NSW Greyhound Ban

IT seems like a lifetime ago that Premier Mike Baird took to social media to announce he was outlawing the $335 million a year greyhound racing industry.

A lot has happened between July 7 and now, most importantly when he announced the decision to backflip on the ban just last week, so it’s easy to forget precisely what happened to get us to where we are today.

Below is a detailed timeline of everything which has happened over the past three months, starting back with the original announcement made on the Premier’s Facebook page at 11:49am.

Thursday, July 7

Premier Mike Baird announces on Facebook that the NSW greyhound racing industry will be shut down as of July 1, 2017.

The announcement comes as the Special Commission of Inquiry report is released. The Premier citing the mass killing of greyhounds, the widespread practice of live baiting, the deception of the community about the number of deaths and injuries of dogs and the industry’s inability to reform as the main reasons for the shutdown.

Baird and Deputy Premier/Racing Minister Troy Grant hold a press conference to confirm the announcement.

The greyhound industry is left speechless, with zero consultation prior to the announcement. Trainers take to social media to express their sadness and fear.

The sport’s authority body, Greyhound Racing NSW (GRNSW) releases a press statement in relation to the announcement and suspends racing for seven days, effective immediately.

Victoria and Queensland quickly respond to the shock, stating neither state will be banning greyhound racing.

Saturday, July 9

GRNSW advises that TAB greyhound racing will recommence in NSW from July 13. The only meeting granted permission to race during this time is Grafton, which was half way through its annual carnival when the ban was announced. Non-TAB racing remains suspended.

Sunday, July 10

Leading Sydney trainer Dean Swain speaks to ARG about the uncertainty of his future, as surveillance drones hover over his property.

Tuesday, July 12

NSW Opposition Leader Luke Foley speaks to Australian Racing Greyhound to express his concerns over the closure of the industry, whilst also announcing he will help fight for the industry’s survival.

“Greyhound racing has operated here legally since 1927 and it has a proud history, but I also want it to be a part of the state’s future as a modern greyhound industry with strict standards when it comes to the welfare of greyhounds,” he said.

“I will be fighting in the parliament to rescue the industry and to put it on a proper footing subject to very high standards of animal welfare, but to ensure it is continued.

“I hold an affection for the many good people in the industry and I see their relationship with their dogs is their greatest passion in life – I just want my parliamentary colleagues to understand that.

“These people are animal lovers, they shouldn’t be written off as cruel or exploitative people when there are thousands of good people in the industry.

“I believe this is an elitist decision that treats, with contempt, all of those men and women who love their greyhounds, for whom their relationship with their dogs is their greatest passion in life.”

GRNSW says it will distribute prizemoney from the TAB meetings which were abandoned as a part of the suspension of racing to each trainer and owner who had greyhounds engaged at those meetings.

Wednesday, July 13

Interim CEO of GRNSW Paul Newson will be replaced by an Administrator to oversee the shutdown of the greyhound racing industry. Newson releases a series of comments on his time at the helm, slamming the industry.

“I was asked to take on the role of interim Chief Executive in February 2015 following the disturbing and deeply troubling revelations by ‘Four Corners’ and animal rights groups of serious misconduct being undertaken by members of the industry. Those cruel and sickening images of live baiting will not be easily forgotten and highlighted a serious failing by previous management in their oversight and supervision of the industry. The subsequent finding by the Special Commission of Inquiry that far too many healthy greyhounds die each year to sustain the racing industry is equally disturbing,” Newson said.

“It’s frustrating to see the support that has emerged to defend the industry since the government’s announcement, when we often had to deal with the outright denial of the significant animal welfare issues in the industry. On many occasions proposed reforms were dismissed and resisted by industry participants and while some participants courageously championed reform, overall there was little appetite to demonstrate the significant change was in place before the inquiry had made its recommendation to government.”

Thursday, July 14

The NSW government announces NSW Natural Resources Commissioner, Dr John Keniry, as the head of the newly established Greyhounds Transition Taskforce, which will guide the industry towards an orderly shutdown.

The Premier says he stands by his decision at a press conference.

Wednesday, July 20

GRNSW release details from an independent investigation led by Clive Stern SC who found that it was highly probable that at least 99 greyhounds were killed – mostly by a blow to the head – and buried at a training track in the Hunter Valley.

