The Select Committee on Greyhound Racing in NSW (Committee) has released its First Report (Report). The Committee has made two findings and 18 recommendations.
ARG has reviewed the Report and provides the following summary to ensure industry participants are well informed.
The Economic Viability Of The Greyhound Racing Industry
The Committee made a finding that greyhound racing in NSW may be unsustainable in the current circumstances (Finding 1).
In the Report, the Committee refers to current industry funding, prize money levels, the Racing Distribution Agreement and inter-code agreement and the Cameron Report. The current arrangements under the inter-code agreement have been a cause for concern for many participants however, at this stage, no recommendations have been made to amend that agreement.
The Committee did make some interesting comments on the negotiation of the inter-code agreement by GRNSW. The Committee concluded that those involved in the negotiations failed to explain to participants the major components of the agreement that were negotiated.
Returning to the findings, as stated above, the Committee acknowledged that the current situation is due, in part, to factors outside the current management but it was also critical of the way the current management has conducted itself:
“The Committee is of the opinion that the difficulties the greyhound industry finds itself in are in part due to factors beyond the control of current management. The distribution of racing funds and lower tax rates in competing jurisdictions puts GRNSW at a competitive disadvantage. The Committee also notes that the current management has been involved with or perpetuated a number of decisions that have compromised the viability of the industry.”
The Committee has recommended that the Treasurer provide financial modelling of the economic impact on state revenue and the greyhound industry of a number of scenarios that best reflect optimum outcomes for the future of the racing industry (Recommendation 1).
Michael Eberand, a greyhound racing participant with extensive commercial and financial experience, prepared a submission and presentation for the Committee in respect to propositions for the NSW government to make changes to return the industry to sustainability. Eberand has kindly provided some of his time to ARG to explain what he thinks Recommendation 1 means for the greyhound industry and what approach he believes should be adopted to return the industry to sustainability.
“My view is that the final report is pleasing from the perspective that it is in effect a parliamentary recognition of the importance of greyhound racing to the state and its current financial predicament. Further, the Committee has recommended government support, with financial modelling to be conducted by Treasury, with a view to optimum outcomes for the greyhound racing industry.”
Eberand’s proposal is outlined on page 47 of the Report. In summary, Eberand describes his proposal as follows:
“My proposal is for the government to use differential tax (the extra tax earned by NSW Government in comparison to Victoria) to support a transition to a more market based TAB revenue funding model. The proposal was that the funding model would be broken down into fixed or variable components, similar to Victoria. The fixed would recognise thoroughbreds greater contribution to fixed costs/infrastructure; and be reviewed say three yearly; the variable would be purely market based and reward innovation and performance.”
Eberand is hoping that consideration is given to his proposal by Treasury but believes that even if it is not, it is clear that the Committee recognises the need for change.
“It remains to be seen whether Treasury work from that proposal or others, but regardless, it is clear that an optimal outcome for the industry is supported by the Committee in terms of its findings and recommendations.”
Eberand is hoping the government can deliver an assistance package for the industry and urges fellow participants to keep lobbying politicians.
“The government can effectively deliver an overall assistance package for the racing industries and assist with the development of the state economy at the same time. I believe that is where the Committee, Treasury and Government is heading. That being the case, it should be good news for the industry. In my view, it is now up to each participant, regardless of memberships and backgrounds, whether they are Action Group, the GBOTA, and particularly GBOTA as it is the largest representative body, clubs etc, to continue to meet local politicians and to lobby the government to deliver an outcome that returns the industry to its once great state.”
A second report will be produced by 30 June 2014 on the modelling and make any recommendations. The Greyhound Action Group (GAG) believes this second report will be a defining moment for the industry. Dennis Carl from GAG told ARG:
“Part 2 of the Select committees report on June 30 will be the defining moment for the Greyhound industry in NSW. The outcome of those findings will determine whether or not the Industry is to be financially sustainable in the future.”
GRNSW has stated that it:
“Looks forward to working with the Select Committee and Treasury on the financial modelling of options…the joint industry submission, led by GRNSW to the Select Committee made a number of recommendations to address long term viability and GRNSW argues that these must be among the options modelled.”
The Board And Management Of GRNSW
The second finding of the Committee is that the current management and operational model under which the industry operates needs substantial review and restructure (Finding 2).
