Greens Standing Up for Greyhounds

Today we defended the ban on Greyhound racing in NSW. Read our speech below. 


Ms JENNY LEONG ( Newtown ) ( 17:31 :35 ): I speak on behalf of The Greens in debate on the Greyhound Racing Bill 2017. I start by reading out a couple of quotes from the special commission's report. One paragraph states:

The Commission's view is that, despite the best intention and efforts of the new management at GRNSW, it appears unlikely that the issue of the large scale killing of healthy greyhounds by the industry can be addressed successfully in the future.

Another quote reads:

It is an industry where, as Chapter 17 details, many trainers appear to prefer cheap and sometimes painful methods of treating greyhound injuries instead of using the services of qualified veterinary surgeons.

Another paragraph of the report states:

In September 2009 and March 2010, senior officials even prepared documents for meetings of the GRNSW Board which plainly indicated that the practice continued …

That is the practice of people using painful methods to treat greyhound injuries instead of using the services of qualified veterinary surgeons. A further quote from the report reads:

Given these views, and the highly entrenched nature of live baiting as a traditional training method, there is a very real risk that, once the harsh spotlight of this Commission is removed from the industry, the practice of live baiting will thrive once more. It is imperative that regulators take all available steps to try to ensure that this does not occur.

Primarily, the bill repeals the ban on greyhound racing in the Greyhound Racing Prohibition Act 2016. That legislation was passed in August 2016 by the New South Wales Government with the support of The Greens. The Greyhound Racing Prohibition Act prohibits greyhound racing in New South Wales from 1 July this year. It is shameful that we now find the Government introducing a bill to repeal that Act and the ban. I acknowledge the work of my Greens colleague Dr Mehreen Faruqi in the other place in consulting with the incredible organisations and groups that stand up for animal welfare. I acknowledge also that in fact the late Dr John Kaye—my Greens colleague whom we miss dearly—introduced a bill to ban the greyhound racing industry back in May 2015. I acknowledge Lauren Waldon from Dr Kaye's office who worked tirelessly on the legislation.

It is important that we look back at the Special Commission of Inquiry into the Greyhound Racing Industry in NSW and remember the McHugh report found that thousands of greyhounds were killed each year because they were deemed uncompetitive as racing dogs, or "wastage". The report estimated that even if the industry was reduced to minimum viability, 2,000 to 4,000 dogs would be killed as wastage prior to reaching racing age each year. The report found evidence of live baiting extending as far back as 2009 and that around 10 per cent to 20 per cent of trainers engaged in the practice. The commission concluded that there is endemic support for the practice and that Greyhound Racing NSW knew about the practice but did nothing about it. Greyhound racing is run commercially in only eight countries. The largest of those is the United States of America, where greyhound racing has been in decline over a number of years, with Arizona becoming the fortieth State to ban the sport in June this year. Based on the evidence gathered, the first recommendation of the special commission of inquiry states:

Given the findings of the Commission concerning the management and governance of the greyhound racing industry, the Parliament of New South Wales should consider whether the industry has lost its social licence and should no longer be permitted to operate in NSW.

The Government acted on that recommendation, but then did a sensational backflip after ongoing pressure from the Labor Opposition and pressure from a range of people in the community. It is important to recognise that the substance of the bill has serious implications beyond the repeal of the ban. Recommendation 48 of the reform panel states:

As a condition of the operating licence, the commercial entity should fully offset the costs to Government of maintaining the integrity commission.

The Government has decided instead that the industry will not pay fully for these costs for another five years, which amounts to using $41 million of taxpayers' money to subsidise the greyhound racing industry. The Government has said that $11 million will go towards establishing the integrity commission and the balance will go towards capital works.

Mr Paul Toole: You only have jelly beans in the upper House, don't you?

Ms JENNY LEONG: I note that the Minister is interjecting. I express real concern to the Assistant Speaker that the Minister is heckling; but he can heckle as much as he wants about jelly beans. Many of the animal welfare measures that have been announced, such as controls on euthanasia, litter limits for breeding females, bonds for dogs and lifetime tracking, are not mentioned in the bill. They will presumably be in the code of practice to be developed by the Greyhound Welfare and Integrity Commission, but it is concerning that there is nothing in this bill to ensure that those practices are overseen and that measures are enforced to stop them. Even if those measures appear in the code of practice, the Minister for Racing does not necessarily have to apply the code, but rather may apply it, and he has the ability to amend or repeal it.

This bill is a step forward on the almost non-existent animal welfare standards in the greyhound racing industry that applied before the ban. But it cannot change the fact that the greyhound racing industry is an inherently lethal and dangerous sport for animals. The Greyhound Racing Bill 2017 does not enact a registration system for greyhounds but is weak and non-transparent. Dogs are required to be registered only after 12 weeks and, while a breeding cap has been a key promise of the industry in the past, it has backtracked on that measure and a cap was rejected by the Greyhound Racing Reform Panel. The Greens oppose the reintroduction of greyhound racing in New South Wales and believe no amount of legislated animal welfare measures can stop the inherent cruelty. We must acknowledge that the decision by this Government, its backflip and the playing of politics by all sides on this issue have had real impacts on people's lives. That is never welcome.

The reality is that this report and the commission's recommendations were listened to and enshrined in legislation introduced by the Government. The Government should have held its ground, not caved into the dirty politics that we saw from the Labor Opposition. I acknowledge the constituents in my electorate of Newtown and The Greens' supporters across this State who contacted us and who believe animal welfare needs to be at the heart of all considerations. I acknowledge the Humane Society International, the ABC Four Corners exposé on live baiting, GREY2K, Gone are the Dogs, the Anti Greyhound Racing Network and Greyhound Rescue.

I acknowledge also Greyhound Rescue. I foreshadow that I will move amendments to this bill because it is important for us to acknowledge that if there is to be a review of this Act in three years time the review must also include a requirement to consider whether greyhound racing should be banned on animal welfare grounds in the future. The amendments do not seek to ban greyhound racing now but if the Government and the Opposition are genuinely committed to ensuring that this industry cleans itself up on the grounds of animal welfare, they will have no issue in supporting The Greens amendments, which say that should be considered as part of the review. I have tabled a copy of the amendments.

I conclude by stating that The Greens oppose the reintroduction of greyhound racing in New South Wales because we believe that no amount of legislative change can protect animal welfare and stop the inherent cruelty. We do not support any public funding going to subsidise the cost of implementing the new measures to support the racing and gambling industry, an industry that has been shown to have engaged in animal welfare issues and cruelty. It is a shame we saw such dirty politics being played. There was a report and it recommended a ban. The Government acted on that report but then caved in to the dirty politics by Labor. The way that Labor has played all sides of this is shameful. Labor members go to the election claiming they care about animal welfare. They see a political wedge; they slam the Government over it when the Government follows the recommendations yet they still locally narrowcast and pretend they care about greyhound welfare and greyhound rescue in areas where it plays well to them. The way the Opposition has behaved on this bill disgusts me. I acknowledge that there are different political positions but to narrowcast and be so targeted in their reaction to this offends and disgusts me.


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