The NSW Greyhound Breeders, Owners and Trainers Association (GBOTA) respond to the results of the Keinbah inquiry, stating the industry’s continued and united commitment to change.

“The findings are a great disappointment and confirm that the greyhound industry has had issues that must be, and are being, confronted,” said Brenton Scott, Chief Executive, NSW Greyhound Breeders, Owners and Trainers Association.

“The death of any greyhound, without proper reason, is unacceptable and the industry must continue to maintain a position of zero tolerance. Any position less than this is part of our past, it is not part of our future.

Thursday, July 21

The greyhound racing industry presents a rebuttal to the NSW Premier Mike Baird as its first significant move to challenge the decision to close down the greyhound racing industry.

The rebuttal is presented by a united group of industry bodies known as the NSW Greyhound Racing Industry Alliance, which includes the NSW GBOTA, all independent clubs and industry participants.

“The rebuttal identifies serious flaws in both the facts in the report and the entire construction of the investigation,” said the Alliance’s Brenton Scott.

“It indicates that the terms of reference were inappropriately narrow and biased.”

Friday, July 22

GRNSW refer the preliminary findings of another independent investigation to the NSW Police Force. The investigation was commissioned after GRNSW was made aware of video footage which allegedly showed a participant using a cattle prod on a greyhound whilst in the starting boxes during a trial session at The Gardens.

Wednesday, July 27

It’s estimated that more than 1,000 full time jobs will be lost in rural and regional NSW if the greyhound racing ban goes ahead. Additionally, it is suggested that more that 10,000 participants outside of the metropolitan area will be emotionally and financially affected.

The NSW Greyhound Racing Industry Alliance also claims that the Premier’s decision to ban the sport has been based on incorrect data and guesswork found in Justice Michael McHugh’s Special Commission of Inquiry Report.

“The data provided by Greyhound Racing NSW (GRNSW) demonstrates a dramatically lower incidence of unnecessary euthanasia than was indicated in the McHugh Report. This data estimates an unnecessary euthanasia rate of 7 per cent. This is completely different to the assumed rate of around 50 to 70 per cent that the Premier used as one of the key points to justify his decision,” said the Alliance’s Brenton Scott.

“In addition the report says that over 21 per cent of greyhounds who compete are injured. This is not correct. The fact is that the injury rate is approximately 11 per cent and decreasing.”

The first set of non-TAB tracks are cleared to resume racing following a review into safety and integrity. Wauchope, Tweed Heads and Temora are all cleared.

Thursday, July 28

Opposition leader Luke Foley heads to Dapto dogs to speak to the good men and women involved in greyhound racing and to let them know he will continue to fight for the industry.

Friday, July 29

The greyhound industry commences the first of its legal challenges, aiming to have the Report of the Special Commission of Inquiry declared invalid and of no legal standing in the NSW Supreme Court.

The industry challenges the report on a number of grounds including the reliance of the Commissioner on the concept of a ‘social licence’ which is believed to be unreasonable given it is impossible to measure.

Also called into question is the reliability of the report, with several facts having already proven to be inaccurate by the industry.

Sunday, July 31

The NSW Greyhound Racing Industry Alliance sends a second rebuttal to the NSW Premier on the future viability of the industry, containing a detailed action plan on how the industry could reform by 2020 if given the chance.

Amongst the figures were estimates that just 1,453 pups would be whelped in 2020, a reduction of 82 per cent based on the number whelped in 2014.

Greyhound trainers and owners would also be expected to keep 60 per cent of dogs as pets after racing, whilst just 40 per cent would be rehomed through the GAP program or other charities.

Fair Go Rally

Tuesday, August 2

Thousands of greyhound racing participants gathered at Hyde Park in Sydney to oppose the proposed ban on the sport before marching down Macquarie Street and gathering outside Parliament House. A panel of guest speakers including Opposition Leader Luke Foley, Leader of the Christian Democrats Rev Hon. Fred Nile and the Hon. Robert Borsak MLC from the Shooters, Fishers and Farmers Party.