The Report referred to the current composition of the GRNSW Board and its selection process and the various criticisms made by the industry. These criticisms alluded to “jobs for the boys” and the secrecy of the selection process. Various criticisms were also made by participants of the board and their financial management of greyhound racing in NSW. In this respect, The Gardens situation was analysed as a case study.
Participants also stated that GRNSW does not effectively communicate with participants and involve them in consultation. Participants were also critical of the level of autonomy held by GRNSW. Essentially, it is autonomous to the extent of having “no watchdog”. Concerns were also raised about the independence of the Integrity Auditor and the application of penalties and offences under the Greyhound Racing Rules (Rules).
The Committee recognised that changes need to be made to improve the structure and accountability of GRNSW as well as the provision of greater consultation with the industry. The Committee stated that an independent review should be undertaken of the financial management of greyhound racing.
The Committee acknowledged that the selection process for the board and convening of the selection panel needs to be reformed. The Committee agreed with concerns that question the fairness of the process, including the independence of panel members. The Committee stated that a review should be undertaken to ensure that an objective and independent selection panel is convened.
The Committee agreed that there should be a mix of independents and greyhound participants on the Board and has recommended the government take this into account when reviewing the selection process of the members of GRNSW (Recommendation 2).
The Committee agreed that GRNSW needs to engage in stronger consultation with the industry to ensure well-informed decision making (Recommendation 3).
The Committee also stated that GRNSW needs to have greater accountability. To this end, the Committee said that ICAC should have authority to investigate the greyhound racing industry and GRNSW should be placed under their oversight (Recommendation 4).
The Committee noted that it believes the current appeal structure for participants is sufficient but that penalties and offences under the Rules have not been applied consistently or fairly. The Committee was alarmed by the persecution of whistle blowers and agitators in the industry (the examples referred to include the matters of Tom Astbury, Chris Arletos and Robert Whitelaw). The Committee stated that GRNSW should delete the rule which allows GRNSW to hold liable those that engage in conduct they deem detrimental or prejudicial to greyhound racing (Recommendation 5).
GAG has welcomed these recommended measures:
“Applying accountability to GRNSW is critical, the absolute independence of the Integrity Auditor likewise.
GAG also stated that in relation to the selection process for the Board, if the review finds that two additional Directors are to be appointed, they should be elected by licensed greyhound racing participants.
“Would straight up front change all the administration. They’ve had the chance to get NSW spot on. I would start straight at the top and shaft the lot of them. I’m talking from the head honcho, right through the stewards, right through the administration…I would wipe them all out.”
This was in response to a question about the Inquiry and what changes should be made to the greyhound racing industry in NSW.
The Report outlined issues raised with the integrity of greyhound racing. The submissions to the Committee, referenced in the Report, noted the following concerns:
- that the administration of drugs to greyhounds is still being practiced in the industry (evidence of Dr Zammit and Dr Humphries);
- the different standards across the States concerning the permitted levels of prohibited substances, including testosterone;
- the existing swabbing procedures and that they are not tamper proof. Some participants called for the return of the ‘red marble’ system to allow more random testing;
- the confusion of industry participants about which substances were banned and withholding periods. Particular reference was made to therapeutic substances to keep bitches off season;
- penalties not applied fairly;
- the failure to undertake regular kennel inspections;
- the independence of the Integrity Auditor
The Committee commended the efforts of GRNSW to increase its drug testing but noted that there was still a substantial difference between the level of drug testing in greyhound racing compared to the two other racing codes. The Committee stated that there needs to be a substantial increase in the quantity of drug testing and that a proportion of the increased swabs be allocated randomly (Recommendation 8).
The Committee noted the concerns of participants surrounding the use of therapeutic drugs and stated that GRNSW should provide more information to participants regarding the administration of therapeutic substances for greyhounds (Recommendation 9).
The Committee acknowledged that there is a defined penalty system in place. However, to ensure transparency and that the Rules are applied in a fair and consistent manner, the penalty table and how it applies to each case should be included when publishing the outcome of hearings (Recommendation 6).
