I WOULD like to thank all those people who take the time to post comments about the articles I write. And, yes, this includes those who disagree with me, although not those who are just plain disagreeable.
A comment by John Tracey brought a wry smile to my face, suggesting the McHugh Commission report was being more subtle in its bias than blatant. My original headline was going to be titled ‘the subtle bias’, but while McHugh intended to be subtle, as John suggests, it just struck me as almost blatant.
The more I read the more I was struck by the overweening tone of the learned jurist looking down his nose at the hoi polloi involved in greyhound racing. Yes, I’m aware of Justice McHugh’s working class background, but he wouldn’t be the first to turn his back on his humble beginnings.
Substitute the words ‘horse racing’ or ‘live exporting’ for some of the comments he uses and we would be looking at a wholesale dismantling of almost anything involving animals.
I am suspicious of certain material which appears in the body of the report and is then meant to be deleted, inserted or replaced by way of Corrigendum which ends the entire report.
There are seven such corrections: four are replacements, two are inserts and one is a deletion, and it is the latter which is by far the most important.
In Vol 2, Paragraph 13.59 the report reads, ‘The Commission does not consider the greyhound industry in NSW is financially sustainable if there are but 593 meetings each year.’ It is this nail-in-the-coffin absolutist statement, one of the most prominent in the document, that is the only one to be officially totally deleted.
Surely the question to be asked is how did such a pivotal conclusion manage to make it all the way through the checks and balances prior to the delivery of the report, only to be almost immediately struck out? Did someone think no one would actually be bothered to read the report in its entirety, and even if they did would they also read the corrections section and wouldn’t notice such a major about-turn?
The blind acceptance of the alleged wastage figures surprised me. There does not appear to have been any effort made to properly substantiate the claimed numbers. They are estimates at best, simply because real figures do not exist. Even a cursory check would have found greyhounds which are supposedly dead are in fact very much alive, and living in the houses of their former owners or trainers or other adoptees.
On page 14 of Volume 2 of the report is a table supplied by Greyhounds Australasia of Litters registered per State/Territory. That table has been replaced in the Corrigendum by a new table of GRNSW Breeding figures, registered, named and raced pups: 2009-2015.
First thing to consider is that this second table notes, of the figures between 2004-2015, that there were, ‘3,103 more pups registered than reported whelped’. What? How the hell does that happen, and why didn’t someone, somewhere investigate the reasons?
Equally, the original table has 8,584 litters whelped in NSW between 2009 and 2015 with 54,079.2 pups as the result (the 0.2 is based on the fact Greyhounds Australia estimates every litter to contain 6.3 pups). By contrast, the GRNSW figures claim 8,415 litters whelped with 53,171 pups. Basically, GRNSW says there have been 169 fewer litters whelped than suggested by GA and 908 less pups. Are those 908 part of the alleged 68,000 dead?
As McHugh noted, ‘There is no precise correlation between these statistics and those supplied by GRNSW. The discrepancies are not readily explicable.’ (Vol 2, 11.40)
I get the impression the Commissioner, like the Premier, didn’t think there would be much in the way of general community opposition to the shutdown of greyhound racing. After all, from a purely political point of view Premier Baird would be aware the Liberal Party is not likely to lose votes as the assumption would be that the vast majority of greyhound supporters are likely to be Labor voters. The coalition National Party is only the junior partner anyway, so any disquiet among its members will likely be softened by their desire to stay in power alongside the Liberals.
Yet there has been a backlash against what is increasingly being seen as a wholesale attack on one industry. Not only has Luke Foley, the Leader of the Opposition announced the Labor Party would restore racing should it win office (shades of Premier Jack Lang), there is some disquiet among a handful of Nationals MPs, and media personalities such as Miranda Devine and Ray Hadley have gone into bat for the sport.
The next pivotal date for the industry is August 2 when parliament is due to actually debate the issue. Premier Baird and his circle clearly believe the fait accompli factor will win the day. Let us hope saner heads prevail.