The greyhound industry should be wary of racing inquiries

IT IS normal practice for governments to set up inquiries and reviews only when they already know what the outcome will be.

People doing such jobs are usually classed as “sound”, to use a term favoured by Sir Humphrey Appleby of Yes Minister* fame. Governments and Ministers do not like surprises.

Those jobs in NSW and Queensland are being carried out now by small teams of legal people – judges, barristers and policemen – looking into the live baiting and related scandals. So far, so good.

Yet the briefs to the reviewers actually go further than that. The Queensland review, for example, has to look into “maintaining a social license with the community” and “promoting integrity and public confidence” in the industry.

NSW goes even further and asks the team to “develop and improved model of governance for the industry.” Victoria has not established a separate team but its ongoing tribunals are tasked in much the same way.

These are very big challenges, yet all the teams are essentially legalistic in nature, staffed by people who are no doubt very good at their day jobs (past or present), but completely lacking in hands-on experience in running a commercial enterprise, or in the racing industry.

Having established and proved out the “facts”, the teams are then required to translate those findings into meaningful ways of structuring and managing the industry.

Are they qualified to do that? At face value, hardly. All these team members have spent their careers interpreting and arguing the toss about rules that someone else has set up – often to the extent of debating the meaning of a word or a phrase.

They are not charged with achieving the success of the industry involved. That is someone else’s problem.

The original purpose of the law does have some relevance but only to the extent that it is reflected in the detail of those same phrases. Even then, that is still a contentious area – as illustrated by the fact that the High Court, with the nation’s best legal brains, frequently comes out with a 4:3 majority decision. In lower courts, many decisions are reversed on appeal. Hardly definitive, is it?

How, then, will it be possible for the reviews to come up with better ways of structuring an industry about which they know relatively little – not in any direct sense. Particularly so when none have any experience in operating businesses.

By default, as usually happens, the respective Ministers will be able to select those bits they like from the reports and do what they were going to do in the first place.

Even then, neither the NSW or Queensland Ministers come from a commercial background (one is Army, the other Police) so how can we expect them to develop concepts which best advantage the industry in the long term? Their political affiliations may or may not help in that task, but will tend to confuse the issues anyway.

Bear in mind some of the history of reviews and inquiries in racing.

    • A review of the use of betting exchanges by a task force of all state senior public servants found that they would constitute a clear and present danger to racing integrity (with opposed). They were WRONG, and ignored UK evidence to the contrary.
    • The former Australian Jockey Club (now ATC) and its consultant, Access Economics, predicted a huge loss of income and the failure of Australian racing were betting exchanges to be licensed. Completely WRONG.
    • NSW greyhounds Chairman, Percy Allen, warned participants in a speech at the Greyhound Social Club to boycott Betfair and online bookmakers. He was WRONG. NSW now welcomes income from these sources.
    • The then-chairman of Queensland Racing, the boss of UNiTAB (now (UTAB) and the chairman of QGRA (now part of Racing Queensland) strongly opposed the arrival of Betfair. UNiTAB threatened to start up its own exchange if Betfair were ever licensed. It never did. They were all WRONG.
    • The last review of NSW greyhound and harness racing (by a barrister) called for the amalgamation of greyhound and harness stewards, something the government accepted. They were all WRONG. The change proved much less efficient and much more costly and was later reversed.
    • chose to charge online bookmakers a percentage of their profits. A leading management consultant employed by RV supported that approach. They were both WRONG. RV and others are now much better off with a share of turnover.
    • The government, and its Competition unit, ruled in favour of charging online bookmakers a fee based on profits rather than turnover. WRONG again.
    • Consultants employed by NT bookmakers “proved” to the Productivity Commission that they would face a fate worse than death if they could not pay fees based on profits. WRONG – at least from the industry’s viewpoint. The online group has grown substantially in numbers and turnover since that time, even though it mostly pays fees on turnover.
    • The Productivity Commission agreed with the above submissions from NT bookmakers that charging fees on profits would be the best way to go. WRONG. The industry is much better off with fees based on turnover.
    • The Productivity Commission favoured the NT bookmakers position because it was the most “efficient” (ie lowest cost), but failed to consider the impact on the industry as a whole. It was WRONG. The PC incorrectly regarded wagering as an industry in itself when it is no more than one of many services provided to the racing industry.
    • The Minster outlawed use of a betting exchange only to be shot down by the High Court. The Minister and his advisors were all WRONG.

