SUPPOSE breeding suddenly increased by 20%? Not likely, but if it did each state will be able to plug into a computer program which will then assess all the figures and the rules and come up with the number of races it should be running, and a few other things besides. That’s the aim of a “scenario based model that identifies the impact of change on Australian racing industry sustainability” which Greyhounds Australasia has commissioned consultants KPMG to produce.
KPMG won the tender for the job, no doubt helped by their exposure to racing in NSW and Queensland, and will report by the end of February next. However, since Queensland is going down the gurgler and their NSW advice is yet to be seen, they are under considerable pressure.
Basically, KPMG is to gather up all the data about greyhounds throughout the country and work out which factors affect what outcomes. That then leads to the preparation of a program which tells managers the likely impact of any trends they notice or delve into. Especially about breeding.
That’s a big ask, given that events of the past few months show that almost none of the current data on greyhounds is reliable. A lot of guesswork will be needed.
GA has also told KPMG that “a central challenge facing the industry is avoiding excessive breeding and eradicating unnecessary euthanasia of greyhounds”. However, as we have been at pains to point out in this column, the words “excessive” and “unnecessary” have yet to be defined, and the term “overbreeding” has been plucked out of the air by lawyers, amongst others. Additionally, we cannot be sure of the end effect of the several measures already put in place to restrict or improve breeding (a limit on litters per dam, no breeding after eight years of age, etc).
KPMG must also pay attention to a range of existing factors, including “the requirement and strategies for increasing average greyhound career starts”. Hello! Do they propose raising dropped muscles or effecting leg transplants? While running more veterans races is fine, already there is a solid argument that many racers have too many starts, not too few. Examples abound of dogs competing twice or more each week, their performances degrading each time. Others will get stale. The vast majority of stayers find once a week too much, as we have evidenced several times in these columns. Indeed, to increase average starts is to risk extra non-chasing penalties.
So, in a climate of poor data, undefined breeding terms and unknown field standards, KPMG is then tasked to “determine the minimum number of greyhounds required to meet wagering and broadcasting obligations in each jurisdiction (state and territory)”. Presumably, it will follow that the results of that equation will tell us how much breeding should take place. (Note that the same question has been posed at the NSW Special Commission).
In the event that KPMG succeeds in doing all these sums, and in providing the tools, what will happen?
The probable answer is not very much. The industry will be seen to be “doing something” but action from state to state will be variable and possibly argumentative. Should X reduce breeding while Y keeps going? And, if so, how and by how much? Will breeding rights be traded like taxi licenses? Will A, B and C care about what happens to race fields in X, Y and Z? What might happen to smaller states where even minor changes would produce big negative impacts? If a state is in decline, should it get extra support? Will Paul Wheeler be told where to send the hundreds of youngsters he produces each year? I don’t think so. This is fanciful stuff.
In any case, without serious efforts to create an authoritative national body – which GA is not – consistency will be impossible to achieve and the public is not likely to be impressed, which is the objective of the exercise.
Irrespective of the actual totals, the basic point is that there will always be dogs that are surplus to racing needs and they deserve sensitive handling. Top of the list must be re-homing – which also means maximum attention to early husbandry to ensure that all dogs are reasonably suited to finding a new home. Anything else is a bonus.
In fact, rather than using a number cruncher like KPMG, I would much rather see this exercise conducted by people like the Working Dog Alliance team which did a terrific job of identifying the serious factual and cultural shortcomings amongst the trainer group. After all, today’s big challenge is a dog-handling problem, not one of computer programs and wonky statistics.
Meantime, with only a couple of months at its disposal and the nation to cover, you have to wonder how any consultant would be able to do a thorough job, even with good figures.
Note: On request, information on the October consultant’s brief was kindly supplied by GA but it is only now starting to gain more general publicity. It remains a big worry that most discussions at GA meetings never see the light of day. Its secretive practices are not acceptable in this day and age. Nor was its earlier confidential plan to arbitrarily cut breeding and racing activity by 40%.
It’s not just racing
Just on the subject of co-ordination amongst authorities, a guy trying to organise better safety on Australian beaches has come up with a plan to post the same signage everywhere, only to run foul of bureaucracies.
The Australian quoted him on December 5 in an article by Trent Dalton on beach rips: “People who saw (the plan) recognised it worked,” he says. “But bureaucrats and councils just couldn’t see how much standardised signage could save lives. You’d have different councils, different authorities in charge and everybody wanted to do it their way. We should be able to go to any beach in Australia and know what to look for.”
Many more people die in rips than from sharks. But it seems that getting authorities to harmonise their efforts is a disease that is hard to overcome. So far, racing has not managed to do it either.
New face, less cash
In a time of turmoil the Queensland government has found a new racing minister with the unusual name of Grace Grace (actually Ignazia Grace). She is the daughter of an Italian migrant cane cutter and a former union official with no known racing experience. Her Brisbane electorate runs into Albion Park.
The former minister, Bill Byrne, has moved to the Police portfolio.
Meantime, under the care of temporary KPMG appointee, Ian Hall, Queensland prize money has been chopped across the board in an effort to balance the books. Greyhounds will be 2% worse off.