NEW South Wales opposition leader Luke Foley is urging all State Nationals MPs to join with Labor as the fight to save the greyhound racing industry reaches the eleventh hour.
Legislation to ban the sport within NSW from July 1, 2017, as announced by Premier Mike Baird earlier this month, is expected to go before parliament on Tuesday. On the same day, thousands of supporters from the greyhound industry are set to hold a rally at Hyde Park and present a petition opposing the ban to Foley.
With the petition thought to have close to 30,000 signatures within a matter of weeks, Foley said it sends a clear message.
“It reveals that the good people in the greyhound industry have a lot of community support,” Foley told Australian Racing Greyhound.
“What impact it will have on the parliamentary vote I don’t know and I have to make the point that expressions of sympathy from members of parliament are nice, but ultimately useless…MPs need to vote against the ban.
“I have had private discussions with a number of [National Party MPs] and I am encouraging them to work with us to save this industry and to give it a future operating to very high standards of animal welfare.
“But at this stage I just don’t know how many will come with us.”
Foley was highly critical of National Party Leader Troy Grant, the Deputy Premier and Minister for Racing, for agreeing to go along with Baird’s ban which will result in the loss of more than 1700 full time jobs, more than 1000 of which are in regional areas.
“I think this entire exercise reflects badly on Mr Grant…[he] has completely sold out regional communities,” Foley said.
“A majority of tracks are in the bush…for the life of me I cannot understand a National Party leader supporting a shut down of an industry that is worth $335 million a year in our state and provides pleasure to many tens of thousands of people.
“I can understand that greyhound racing has never formed part of Mike Baird’s life experience, but there is no excuse for the National Party leader because greyhound racing is an important part of the social fabric of so many country towns.
“He should not have allowed the Liberal leader to get away with this.”
Foley also slammed the controlling body of the sport, Greyhound Racing NSW (GRNSW), for failing to ensure animal welfare and integrity standards were maintained at a high level.
“The good people, the thousands of good men and women, have been let down by their regulator,” he said.
“There is nothing inherently cruel about greyhound racing as such. If there has been a failure to stamp out acts of animal cruelty then that has been a failure of the government appointed regulator.
“Particularly when you consider government coffers are boosted by over $30 million every year by revenue from greyhound racing, it is a government responsibility to ensure that our laws, regulations and resources are there to ensure animal welfare is protected.
“Many people are shattered and devastated… people are still shocked and somewhat disbelieving… I am commonly asked how this can happen in a free and democratic country, that an entire industry is outlawed by a government?
“…it was done in a sneaky and underhanded way.”
Foley re-iterated that a total closure of the industry would have a devastating impact, with the Labor Party leader confident that there are steps which could be taken to clean up the sport.
“I think the industry has to be given a chance,” Foley said.
“I do think there is a model there that can work into the future. An integrity commission that looks after the regulatory functions and is seperate to a body like GRNSW which looks after the corporate end is a sensible suggestion.
“It’s obscene that they are looking to partner with a crematorium, such will be the level of wastage under Mr Baird’s plan.
“What the Premier tells us is an animal welfare plan will probably see the mass slaughter of up to 12,000 greyhounds.
“There are a range of options for the future and none of them have to involve a total shutdown of the industry next year and I am very critical of the fact that Mr Baird and Mr Grant have failed to consider options beyond a total shutdown at the end of June.”