In fact, over the last decade, the only significant, correct decisions were those made by to charge fees on turnover (validated by the High Court), by NT to license online bookmakers and therefore invigorate a moribund wagering sector, and Tasmania to license Betfair, which punters were using anyway.

All these measures were strongly opposed by other governments and the remainder of the industry, who were all WRONG.

In total, governments, the racing industry and its advisors have proved remarkably incompetent at reaching decisions which stand the test of the law, and of financial benefit. They all have a common thread, which is to ignore consumer preferences.

The current reviews, which start public hearings shortly, may well produce some good answers. Whether they will be enough is doubtful.

*For those interested, here is a BBC transcript of the relevant bits of Sir Humphrey’s advice to Minister Hacker.

“Responding to a report with unwelcome findings: the ‘Yes Minister’ method.

Sir Humphrey: Of course. You simply discredit them. … You point out that the research could be used to put unwelcome pressure on the government because it could be misinterpreted. … You say it would be better to wait for a wider and more detailed study over a longer timescale. … Now in Stage Two you go on to discredit the evidence … You say it leaves some important questions unanswered, that much of the evidence is inconclusive, that the figures are open to other interpretations, that certain findings are contradictory, and that some of the main conclusions have been questioned. …

Minister Hacker: But to make accusations of this sort – you’d have to go through it with a fine toothcomb.

Sir Humphrey: No, no, no. You can say all these things without reading it. There’s always some questions unanswered.

Minister Hacker: Such as?

Sir Humphrey: Well, the ones that weren’t asked. [Beams]

Minister Hacker: And that’s Stage Two?

Sir Humphrey: Yes. Now in Stage Three you undermine recommendations. “Not really a basis for long term decisions, not sufficient information to base a valid assessment, not really a need for a fundamental rethink of existing policy, broadly speaking it endorses current practice” – all that sort of thing.

Minister Hacker: And that always does the trick?

Sir Humphrey: Nearly always.

Minister Hacker: Suppose it doesn’t?

Sir Humphrey: Then you move on to Stage Four… Now, in Stage Four, you discredit the man who produced the report. Off the record, of course. You say that he is harbouring a grudge against the government or that he’s a publicity-seeker or, better still, that he used to be a consultant to a multi-national company.

Minister Hacker: Supposing he wasn’t?

Sir Humphrey: Then he’s hoping to be. Everyone is hoping to be a consultant to a multi-national. Or he’s trying for a knighthood, or a Chair, or a Vice-Chancellorship..Really, Minister, there are endless possibilities”.

Source: Excerpt from the BBC satirical series, ‘Yes, Minister’ episode entitled ‘The Greasy Pole’.

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Mwk
Mwk
6 years ago

Reading what’s in today’s Courier Mail on some of the received submissions has peeved me..you would think after 37 years training ,breeding and racing plus seeing hundreds of people who I checked dogs for I would of seen and heard a lot…I know their are cruel people out there but sticking lit matches in a dogs anus to get them jumping and paying someone $10 to hit their dog over the head with a hammer seems like a far fetched story and the people who made these sort of claims need to show their faces…I met some who for financial… Read more »

Dezzey
Dezzey
6 years ago

I’m half way through reading the report. Perhaps you should read it as well Bruce before dismissing. The inquiry is into welfare, not prizemoney, betting allocations, tax and track conditions that you historically write about. A Special inquiry has the power to comment and recommend where there is “overwhelming circumstantial evidence”.

Mwk
Mwk
6 years ago

Now we have a positive swab sample a for EPO in two of Mini Finns dogs .. If sample b is pos then Life ban.

Dezzey
Dezzey
6 years ago

Mwk I think you’ll find the quote about “getting a bloke to drill a dog’s head” was recorded from one of the live baiters on ABC.

Mwk
Mwk
6 years ago

Someone talking crap ..who said it and who is the person doing it? If they don’t name names it just hear say…that is something if true you would think authorities wouldn’t stop till they found that so called person.

Dezzey
Dezzey
6 years ago

Mwk He’s been charged so let’s hope he spills the beans.