Friday, August 5
Racing is cleared to return at Young.
Tuesday, August 9

The Alliance details four guarantees to Premier Mike Baird on how the industry could be reformed, summarized as follows:

– Total life cycle management of all our greyhounds including every greyhound unable to race and all retired greyhounds.
– A controlled breeding programme including the immediate restriction of 2000 greyhounds annually for NSW racing purposes.
– Zero tolerance for animal cruelty, including live baiting, punishable by a life time ban for any infringement.
– Providing the most stringent, safest racing environment to eliminate avoidable injury.

Wednesday, August 10

Plans to rush the Greyhound Racing Prohibition Bill through the Upper House work, with the bill passing late on Wednesday night.

Monday, August 15

Greyhounds Transition Taskforce Coordinator General Dr John Keniry has reassured the greyhound industry will receive financial assistance as a part of the transition package he is developing for the government.

Thursday, August 18

Nationals MP Kevin Humphries speaks out in opposition of the Greyhound Racing Prohibition Bill stating that he will oppose the ban when it appears before the parliament.

“I won’t be supporting the legislation to ban the industry, my colleagues know that…the leadership within the Coalition know that and if I have to cross the floor if that legislation is tabled, not only will I cross the floor but I will speak in support of the greyhound industry and why I am not supporting the ban,” Humphries said.

“The precedent for this is significant and I think members of parliament from all walks of life realise that.

“I know a number of my colleagues have been quite public about their support for the greyhound industry and they don’t support that ban – I would expect that support to continue.”

Australian Racing Greyhound presents its own plan for the future of greyhound racing to NSW Opposition Leader Luke Foley, which includes a complex industry model guaranteeing sustainability of the sport moving forward.

The plan includes the unique concept of a greyhound welfare future fund, ensuring that every greyhound born into the industry is given the opportunity to live a full life.

Friday, August 19

Greyhound racing veteran Ray Pitstock announces plans to form his own political party in response to the government’s decision to ban greyhound racing.

Known as the Australian Sport and Racing Party, it will lobby for fair and equitable support and the sustainable growth of all codes of racing, with the belief being that racing has lacked appropriate representation within the government.

Wednesday, August 24

Legislation is passed in the NSW Lower House in the early morning, outlawing the sport of greyhound racing within the state from July 1, 2017. Three MPs cross the floor in an attempt to block the legislation; Katrina Hodgkinson, Chris Gulaptis and Kevin Humphries.

Friday, August 26

Nationals MPs Katrina Hodgkinson and Chris Gulaptis are removed from their positions as parliamentary secretaries of southern and northern NSW just days after they both crossed the floor in an attempt to block the government’s ban on greyhound racing.

Deputy Premier and Nationals Leader Troy Grant is slammed by commentator Warren Mundine for his part in the greyhound racing ban, saying that as Racing and Police Ministers he should have taken more responsibility for what was happening within the sport.

Saturday, September 3

John Gibbons is announced as the Administrator of GRNSW where it is planned he will manage the transition towards closure for both the governing body itself and the affected clubs.

Sunday, September 18

It is rumoured that greyhound training could potentially continue until 2022 and breeding until 2019 under the draft recommendations being considered by Dr John Keniry, head of the Greyhound Transition Taskforce.

Tuesday, September 20

The NSW greyhound racing industry continues its fight to get the ban overturned by launching a legal challenge in the Federal Court. The proceedings are set to challenge the validity of the legislation which passed through the NSW Parliament in August.

Wednesday, September 21

The Nationals tight grip on the seat of Orange heading towards the by-election on November 12 is loosened according to bookmakers, with the Party drifting out to $1.35. The drift is believed to have been causd by a range of issues hitting the regional community, one of which is the ban on greyhound racing.

Thursday, September 22

Leading news sources begin to speculate that Premier Mike Baird is considering a reversal of the ban, with an email leaked which was sent by National Party MP and Assistant Speaker, Michael Fraser. In his email, Fraser concedes the party is in serious trouble as a result of the ban and urges his fellow MPs ‘do not proclaim the Greyhound Racing Prohibition Bill 2016’.

Shadow Treasurer and Labor MP for the electorate of Keira, Ryan Park, heads to Dapto on Group 1 Megastar night to show his support for the greyhound racing industry.

Wednesday, September 28

Opposition leader Luke Foley announces he will be making an appearance at the annual Coonamble racing carnival to show his support for the sport.

