A NSW parliamentary inquiry has been convened to inquire in to allegations of greyhound racing industry mismanagement, inappropriate distribution of TAB funds and widespread mistreatment of dogs in the state’s $50 million-a-year greyhound racing industry.
This inquiry is the result of lobbying from a group of NSW industry participants known as the “Greyhound Action Group”; the same group responsible for a “strike” of greyhound racing last year.
Through their urgings, an unlikely alliance between the NSW Greens and Shooters And Fishers Party has seen the motion for a Parliamentary Select Committee inquiry approved in the NSW Legislative Council. Greens MP John Kaye successfully moved a motion in the Parliament on Tuesday to establish the inquiry, saying it was clear that the industry was in a state of crisis.
“The greyhound industry in NSW is no stranger to controversy. Animal welfare scandals, shonky management practices and allegations of criminal involvement have caused considerable community concern in recent years,” he said. “A parliamentary inquiry will shine much-needed light on the greyhound racing code, which has been plagued by claims of mismanagement and animal mistreatment.”
Those comments are more than a slight deviation from the original agenda of the Greyhound Action Group (GAG) whose foremost aim is to have the NSW TAB Intercode funding model abolished. According to GAG’s own publications and its motto “Our Fair Share”, the purpose of lobbying for the inquiry was primarily to effect “changes to the Inter Code funding model; so that the revenues of NSW Greyhound racing are consistent with its contribution to TAB market performance. We are currently locked into a grossly unfair model signed off in 1998 for 99 years.”
Despite a TAB market share of 20%, the greyhound industry receives revenue equivalent to only 13% from the TAB distribution as the result of an agreement signed in the 90’s known as the TAB Inter Code. The agreement was signed during the privatisation of the NSW TAB to provide racing with a source of revenue and its 99 year period of enforcement was intended to give certainty over that funding. The agreement was signed by the heads of all three codes of racing in NSW and in the period since greyhound racing’s market share has grown considerably, mostly at the expense of harness racing.
Several reports including the Cameron Report submitted in 2008 have recommended the abolition of the fixed distribution model and the adoption of a funding model consistent with actual market share of TAB revenue. It is estimated the the fixed distribution model has cost the industry in excess of $125 million over the past 15 years, effectively meaning that greyhound racing is subsiding both harness and thoroughbred racing. Working on that assumption, the numbers involved make NSW greyhound racing the biggest sponsor of both thoroughbred and harness racing in the state.
NSW’s peak greyhound racing body, Greyhound Racing New South Wales (GRNSW); has also come under fire from GAG over alleged mismanagement of industry funds, questioning its governance over financial and integrity issues. GAG’s concerns have been echoed by former integrity auditor for GRNSW, Mr David Landa; who resigned last year criticising the role as compromised and unworkable.
However, the Greens Dr Kaye and Mr Borsak of the Shooters And Fishers Party, who will both sit on the committee; have established the terms of reference for the inquiry that are significantly more far reaching than the aims of GAG and have the potential for a pandora’s box of issues for greyhound racing in NSW.
This issues acording to Dr Kaye’s own motion to convene the inquiry are:
That a select committee be appointed to inquire into and report on greyhound racing in New South Wales, and in particular:
(a) the economic viability of the greyhound racing industry in New South Wales,
(b) the financial performance and conduct of the industry and of Greyhound Racing NSW including a comparison to other states of Australia,
(c) government initiatives and assistance measures to support the industry and comparison of assistance to other racing codes,
(d) the effectiveness of current industry regulation, including the level of autonomy of Greyhound Racing NSW,
(e) the selection process for the board of Greyhound Racing NSW,
(f) the effectiveness and accountability of the board and management of Greyhound Racing NSW,
(g) the effectiveness of the current arrangements for, and role of, the Integrity Auditor of Greyhound Racing NSW,
(h) the capability and performance of Greyhound Racing NSW and governance of the industry,
(i) the incidence of drug administration and doping in the industry and the efficacy of Greyhound Racing NSW’s control and testing processes,
(j) sale and breeding of greyhounds including the market conditions and welfare of animals,
(k) the welfare of animals in the industry and the role of Greyhound Racing NSW in establishing and enforcing standards of treatment of animals,
(l) financial incentives for reducing euthanasia and prosecutions for animal mistreatment,
(m) the adequacy and integrity of data collection in the industry, including the number of pups born, the number of dogs euthanased and injury rates, and
(n) any other related matter.
Clearly the scope of the inquiry far exceeds the expectations of many in the industry, including GAG’s own supporters; and has the potential to change the landscape of greyhound racing in NSW forever. No doubt following the trend of animal welfare activists in the USA and New Zealand, calls will be made for the inquiry to recommend the abolition of greyhound racing in the state. Certainly the involvement of the Greens, who are traditionally sympathetic to such lobbying; will be a cause of concern.
GRNSW were strategically trying to redirect media attention yesterday stating that they believe the “main focus of the inquiry should be on the TAB funding model”. GRNSW further claims that despite the financial difficulties, they have “embarked on a positive reform agenda that has seen advancements in the areas of industry regulation, integrity and animal welfare”.
No statement has been released from GAG since yesterday’s announcement. It remains to be seen if the inquiry they have instigated will achieve their aims or sound the death knell for New South Wales greyhound racing.
The committee is due to report back its findings in six months.