Max Fleet

Greyhound debate live: Baird fires back over racing ban

UPDATE: Premier Mike Baird has rejected an accusation shutting down the greyhound industry but allowing big-bucks horse racing to continue is an example of class warfare.

Making his speech during a parliamentary debate into banning greyhound racing, Mr Baird claimed the two issues were unrelated.

"This is not about any other industry in NSW," he said.

"There is no connection between this issue and horse racing, or between this issue and food or fibre or livestock industries.

"Once again I pledge that there will be no change to these industries under the government I lead.

"In contrast to what the leader of the opposition said a few minutes ago, this is not an example of class war.

"In fact, what an insult to working people to suggest that animal cruelty somehow resonates any less with them than with anyone else."

Mr Baird said all Crown land currently used for greyhound racing would go be preserved for public use, "whether open spaces, new community sporting facilities or even schools".


He accused Labor and the industry of fudging numbers, saying an estimate of greyhound racing's contributing $335 million a year to the NSW economy was grossly overstated, with the true figure closer to $92 million.

He said the industry employed 1086 workers, not 10,000 as claimed, but admitted its disbandment "could disproportionately damage some of our regional communities".

"This will be remedied as far as possible under the transition arrangements," Mr Baird said.

"But let's be clear, across NSW greyhound racing would soon be coming to an end regardless of the government's decision.

"Nobody, including the greyhound racing industry itself, seriously claims it can maintain a significant presence in regional NSW."

Mr Baird said the "generous and flexible" transition package would include at least $30 million to be spent in its first year.

"I honestly hoped and believed that this would attract bipartisan support, as it has in other jurisdictions," he said.

"But no the leader of the opposition, after sniffing some political wins, vows he will fight the 2019 election on returning greyhound racing rather than hospitals or schools or transport or the economy." 


EARLIER: Greyhound debate: Government 'cherry-picked' evidence

Opposition Leader Luke Foley says the government ignored key evidence rejecting a portrait of the greyhound industry as inhumane.

Speaking in a parliamentary debate into a state-wide ban on greyhound racing, Mr Foley said a submission from economist Percy Allan to the government's industry-wide inquiry was disregarded, despite the senior professor claiming he had created a model that would cut animal "wastage" to zero.

The former NSW Treasury secretary and Greyhound Racing NSW chairman for nine years until 2012 said the industry could remain profitable while cutting wastage to virtually nil.

"I'm an economist and my modelling, while high-level, was not something done on the back of an envelope," Mr Foley quoted the economist as saying.

The Opposition Leader also questioned the government's reference to a "loss of social licence" as a yardstick for shutting down an industry.

"We've been given a statement that we're presumably to swallow at face value," Mr Foley said.

Well, I don't accept this. Please tell me when they lost it, how they lost it, how it's measured, how it can be regained.

Mr Foley said Labor did not accept the inquiry's estimates of how many dogs had been euthanised, since the industry did not begin keeping proper records until last year - and the inquiry itself found records were "not sufficiently robust enough" to come to a definitive conclusion.

"The estimates in the report are that - estimates," he said.

"They're now used and held up by the premier of the state to justify the criminalisation of an industry.

"The figures are at the very least open to contest, and industry participants have raised all sorts of facts that would lead you to believe that the numbers stated in the report are a dramatic over-estimate of the number of dogs that have been put down."

Mr Foley spoke of visiting Casino in the NSW North Coast to attend a greyhound racing carnival last month, and meeting veterinarian Liz Brown.

"Neither she, nor other vets who support the industry, and engage in veterinary services for the greyhound industry, were ever presented with an opportunity to present or give evidence or be questioned…" he said.

"In fact there were only 10 days of public hearings.

"Most evidence was given in private. Ten days of public hearing saw only 26 witnesses .

"Yet we're relying on the conclusions reached here… to ban an industry that's operated legally here since 1927.

"You wonder whether there ought to be a wider debate involving industry participants before we take this dramatic step of shutting down a sport and industry entirely."

Mr Foley attacked the Coalition for spending $1 million on an advertising campaign backing calls for the ban.

"I find it unacceptable that such advertising occurs prior to parliamentary consideration of this matter," he said.

"Those opposite made many noises in their years of opposition about taxpayer-funded advertising.

"This is taxpayer-funded propaganda, pure and simple, to combat citizens who dared stand up and defend themselves." 

4.44PM: Greyhound racing ban: the debate begins

The Catholic Church, Salvation Army and even the Labor and Liberal parties should be shut down if all greyhound racers are to be punished for the sins of a few.