The Committee expressed concern that routine inspections historically haven’t been carried out. The evidence of one participant demonstrated that they had only had one kennel inspection in 55 years of training. GRNSW indicated to the Committee that it will conduct kennel inspections once every two years. The Committee endorsed this target, stating that kennel inspections should increase and GRNSW should ensure they are conducted at least once every two years (Recommendation 10).
In relation to the Integrity Auditor, it was noted that the current situation is that the Integrity Auditor is selected and directed by the Board and therefore lacks independence. Former Integrity Auditor David Landa was strongly critical of the lack of independence afforded to the position and resigned in 2012. Proposals were raised by participants for a new independent integrity body which would appoint an Integrity Commissioner. GRNSW recommended a model based on Victoria that sees one body responsible for all the racing codes.
The Committee shared the participants concerns about the current role and function of the Integrity Auditor and supported the suggestion of GRNSW to establish a Racing Integrity Commissioner based on the Victorian model. If that was not adopted, then the fall-back recommendation is to establish a new Racing Integrity Commissioner to oversee the greyhound racing industry (Recommendations 11, 12 and 13).
In relation to welfare issues surrounding greyhound racing in NSW, the Committee found that the incidence of cruelty and neglect is minimal and that, on the whole, greyhound owners take great care and pride in their dogs.
The Report noted that the RSPCA has welcomed the welfare initiatives adopted by GRNSW but believes they do not address key welfare issues associated with current breeding, rearing, kennelling and training practices.
In relation to over breeding concerns, the RSPCA submitted a proposal, which is found on page 100 of the Report. The proposal sets out ways to improve the quality of breeding programs and breeding limitation strategies.
The Committee noted the concerns about the lack of detail in the Joint Animal Welfare Strategy and recommended that GRNSW investigates placing limits on the frequency of litters and maximum number of litters permitted for each breeding female (Recommendation 14).
The Committee also accepted that the socialisation of greyhounds for the successful integration of them back into the community after their racing career was necessary. The Committee felt that this is an area of animal welfare that needs to be more fully addressed and that GRNSW should undertake further review of best practice in this area with the view to including socialisation in its animal welfare strategy (Recommendation 15).
In relation to the concerns raised about racing track injuries, track design, track surface and provision of race track vet services the Committee recommended that GRNSW develop and implement industry standards for best practice for race track design, maintenance and the provision of veterinary services (Recommendation 16).
The Report also refers to the practice of live baiting and recommended a review of the relevant section of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act 1979 to ensure the provisions within the legislation prevent live baiting from occurring and allow for effective enforcement (Recommendation 17).
Lastly, in relation to greyhound adoption, the Committee expressed its support for the work done by community and privately operated greyhound centres. However, the Committee stated that GRNSW and/or the Government needs to do more to increase the number of greyhounds rehomed at the end of their racing career (Recommendation 18).
Concerns were also raised in some submissions to the Inquiry about the export of greyhounds from Australia. The Committee noted the concerns about the export of greyhounds but stated it was an issue for the Australian government.
Industry Response So Far
GAG has welcomed the Report and its findings:
“Meanwhile the findings posted on March 28 give hope that the performance and construction of GRNSW is to be under review. In other words the concerns expressed by participants at numerous hearings and multiple submissions have been taken on board and a number of recommendations has ensued.The findings and recommendations so far detailed will alert GRNSW that the participant’s views have been listened to, and are now very well known, by the selection committee and the Government and to the Industry at large. Thanks must go to Robert Borsak MLC, whose concerns for the participants, at all levels of the Sport of Greyhound Racing in NSW, enabled this whole process to see the light of day.”
GRNSW has welcomed the Report and has stated that it is:
“Pleasing that a number of the recommendations build on the work already undertaken by GRNSW or are supportive of the position put forward by GRNSW to the Select Committee…these recommendations will require a considered approach and GRNSW is looking forward to working with the Select Committee and the NSW Government to achieve this.”
The Government response to the Report is due on 29 September 2014. The Report has recommended that the Minister for Tourism, Major Events, Hospitality and Racing confer with GRNSW regarding the implementations of Recommendations 3, 5, 6, 8, 9, 10, 15, 16 and that the Government response to the Report include a statement on the outcomes of such discussions (Recommendation 7).
As previously mentioned, the Second Report mentioned in Recommendation 1 (financial modelling) is to be tabled by 30 June 2014.