Monday, October 3

The Daily Telegraph reports Dr John Keniry tried to resign from his position at the head of the Greyhounds Transition Taskforce as he did not agree with the ban, however he was talked out of going.

Thursday, October 6

Political commentator Paul Murray heads to Bathurst for a special edition of his show Paul Murray Live to speak to battling greyhound trainers who are fighting to get the NSW ban overturned.

Friday, October 7

Rumours circulate that the greyhound racing ban may be overturned, with the NSW Nationals Party said to be formulating a new plan prior to a party room meeting which would see racing continue.

It comes as public pressure continues to mount surrounding the Orange by-election, with polls forecasting a massive swing against the Nationals which have held the seat since 1937. A poor result on November 12 would be bad news for Party leader Troy Grant, who is already facing calls to resign.

Robert Borsak
Robert Borsak marches to save NSW greyhound racing.
Saturday, October 8

Shooters, Fishers and Farmers Party MLC says the government must overturn the greyhound racing ban completely, not just offer an extension.

Borsak’s comments come as leading news sources report that several Nationals MPs are fighting to have a five year ban extension granted which would dissolve after that time if the industry can meet specific goals surrounding welfare and breeding.

“There can’t be any talk of extensions, I think they might be able to, given the right legislation, conduct a review once every six months to document the industry’s progress, but there can’t be an axe over their heads threatening if you don’t meet our requirements we are going to knock you off,” Borsak told Australian Racing Greyhound.

“I don’t care if they are talking about one year or five years, that’s not on. The government has shown that not only have they let the industry down, but they can’t be trusted.”

Tuesday, October 11

Premier Mike Baird and Deputy Premier Troy Grant apologise to the good people within the industry as they announce a reversal of the greyhound racing ban.

“The feedback that I have received, my cabinet colleagues and MPs across government have received from the community is that, yes they were horrified by the findings of the Special Commission of Inquiry in regards to what was going on…but they have also said why did you not give the industry one last chance,” Baird said.

“It is clear in hindsight as we reflect on this that we got it wrong. I got it wrong, the cabinet got it wrong, the government got it wrong.

“I previously didn’t think the industry could change…Dr John Keniry has consulted with hundreds within the industry over the past few months and he has advised the government that his strong view is that there is now a deep appetite for change within the industry.

“My personal convictions have not changed at all, but it is clear listening to the feedback and on reflection that we did not give the good people of the industry a chance to respond and a chance to reform.

“On behalf of that, I am sorry, that is something we should have done.”

GRNSW releases an announcement welcoming the announcement by the NSW Government to give the greyhound racing industry a final chance and to permit racing past June 30, 2017.

Mike Baird also announces the establishment of the NSW Greyhound Industry Reform Panel which will be run by former Premier Morris Iemma and will be tasked with making recommendations to the government on how to reform the sport in regards to welfare, integrity and regulatory structure.

Wednesday, October 12

Prominent country trainer Amanda Ginn is relieved that the NSW greyhound racing ban has been reversed, but says it has caused heartache within the industry which will never be forgotten.

Thursday, October 13

Luke Foley says there were political motivations for Mike Baird’s reversal of the greyhound racing ban, but concedes he is happy for the good men and women who have their lives back.

“I don’t believe for a minute that they backed down because Mike Baird started listening,” Foley said.

“The back down is purely and simply to save his political skin and Troy Grant’s skin. The tsunami that was coming in Orange forced them to change course.

“But we have finally got the right decision out of them, even if it was for the wrong reasons.”

Friday, October 14

Terms of Reference are released for the new Greyhound Industry Reform Panel. The Panel will consider the recommendations outlined in the Special Commission of Inquiry Report as well as other documents such as the industry reform guarantees put forward to the government by the NSW Greyhound Racing Industry Alliance on August 9.

Included in the document specified is a cap of 2000 pups per year born into the industry in NSW, however the Alliance’s Brenton Scott, who is also on the Panel, says this figure has now been taken off the table.

The Panel also has its introductory meeting on this date.

Saturday, October 15

Australian Racing Greyhound uncovers an early letter sent to the Premier by the NSW Greyhound Racing Industry Alliance. The letter details how breeding would be reduced by around 80 per cent on its 2014 figures under a new plan signed off on by Brenton Scott.