That was the message Opposition Leader Luke Foley delivered as New South Wales Parliament began its debate on a proposed state-wide greyhound racing ban.

Mr Foley gave listeners a short history lesson - Captain James Cook brought a greyhound to Australia in 1770 and the first recorded race here occurred in 1876.

"You can go back to the Old Testament and read about the greyhound - the only species of dog mentioned in the Bible," he said.

But his main message was one of shock that a Liberal government would be "taking away property rights, closing down private business activity, closing down an industry that makes a $335 million per annum contribution to the state's economy".

He said a damning report which prompted the ban claimed only 10-20% of greyhound racers engaged in live baiting, leaving 80-90% who did not.

"In fact, as much evidence that would lead us to believe that that 10-20% figure is greatly, greatly exaggerated," Mr Foley said.

On this principle, if you punish all members of a group for the actions of a small minority of that group, we would outlaw the Salvation Army, the Catholic Church, the Scouts movement in this state and country. We'd outlaw the Labor Party and the Liberal Party.

To which someone opposite cheekily interjected: "Well, more so Labor."

Mr Foley said shutting down an down an entire institution because of a small minority's wrongdoings ran counterintuitive to Australia's rule of law.

"I mean, if a Labor government did that there'd be cries of socialism and communism ringing from those opposite and their cheer squad in the media," he said.

"And here we have a Liberal premier, a leader of a party that claims to champion private enterprise… with the stroke of a pen, or more accurately I should say, the click of a keyboard to put it on Facebook, wiping out an entire industry, outlawing it, declaring it illegal.

"Why this collective punishment, where the overwhelming majority of participants in this sport and industry, who've only ever done the right thing, are punished as if they are live baiters themselves?

"They don't! They haven't! There's no evidence to suggest they have."

3.35PM: Little hope greyhound racing ban will fail

NEW South Wales' social media-savvy premier has quoted a slew of Facebook posts to pre-empt a parliamentary debate on banning greyhound racing.

Premier Mike Baird noted the debate, due to begin in the lower house later today, coincided with London Mayor Sadiq Khan announcing the city's last greyhound track, at Wimbledon, would be closed.

"I think it is worth reminding this house the basis of this was pure and simply… the systemic cruelty which had been exposed and ultimately, was not able to be rectified," Mr Baird said.

He read out a series of social media posts from people who had grown up with the industry and supported its shut-down.

Former bookmaker Michael posted: "I had to tell my mate recently who works in a managerial position in the RSPCA that the most economical way to give a greyhound a chance is a live kill."

Simone said: "I was taken to a greyhound training facility in my teens, and personally witnessed and was extremely traumatised by the use of cats and possums in the live baiting of greyhounds. Greyhounds are placid animals and blooding dogs has generally been necessary to give them the incentive to race. There would be no industry without it and racing officials always knew this was going on."

Veterinary nurse Andrew recalled: "At the beginning of my career I worked at a vet clinic who routinely euthanised greyhounds who were too slow, too weak, too old or blind or deaf, not willing to run around a track, too playful, not willing to train, too small to race, too big to race, injured from racing, too expensive to fix, and not worth it. No more room to keep them and it's too expensive to hire a kennel. I was shocked that this was legal. If they didn't go to a vet clinic, it was well known they would be shot and killed - which is why the vet clinics take them in."

A fierce debate was anticipated, with Nationals MP Kevin Humphries last week announcing he would cross the floor against the ban, which he said would damage regional communities.

But the legislation was still expected to pass this week with support from the Greens.

Ban advocate group Gone are the Dogs released a statement saying more than 80 animal groups had put their name to a letter supporting the shut-down.

It claimed 97,793 greyhounds were born in NSW between 2004 and 2015, whereas the industry-run adoption group Greyhounds as Pets found homes for only 391 dogs.

"During the same period, one small greyhound adoption group (Friends of the Hound), run by volunteers, who spend their time, money and love, saved 1080 greyhounds (2008- 2016)," the statement claimed.

"We welcome this ban with open arms, as it looks set to be passed in the lower house this week, as the cycle of death must stop.

"We will be in the public gallery waiting to cheer, but our hearts are most heavy as the industry continues to focus on (itself) while the lives of thousands and thousands of dogs hang precariously in the air."

The Greyhound Racing Prohibition bill includes a maximum one-year jail sentence and $11,000 fine for anyone caught organising a race in NSW after the ban.

The NSW Government has confirmed it spent $1 million on advertisements supporting the prohibition. -ARM NEWSDESK

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