even been allowed to see a copy of it?”
The outlaw of greyhound racing within the state comes after Premier Baird and Deputy Premier and Minister for Racing Troy Grant announced the proposal to ban the sport on July 7 following the report from the Special Commission of Inquiry by Justice Michael McHugh.
The report painted a damning picture of the industry, claiming that up to 68,000 greyhounds have been killed over the past 12 years and that between 10-20 per cent of participants are involved in live baiting.
Since then the report has been heavily scrutinised by the public and the greyhound industry itself, with many of the facts and figures slammed for being inaccurate.
Notably, the report stated that up to 70 per cent of greyhounds are deemed wastage and discarded by the industry, however figures obtained from Greyhound Racing NSW (GRNSW) have indicated that the number is actually 6.9 per cent of dogs which are unnecessarily and humanely euthanised.
The Baird government has also faced criticism for stating that the industry has lost its social licence, a key argument which has subsequently led to the ban.
Industry stakeholders such as the NSW Greyhound Racing Industry Alliance said the abolishment of an entire industry based on the loss of an undefinable, impalpable social licence is a disgrace.
“The idea that a Government can ban a perfectly lawful racing industry, which operates in every state in Australia and in overseas countries with legal systems the same as Australia’s, on the basis that it has lost some form of ‘intangible and unwritten’ social licence would be a very worrying development to many in the community,” NSW Greyhound Breeders Owners and Trainers’ Association CEO Brenton Scott said in a previous statement.
“This is particularly so when there are no known legal criteria for the issuing and continuation of a ‘social licence’ and where respected authors have described it as an ‘intangible construct’.
“Our industry has widely identified the many factual errors in the report, in addition to the legal errors identified by our legal counsel.”
The greyhound racing industry has since taken the matter to the Supreme Court, aiming to have the Special Commission of Inquiry report made invalid and of no legal standing.
Barrister David Bennett QC is representing the greyhound industry and told a court on Tuesday that the report contained a number of factual errors and was based on flawed calculations.
The matter is due back in court on September 29.