Mike Baird says he won't sell greyhound tracks to developers

Photo: Justin Setterfield/Getty Images

New South Wales premier Mike Baird has taken to Facebook to defend closing down greyhound racing in the state next year after more than 10,000 commented his decision on the social media site.

The premier said he wanted to “address some of the myths” listing 10 specific issues, including accusations that sites such as Wentworth Park, on the edge of Sydney’s CBD, will be sold off to developers. Baird said any tracks on Crown land – and therefore owned by the government – will become open space, sports facilities or schools, but not high-rise.

Here is an edited version of the 10 criticisms Baird tackles:

1. You are punishing many for the crimes of a few.

Baird says that as the inquiry found “for too long, too many people who knew what was going on didn’t do enough to reform greyhound racing. It is also very clear that the industry has had many chances to reform but has failed to do so. In fact, intentional deception and illegal activity was rife”.

Nonetheless, he says he’s consulting with the industry on a transition package for the shut down.

2. This is a land grab for developers.

“Something to clarify here: the government owns about half of the tracks, but not all of them. We don’t have any say over who the privately owned tracks get sold to. But, for the government owned sites – including Wentworth Park – I can’t be any clearer. They will be used for community space,” Baird says.

“We will consult with the community about what this looks like.”

3. All these greyhounds are now going to die.

“Tens of thousands of dogs are being systematically killed, often in inhumane ways, simply for not being fast enough. This would continue, and thousands of dogs each and every year would continue to die if we had not made this decision,” Baird says.

“I’m open to any approach to save as many dogs as we can,” he says, saying the government is working closely with the RSPCA.

4. This is a hastily made decision and there has been no consultation.

“The opposite is true,” the premier says, saying the special inquiry into took a year and received 2000 submissions.

“There was nothing hasty about it, or this decision. If you read the report for yourself, you will see that the Government had little choice but to take this course of action.”

5. The Government is hypocritical and will still take money from people in NSW gambling on dog racing in other states.

“We don’t want to, and won’t, be profiting from poor animal welfare practices. We don’t want to curtail your right to punt. But we also don’t want the government to profit from practices like the ones we have seen outlined in this review,” Baird says, adding they’ll outline more on the issue in the months ahead.

6. This Government just wants to ban everything.

“I’m a big advocate of small government that keeps out of your way. But that doesn’t mean government stands back and allows cruelty to animals on a widespread scale,” he says. “We are intervening here because we have to.”

7. The industry was already reforming and on its way to a better future.

Yes, Baird concedes, there was progress, but “the Inquiry found that the industry has had many years to reform and failed to do so”.

Even worse, trainers continued to use live baiting even after it was exposed by Four Corners and the inquiry was underway.

“The idea that the industry just needed better regulation and another chance was not borne out in the Inquiry. If you doubt this, please read the report for yourself,” he says.

8. A total shut-down is an over-reaction.

The inquiry outlined 79 different recommendations but concluded “it was highly doubtful the industry was capable of reform” Baird says.

“Better regulation had been attempted, and failed, many times over,” he adds.

9. If you really cared about puppies you’d shut down puppy farms.

“It’s a very complicated issue,” Baird says, adding he working with the RSPCA.

“Our government remains committed to big improvements in this area.”

10. The review said this should go to Parliament. Why isn’t it?

“The Government will present legislation to shut down greyhound racing during the next sitting period and Parliament will indeed consider and debate our proposal,” the premier says.

“We expect the legislation to pass because we believe anyone who reads this report will see there is no workable alternative option.”

You can read Mike Baird’s entire post here.

The inquiry report can be read here.

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