Hugh_
Hugh_
6 years ago

Mwk Is it actually hard to believe?  I don’t know what the evidence is for that particular claim, but that level of cruelty is not difficult to believe after watching a couple of guys on the 4 corners documentary stamp a baby possum into the ground, laugh about it, and then laugh about the fact that it caused the mother distress.  So don’t kid yourself.  There are a lot of people that are not only indifferent to animal suffering, but enjoy inflicting it.  Perhaps you find it hard to believe because you think cruelty to a greyhound is somehow more… Read more »

Hugh_
Hugh_
6 years ago

Suck it up.  Your sport was rotten, so others have had to clean it up for you.  This is what you get for either a) participating in breaches of animal welfare or b) turning a blind eye to said breaches for decades.

Mwk
Mwk
6 years ago

See this site is a greyhound site and the fact your on it proves how many tree huggers are making waves…and I’m telling you that they can get all the submissions they like but it’s all hear say in court unless they persons have evidence I’m not saying it never happened because like any sport or business or industry their are brainless idiots…and I can assure you their are some in greyhound racing and they will be caught.

Hugh_
Hugh_
6 years ago

Mwk They will be caught will they?  And what did it take for them to get caught?  “Tree huggers” setting up hidden cameras.  What were you and other people in your industry doing to catch these people?  Absolutely nothing.  NOTHING.

Mwk
Mwk
6 years ago

Yes they will be caught mate doesn’t matter how but when..I’m saying in my time I have never heard of or seen those things done not everyone’s a bad apple ..even you tree huggers have hidden secrets ..because your a tree hugger doesn’t mean your good person.

Hugh_
Hugh_
6 years ago

Mwk It does matter how, because you speak derisively of “tree huggers” yet you express a desire to see these people brought to justice.  The “tree huggers” that you view with disdain are the ones that have made that happen.  So many people within the industry simultaneously condemning the actions of “bad apples” and animal activists.  Pretty poor form.  How about accepting a little responsibility?  Everyone just wants to point the finger at everyone else.  Not everyone is a bad apple but there are certainly a significant number of bad apples and the culture within the sport was “look the… Read more »

Mwk
Mwk
6 years ago

I never said anything about live baiting this is about the match thing .. Don’t worry I have heard of live baiting and I’m sure the situation will stop now fingers crossed .. Tree hugger is prob wrong words sorry about that it’s that while there were all these people at the unreg track doing what the video showed their were probably many more on a reg track doing the right thing but no one want to hear about that…not everyone should be tared with the same brush.

Hugh_
Hugh_
6 years ago

Mwk Ok that’s fair enough, my bad for extrapolating your comments to the live baiting.  I guess all I’m saying is, even without knowing the source of this match up the butt story, it’s not hard to believe that something like that would happen when clearly there are quite a high number of people (perhaps/probably a minority, but still a disturbingly high number I think you would agree) who are comfortable being incredibly cruel to animals.  And thus simply dismissing that anecdote with “that’s crap” is a bit misguided, or perhaps just defensive, in my opinion. Given what we’ve already… Read more »

Mwk
Mwk
6 years ago

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Dezzey
Dezzey
6 years ago

Hugh_ Mwk I’m flabbergasted when insiders make the statement  “http://www.australianracinggreyhound.com/australian-greyhound-racing/animal-welfare-australian-greyhound-racing/bundaberg-incident-dumb-and-embarrassing-but-thats-all-so-far/63588”

Mwk
Mwk
6 years ago

Reading what’s in today’s Courier Mail on some of the received submissions has peeved me..you would think after 37 years training ,breeding and racing plus seeing hundreds of people who I checked dogs for I would of seen and heard a lot…I know their are cruel people out there but sticking lit matches in a dogs anus to get them jumping and paying someone to hit their dog over the head with a hammer seems like a far fetched story and the people who made these sort of claims need to show their faces…I met some who for financial reasons… Read more »

Dezzey
Dezzey
6 years ago

I’m half way through reading the report. Perhaps you should read it as well Bruce before dismissing. The inquiry is into welfare, not prizemoney, betting allocations, tax and track conditions that you historically write about. A Special inquiry has the power to comment and recommend where there is “overwhelming circumstantial evidence”. 