The letter also detailed a harsh reduction of meetings and plans for the post-racing lives of greyhounds born into the industry.

Monday, October 17

The Premier’s Office contacts Australian Racing Greyhound to state that a breeding cap is still on the cards, to be considered by the panel as a part of the Alliance’s guarantees on behalf of the industry.

“The Panel will consider a number of reports including the recommendations of the Report of the Special Commission of Inquiry, as well as the industry reform guarantees regarding breeding caps put forward by the Greyhound Racing Industry Alliance in August,” the spokesperson from the Department of the Premier and Cabinet said.

Shooters, Fishers and Farmers Party MLC Robert Borsak also calls for the ban to be repealed immediately rather than waiting for 2017.

Tuesday, October 18

Opposition leader Luke Foley says he will introduce legislation into the NSW Parliament which would see the Greyhound Racing Prohibition Bill repealed this year, rather than waiting until 2017 under the government’s plan.

Thursday, October 20

Australian Racing Greyhound asks what has the industry learned from the greyhound racing ban? Is the industry doomed? Should new leaders be put in at the helm? Will the industry grow moving forward?

Friday, October 21

Australian Racing Greyhound is the first to officially announce the members of the newly announced Greyhound Industry Reform Panel which will be tasked with making recommendations to the government about the sport. The Panel will be led by former Premier Morris Iemma and contains just one industry representative, the GBOTA and Alliance’s Brenton Scott.

Tuesday, October 25

Internal polling indicates that the Nationals may be in trouble at the upcoming Orange by-election, with the main reason for their peril believed to be the greyhound racing ban. Shooters, Fishers and Farmers Party candidate Phil Donato firms in the betting with online bookmakers to win the seat.

Monday, November 14

After heading to the polling booths on Saturday, the race to determine the seat of Orange is still neck and neck, with Shooters, Fishers and Farmers candidate Phil Donato stating it is too close to call.

With the Nationals facing a massive swing against the party, NSW Deputy Premier and leader of the NSW Nationals Party Troy Grant announces his resignation.

Tuesday, November 15

Monaro MP John Barilaro is announced as the new Deputy Premier of NSW and leader of the Nationals Party. Barilaro had previously spoken out in support of the ban, notably on August 23 when the Greyhound Racing Prohibition Bill was passed by the Legislative Assembly.

Thursday, November 17

A spokesperson from the Greyhound Industry Reform Panel fails to share information in regards to the panel’s work and what the recommendations for the government are likely to detail. Australian Racing Greyhound slams the panel for closing its doors to the public and industry, failing to show any transparency throughout the reform process.

Friday, November 18

Greyhound racing has been banned in Argentina after a bill to outlaw the sport passed through the country’s lower house of government 132 votes to 17.

Monday, November 21

Phil Donato celebrates by speaking to Australian Racing Greyhound after the Shooters, Fishers and Farmers party won the seat of Orange by 50 votes over the weekend. It is the first time the Nationals have lost the seat since 1947, with the upset set to send shockwaves through the government.

Monday, November 28

Some good news emerges, with Robert Newstead banned from the industry after being found guilty of using a cattle prod on one of his greyhounds at The Gardens. The case was highly publicised just after the ban was announced, with hidden camera footage released to the media which depicted the appalling act taking place.

Tuesday, December 13

Australian Racing Greyhound puts the pressure on the Greyhound Industry Reform Panel and asks why the industry has not heard any updates since it was formed and the ban was reversed more than two months ago. The call for transparency goes largely unanswered, with only one panel member answering our specific questions.

Thursday, January 19

Greyhound racing participants are full of smiles as Mike Baird announces his retirement as the Premier of NSW just half way through his current term. Whilst a specific reason for his departure was never given, it is widely believed that the controversy which surrounded his ban on greyhound racing formed part of the pressure which saw him resign.

Robert Borsak welcomes the departure of Mike Baird, whilst NSW Opposition Leader Luke Foley is full of grace, wishing Baird the best for his future.

Thursday, February 16

The Greyhound Industry Reform Panel hands down a series of recommendations to the government detailing the best ways to reform the industry and to ensure it is sustainable moving forward. Among the recommendations is the separation of the commercial and regulatory functions of the industry and the adjustment of funding for the greyhound racing industry.