Time for our leaders to step up or step down to save the industry

Industry Update

A TOXIC relationship exists between greyhound racing participants and the self-appointed leaders who are unintentionally tearing down the sport from the inside.

No, I’m not being melodramatic.

I don’t pretend to know how the entire world works at 24 years of age, but I know enough to see what is going on within the industry and its time everyone else stopped burying their heads in the sand.

The failure of our leaders to fight harder for a fairer deal in the intercode and tax parity agreements has left the industry with a bleak future. We can’t survive past the foreseeable future under these agreements.

What stuns me is the industry’s blasé response to the announcement – the greyhound racing ban in NSW is quickly becoming yesterday’s news, the media are moving on – yet the industry is letting the final opportunity to push for our fair share slip right through its fingers.

Instead, the men at the top are cosying up to the Liberals and Nationals – convinced the government has done us a massive favour by repealing the ban.

But let’s face facts, the government has never given any regard to the greyhound racing industry – the ban was repealed because the Coalition knew they wouldn’t survive the next election unless it was.

However, simply going back to the way it was shouldn’t be enough for our leaders. The government have essentially wiped their hands of the industry by throwing a few million dollars at us and hoping it will shut us up.

Unfortunately, if you read anything from the Alliance, it appears the ploy has worked.

No longer is the pressure on the government, in fact, the Alliance have done the complete opposite by including Liberal candidates in a list of options for participants to assist at three upcoming by-elections.

But why are these people even being given a chance by the industry’s leaders? This isn’t a case of let bygones be bygones – the Liberal Party almost wiped out our beloved industry and only put the handbrake on when they realised they had to save their own skins – so why are we even giving them the time of day?

This is nothing new. Last August, the Alliance and its bandwagon rolled into Gunnedah for Agquip – three days of agricultural displays – to spread the message of the industry’s plight.

At that time, the legislation to ban greyhound racing had not passed through the lower house, with the industry’s presence meant to increase the pressure on the Nationals to force them to oppose the ban.

At Agquip, an Alliance representative published photos on social media of industry participants with Upper Hunter Nationals MP Michael Johnsen. Less than a week later he failed to stand up for the industry, voting for the ban.

In any normal circumstances, this would be the end of a relationship – when someone betrays you, you cut them off. This was not the case for the greyhound industry, obviously, because six weeks later the same man who helped to carry the ban legislation over the line was invited to hand out trophies at the Coonamble greyhound racing carnival.

This is just one example of the industry’s continued ties to the Coalition government and it is the reason why very few were shocked, to hear zero uproar from the Alliance, when Racing Minister Paul Toole welcomed the NSW Greyhound Industry Reform Panel’s recommendations last week, with the glaring omission being that it would not be rectifying the industry’s dire financial position by overturning the intercode or tax parity agreements.

Instead, the industry will receive $41 million over five years – after that we are on our own. Don’t be fooled people – this money isn’t going to boost prize money or help us in any way – this money is going straight into welfare and integrity reforms.

$41 million is less than two years’ worth of the amount the industry subsidises the thoroughbred and harness racing codes.

That’s a little over $8 million per year – and there is still no way of knowing whether this will even be enough to cover the costs of the changes to the industry, such as the establishment of an Integrity Commission and the separation of the commercial and regulatory functions of the sport.

So why aren’t we pushing for more? The spotlight is still on the industry so why are we lying down and accepting the government’s plans instead of speaking up for what we need to survive?

Three paragraphs in an Alliance press release largely targeted towards participants can’t really be classified as putting the pressure on the government.

We need to be doing more and we can no longer rely on the boys at the helm to do the fighting for us – they are too busy having luncheons on Macquarie Street with the same people who nearly ended 15,000 livelihoods.

Thank you to the Alliance, for the good work they have done – this is not a personal witch hunt looking for blood.

But please, if you are not willing to fight this all the way, step aside and let someone else do what’s needed to get the industry back on proper footing.

If we don’t maintain the heat, the government gets away with what they have done – but if we can continue the fight we can send a message that our industry won’t be walked over, and we are not the poor cousin of thoroughbred and harness racing.

If we don’t get these funds sorted, there will be no industry in 10 years’ time – that’s the harsh reality.

It’s all well and good to pat ourselves on the back about getting the ban overturned, but unless things change, and fast, we will once again become obsolete and there will be no point whinging about how awful things have become.

This is our one last chance to stand up and be heard, so lets not worry about hurting the feelings or egos of those who think they’ve saved the sport – because everyone needs to know that the fight is not over and that greyhound racing is prepared to battle to end.

CORRECTION: We previously published that Michael Johnsen had been running the Alliance BBQ. This is incorrect, he was running a Nationals Party BBQ whilst posing with members of the industry and their dogs.