Mwk
Mwk
6 years ago

Now we have a positive swab sample a for EPO in two of Mini Finns dogs .. If sample b is pos then Life ban.

Dezzey
Dezzey
6 years ago

Mwk I think you’ll find the quote about “getting a bloke to drill a dog’s head” was recorded from one of the live baiters on ABC. 

Mwk
Mwk
6 years ago

Someone talking crap ..who said it and who is the person doing it? If they don’t name names it just hear say…that is something if true you would think authorities wouldn’t stop till they found that so called person.

Dezzey
Dezzey
6 years ago

Mwk He’s been charged so let’s hope he spills the beans.

Hugh_
Hugh_
6 years ago

Mwk Is it actually hard to believe?  I don’t know what the evidence is for that particular claim, but that level of cruelty is not difficult to believe after watching a couple of guys on the 4 corners documentary stamp a baby possum into the ground, laugh about it, and then laugh about the fact that it caused the mother distress.  So don’t kid yourself.  There are a lot of people that are not only indifferent to animal suffering, but enjoy inflicting it.  Perhaps you find it hard to believe because you think cruelty to a greyhound is somehow more… Read more »

Hugh_
Hugh_
6 years ago

Suck it up.  Your sport was rotten, so others have had to clean it up for you.  This is what you get for either a) participating in breaches of animal welfare or b) turning a blind eye to said breaches for decades.

Mwk
Mwk
6 years ago

See this site is a greyhound site and the fact your on it proves how many tree huggers are making waves…and I’m telling you that they can get all the submissions they like but it’s all hear say in court unless they persons have evidence I’m not saying it never happened because like any sport or business or industry their are brainless idiots…and I can assure you their are some in greyhound racing and they will be caught.

Hugh_
Hugh_
6 years ago

Mwk They will be caught will they?  And what did it take for them to get caught?  “Tree huggers” setting up hidden cameras.  What were you and other people in your industry doing to catch these people?  Absolutely nothing.  NOTHING.

Mwk
Mwk
6 years ago

Yes they will be caught mate doesn’t matter how but when..I’m saying in my time I have never heard of or seen those things done not everyone’s a bad apple ..even you tree huggers have hidden secrets ..because your a tree hugger doesn’t mean your good person. And if you read my comments I have spoken up against these thing and I want these people out ..I don’t know them so I can’t do anything but someone does and under the current situation people will report things now.

Hugh_
Hugh_
6 years ago

Mwk It does matter how, because you speak derisively of “tree huggers” yet you express a desire to see these people brought to justice.  The “tree huggers” that you view with disdain are the ones that have made that happen.  So many people within the industry simultaneously condemning the actions of “bad apples” and animal activists.  Pretty poor form.  How about accepting a little responsibility?  Everyone just wants to point the finger at everyone else.  Not everyone is a bad apple but there are certainly a significant number of bad apples and the culture within the sport was “look the… Read more »

Mwk
Mwk
6 years ago

I never said anything about live baiting this is about the match thing .. Don’t worry I have heard of live baiting and I’m sure the situation will stop now fingers crossed .. Tree hugger is prob wrong words sorry about that it’s that while there were all these people at the unreg track doing what the video showed their were probably many more on a reg track doing the right thing but no one want to hear about that…not everyone should be tared with the same brush.

Hugh_
Hugh_
6 years ago

Mwk Ok that’s fair enough, my bad for extrapolating your comments to the live baiting.  I guess all I’m saying is, even without knowing the source of this match up the butt story, it’s not hard to believe that something like that would happen when clearly there are quite a high number of people (perhaps/probably a minority, but still a disturbingly high number I think you would agree) who are comfortable being incredibly cruel to animals.  And thus simply dismissing that anecdote with “that’s crap” is a bit misguided, or perhaps just defensive, in my opinion. Given what we’ve already… Read more »

Mwk
Mwk
6 years ago

\U0001f44d\U0001f44d\U0001f44d\U0001f44d\U0001f44d\U0001f44d\U0001f44d

Dezzey
Dezzey
6 years ago

Hugh_ Mwk I’m flabbergasted when insiders make the statement  “Bundaberg incident dumb and embarrassing, but that’s all so far