The Chairman of the upcoming parliamentary inquiry into greyhound racing, Robert Borsak, has never had any involvement within the industry. However, even as an outsider, he can see that things need to change in order to ensure the survival of our great sport.
Greens MP John Kaye successfully moved a motion in the Parliament last month to establish an inquiry. The inquiry was originally sought by the NSW Greyhound Action Group (GAG) to combat the inferior monetary percentage the sport receives, due to the binding inter-code agreement that dictates prizemoney distribution between the three racing codes and the alleged mismanagement of the sport by Greyhound Racing New South Wales (GRNSW).
Borsak, a member of the Shooters and Fishers Party, explains how he was originally informed of the plight of the NSW greyhound racing industry and why he was so enthusiastic to assist.
“I had representation from the Greyhound Action Group probably 6 or 8 months ago”, Borsak said.
“They were going around the Parliament talking to various people about the plight of the greyhound industry…we decided this was something worth looking into”.
“What really made me take interest was that Bob Whitelaw came in and argued the case very well and we thought it was well and truly worthwhile. We are great supporters of rural NSW and this is an industry that really exists with 36 odd country tracks, so it struck a chord and we thought we could do some good”.
The concern of some participants is the fact that Dr. Kaye seems hell-bent on uncovering alleged animal welfare scandals and criminal involvement within the sport, with much of the attention shifting away from the original aims of the Greyhound Action Group. Borsak, who had approached various other parties before the Greens, is confident that this will not be the case.
“When Dr. Kaye got involved he said that he had issues that he wanted to put on the table. To be perfectly frank, unless you entertain his issues, you won’t get his vote or you won’t get the votes of all the Greens. If you don’t get the vote of all the Greens then you won’t get the inquiry up because the government decided not to support it”.
“I spoke to the Greyhound Action Group and they said as far as they were concerned they didn’t think there was anything untoward in that type of arrangement. They all love their dogs and treat their dogs properly so they were comfortable with some terms of reference relating to animal welfare in there”.
“That is the cost of getting the Greens support if you want to do it”.
Borsak went on to explain that the focus of the inquiry will remain, foremost, on the inter-code agreement and the alleged mismanagement of the industry. However, he noted that the decisions reached from the Inquiry will also depend on the submissions that are received.
“It (Animal Welfare) is not a key part of what we are looking at. We are looking at the overall viability and long term sustainability of the industry itself and the animal welfare part is something that will be referred to”.
“I can’t pre-empt what the submissions are going to say and, equally, I cannot pre-empt what conclusions the committee is going to come to. But, I wouldn’t be putting too much of an emphasis on the animal welfare side. What is more important is to look at the issues around the inter-code agreement, issues around the governance and maybe explore where the industry thinks it is going in the future”.
While he may not have had any prior involvement in the sport, Borsak is now up to speed with the dilemmas of the industry and is determined to do what he can
“The way it has been explained to me is that the industry is trying to exist on an ever-declining share of dollars, in the sense that the share of dollars is in-equable given the level of income it’s earning and the overall pool of income from betting in general”
“To my way of thinking it is outrageous. When I raised it with the minister he said ‘Oh well it’s a private deal and we can’t do anything about it’. The reality is that the government could do something if it wanted to. That’s really what we are trying to do- expose the whole process”.
“This is not an exercise about going after the thoroughbred or harness racers. It’s an exercise to examine the state and condition that we find the greyhound racing industry in and its long term viability- or lack of it. The way I see it at the moment, is that the way it is going, it is not going to be viable”.
Borsak also accepts the claims made regarding the mismanagement of GRNSW. However, he does explain that he wants to enter the inquiry with an unbiased mind in regards to the controlling body.
“I accept on face value what is being said and that’s why we put them (GRNSW) into the terms of reference. I don’t want to pre-judge anything, I have to wait and see the actual submissions and then hear the evidence and we will draw conclusions from that. I hear what the Greyhound Action Group is saying so we will give it the proper weight”.
“These are the things that count as far as I am concerned. How the industry is being administered, how it is being financed and whether there is a plan for the industry in the future. It just seems to me that the industry is dying on the vines”.
“I’m assuming the recommendations of the committee will be for a reorganisation of the industry and a refinancing of the industry. Whether GRNSW needs to be restructured or not, I don’t know. I have had a lot of things said to me, but I don’t want to go into it with a biased mind”.
If there is one thing that Borsak does not understand, it is the mixed response that the inquiry has endured from the participants within the industry that it is trying to assist. If people love their dogs like they say they do, then it shouldn’t be an issue.
“What are you worried about?”
“I can’t understand why anyone would have a mixed response to it. If the industry is in a mess, which it is, and this government is just sitting on top of the mess just like the last lot did, why would people run around saying we shouldn’t have an inquiry or that they are worried about the results of an inquiry?”
“Why should people fixate on the animal welfare part when 90% of the inquiry is in relation to the real problems and where the industry is going?”
“People should not be fixating on the animal welfare side of things. What they should be doing is trying to come up with any way they can put submissions in that will help their cause. It is not just the number of submissions but the quality of submissions you get. This inquiry is definitely not about animal welfare- that is definitely the case”.
Borsak agrees with the Greyhound Action Group, and a large percentage of participants, that now is the time for change.
“I think it is timely to have an inquiry into the greyhound industry. I think it’s timely to expose the inter-code agreement and what went on when it was actually signed off”.
“At the end of the day, we will draw correct conclusions based on the evidence we get…the area we are looking at will be thoroughly examined and we will make recommendations to the government. In the end it is up to the government to do something about it because they are the ones that run the state and make the law”.
“The government every now and then finding a reason to throw a million or two into the pot, or selling off another racetrack to tide it over another four or five years, isn’t the way to go”
“Hopefully we can come up with a formula that the government might be happy to do something about”.
Overall, it is obvious that Robert Borsak is committed to improving the industry in whatever way he can. They say that when you are working too closely to a puzzle, sometimes you fail to see a clear solution. This may be the case with the NSW greyhound racing industry which has failed at repairing and rebuilding itself in the past. So, why not let someone who is enthusiastic about the cause assist before it is too late? The industry is do or die at present and this is definitely the most that has been done to fix the sport in a very long time. If participants can co-operate and communicate rather than retaliate, perhaps we can prove what we have never been able to before- that we can work together to change the industry for the better.