New South Wales opposition leader Luke Foley has announced the Labor party will oppose the Baird government’s move to close down the greyhound racing industry over the next 12 months.
Premier Mike Baird announced last Thursday that he had no option to end greyhound racing in the state following a damning report into the industry that said there was a “very real risk” that practices such as live baiting would continue, despite any attempts at reform. The animal welfare problems were widespread, found former High Court judge Michael McHugh.
The commissioner concluded that industry officials “sanitised” information to prevent criticism and knew about live baiting as far back as 2009.
“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,” the report states.
“It is imperative that regulators take all available steps to try to ensure that this does not occur. That said, as history suggests, there is reason for pessimism on this front.”
That lead the premier to conclude “the industry is not capable, in the short or medium term, of reforming”.
But Foley says he stands by “the overwhelming majority of people in the industry who’ve only ever done the right thing”, and will oppose the shut down.
“I want to throw the book at those who have done the wrong thing,” he said.
Foley says he’d rather implement the inquiry’s 79 recommendations for reform rather than “punish 80% to 90% of people who’ve done nothing wrong”.
“Let’s give this a go,” he said, also urging Nationals MPs to join him.
“This is an industry comprised of battlers. It’s an important industry throughout regional NSW.”
He accused “North Shore Liberals and inner-city Greens” of sneering at battlers.
But the Labor leader did not address a key finding of the inquiry regarding what the industry calls “wastage”.
The inquiry found that between 48,891 and 68,448 of the 97,783 greyhounds bred for racing in the last 12 years were killed because they were deemed too slow — a figure between 50% and 70% of all dogs.
McHugh concluded that “it appears unlikely that the issue of the large scale killing of healthy greyhounds by the industry can be addressed successfully in the future”.
Federal Labor senator Sam Dastyari is seeking a Senate inquiry into the economic impacts of the ban, and backing his state colleague.
“We do need to look at the sheer economic consequences of completely shutting down an industry like the greyhound racing industry,” Dastyari said.
The industry has also vowed to fight the shutdown, which will also occur in the ACT, while Victoria and Queensland have announced racing will continue in there states.
Australia is one of just eight nations where greyhound racing still takes place.
The inquiry that led to Baird’s decision in NSW was sparked by a Four Corners expose in February 2015 that revealed some of the country’s top trainers using live animals, including rabbits, possums and baby piglets to train dogs.
McHugh found that even after a number of trainers had been arrested, charged and banned from the industry, and while the inquiry was underway, live baiting continued.
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