Hounded by opposition, Baird backflips

Hounded by opposition, Baird backflips

The NSW greyhound industry has been given a reprieve
The NSW greyhound industry has been given a reprieve

NSW Premier Mike Baird has backflipped on his decision to ban greyhound racing.

Mr Baird announced on Tuesday that the industry will continue, with increased regulation in the form of a Greyhound Industry Reform Panel chaired by former premier Morris Iemma.

John Kelleher, who is involved in the greyhound racing industry in Tumut, has praised Mike Baird’s decision to overturn the ban.

“[Baird] didn’t think it through, and to his credit he stood up on television and said we were wrong,” he said.

“It was a very hasty decision in the first place. Obviously I’m delighted for all the participants and all the offset industries that were involved because they would have lost their livelihood.”

However, he said he and other industry members won’t know exactly where they stand until the new panel has taken action.

“If you asked me it had to change – the groundswell in the media, in the community, he had to look at it again. In saying that, in putting this task force together under Morris Iemma, we don’t know, us and general public, don’t know what the greyhound racing industry will look like in the future,” he said.

Mr Baird originally signalled his intention to ban greyhound racing in July, following a Four Corners investigation into animal cruelty in the industry.

However, after opposition in the media, the community, and within his own party – particularly from the Nationals – he has reversed the decision.

The Four Corners investigation brought to light the practice of live baiting – using live animals such as rabbits, piglets, and possums in training sessions.

A subsequent inquiry also revealed that 68, 000 greyhounds had been euthanised in the past 12 years for being too slow to race.

The Greyhound Industry Reform Panel is tasked with overseeing: mandatory life bans as well as increased jail terms for live baiting; registering all greyhounds for their entire lives; an independent regulator with strong new powers to ensure transparency and accountability; and substantially increased resources for enforcement and prosecution as well as animal welfare.

Breeding will also be limited to 2000 pups per year.

Mr Kelleher said he welcomes many of these changes.

“They’re expecting greyhounds to live a full life as a racer and then later as a pet. That’s good. I don’t have a problem with that,” he said.

“They are also going to limit racing. If you’re only going to have a breeding of 2000 pups, not all of those are going to be fast enough to run, so you’ll see less racing down the track.

“Greyhound NSW has put down very strict procedures including all trainers’ premises being inspected. We’ve had an inspection recently and we passed as being compliant. There will be strict penalties if you’re involved in animal cruelty – I don’t know anyone who’s done that sort of thing, might I add, but obviously it does go on or it wouldn’t be on Four Corners.”

The greyhound racing industry is worth around $350 million across the state.

Mr Baird said his backflip was due to the concerns of regional communities, where 21 of 34 greyhound racing tracks in NSW are situated.

“Regional communities value the greyhound industry and we’ve heard loud and clear that they believe it deserves another chance,” he said.

“We firmly believed the government’s decisive response to the animal cruelty outlined in Justice McHugh’s report was the right one – but we misjudged the community’s response to that report.”

“It’s clear the community agrees that the cruelty must end, but we underestimated the community’s desire to give the greyhound industry one last chance to reform and conform to the highest standards of animal welfare.

“The industry can’t return to the status quo – the barbaric practices of live baiting, cruel wastage and high rates of injury must end.”