The Orange, Wollongong and Canterbury byelections have pitted Mike Baird against his biggest frenemy, Alan Jones.
Three byelections will be fought in New South Wales tomorrow, with the “unpredictables” — they are called “deplorables” in the US — about to determine the results.
The main action is concentrated on Orange, a west-of-the-divide rural seat, and Wollongong, the former steel and coal city on the South Coast.
The third contest is in Canterbury, a Labor stronghold previously held by Linda Burney, now a federal MP. This Sydney seat is likely to stay in the ALP fold. But who can tell for certain these days?
According to received wisdom and traditional logic, Orange is pure National Party, or “tiger country” as Country Party bush seats used to be called, and Wollongong is “solidarity forever” rusted-on Labor.
But in the uncertain post-Donald Trump and post-Brexit world, those certitudes no longer apply.
Right-wing populist broadcasters Alan Jones and Ray Hadley took their malevolent breakfast and morning shows to Orange on Thursday to rev up the campaign against Nationals candidate Scott Barrett and Premier Mike Baird’s government.
Those who thought that Jones and Baird had reached a polite and respectful understanding over the ban on greyhound racing have been proved wrong. Baird backflipped after a private meeting with Jones at the shock jock’s Circular Quay apartment in October, but their “peace agreement” came to abrupt end when Jones started broadcasting from the Orange Ex-Services’ Club bistro at 5.30am yesterday.
Hadley joined him in the second half of the program, and the two broadcasters hammered the Coalition over council amalgamations, changes to Crown land ownership, privatisation, the transfer of the Powerhouse Museum from Darling Harbour to Parramatta and the strict curbs on greyhound racing.
The byelection has attracted eight candidates, seven of whom are opposed to the Baird government and are putting the Nationals last on their list of preferences.
Labor is bussing in campaigners from Sydney hoping to unseat the Nationals and deliver a potentially career-ending blow to Deputy Premier Troy Grant, the influential Nationals leader.
The Shooters and Fishers Party are mobilising gun lovers against the Coalition because of its refusal to support the importation and sale of rapid-fire shotguns.
A third group, the Save Our Councils’ Coalition, is planning to campaign at polling booths in Orange, Parkes and Forbes to oppose the proposed merger of Orange, Cabonne and Blayney Councils.
SOCC will be supported by Cabonne Shire’s Amalgamation No Thank You (ANTY), whose spokeswoman, Marj Bollinger, said: “We’re never giving up hope.”
At the other byelection flashpoint, Wollongong, Labor’s 25-year stranglehold is threatened by the city’s popular independent mayor, Gordon Bradbery.
“Labor representation has given us invisibility,” Bradbery said. “Labor has become more concerned about holding this seat rather than helping it.”
It is an appeal that resonates with Wollongong voters, who were sorely neglected and scandalised by corruption during the recent Labor era. In the past Wollongong voters have switched to an independent MP when they’ve felt betrayed.
Wollongong mayor Frank Arkell successfully represented the state seat from 1984 to 1991, assuming the nickname of “Mr Wollongong”.
Bradbery is hoping to don that mantle tomorrow and inflict collateral misery on Opposition Leader Luke Foley’s team.
Although publicly showing studied disinterest, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, Nationals leader Barnaby Joyce and Opposition Leader Bill Shorten will be glued to the results in all three contests.
Any electoral reverses in Orange, Wollongong or Canterbury will impact on them as well as Baird, Grant and Foley.
Traditionally, byelections are weather vanes for the popularity (or otherwise) of governments in mid-term. They also give an indication of how oppositions are travelling with the voting public.
For these reasons it is no surprise that the NSW political class has been acting so irritably and nervously in the last few days.
We might be pretty bored with our own politicians, but Australians (or at least the Australian media) are obsessed with the ups and downs of the US presidential race, especially the ever deeper downs of one Donald Trump. You get the feeling that there are plenty of social media types who would have gladly given up their Australian vote to have one on the first Tuesday in November. Fairfax have been particularly fascinated with Trump, but it was all media hands on deck this week after the leaking of the video and audio tapes of him bragging about his sexual abuse of women in 2005. There’ll be more to come, no doubt.
TV news loves a disaster, and so it was this week with the devastating images coming out of Haiti after Hurricane Matthew slammed into the island of Hispaniola on which Haiti sits, a country that seems to have picked up about ten times it’s share of misfortune this century already. A lot of the coverage focused on potential damage and flooding in Florida, despite Haiti bearing by far the worst of the storm.
Ah plebiscite, I knew him, William. The only infinite jest being felt by anyone around the issue of same sex marriage seems to be from those deeply opposed to it ever occurring, as they appear to have won themselves at least a two year reprieve from whatever the dangers they imagine equal rights might bring. Politically the damage may well be felt on both sides of the aisle, although how many actual votes will be won or lost is another matter.
Facing a pretty much total revolt from the National Party and from plenty of Liberals who felt that banning things just isn’t what Liberals do, the previously untouchable NSW Premier Mike Baird swallowed a very large slice of humble pie this week as he overturned the ban on greyhound racing. The professional media coverage was reasonably balanced, discussing the issue along with the expected dose of schadenfreude about Baird, while social media of course went completely nuts.
The weather eased, but the water was still flowing down a number of river systems across south-east Australia, peaks not expected in Western NSW until next week, or in some cases November, and the cost of the last few weeks damage being counted in the billions.
What goes on tour stays on tour, eh gents? Not this millennium.
A key pro-greyhound racing lobby group has celebrated its victory in NSW by threatening witnesses who revealed the industry’s abuse of animals to the McHugh inquiry — the NSW special commission of inquiry that led to the brief ban on the industry.
National Greyhound Racing United describes itself as “a greyhound racing lobby/advocacy group, with the structure of a business that is seeking to unite our industry, educate the public on facts, promote and protect the sport.” Despite appealing for donations on its website, the body is well funded — according to industry sources by a prominent greyhound breeder — with a number of full-time managers across the country.
Understandably, the Baird government’s decision today to reverse its ban on the industry was welcomed with delight by the group on its Facebook page. But the industry’s focus is already turning to payback: yesterday, in anticipation of the ban, the group issued this threat on Facebook:
“The NGRU has been going for almost a year now, so this won’t stop our fight against the animal extremists … whom now have been dealt a massive blow! We will enjoy this victory, then we will turn our attention to those that made submissions in the McHugh report, their crime will not go unpunished.”
By focusing on submissions rather than on direct evidence, the threat may avoid s.326 of the NSW Crimes Act, which states that “a person who threatens to do or cause, or who does or causes, any injury or detriment to any person on account of anything lawfully done by a person: (a) as a witness or juror in any judicial proceeding … is liable to imprisonment for 10 years.” The McHugh inquiry notes that only submissions tendered during hearings were received as evidence by the commission.
A number of whistleblowers from within the industry or who had worked with the industry provided information to the NSW government inquiry headed by former High Court Justice Michael McHugh. The McHugh reported revealed that tens of thousands of dogs had been slaughtered in industry “wastage” and that the industry and its NSW body were still covering up incidences of animal abuse and torture while the inquiry was underway. The inquiry received over 800 submissions as well as hearing from 43 witnesses in private hearings. It relied extensively on evidence from witnesses about the massive extent of live-baiting within the industry, including ten witnesses ordered to appear under summons “whom it suspected of being engaged in live baiting, to give evidence in public hearings concerning the practice. Nine of the 10 admitted that they had engaged in this barbaric practice. The other person denied having engaged in the practice, but the Commission is comfortably satisfied that he had. The nine witnesses gave various descriptions of their views of the extent of live baiting in the industry.”
Some public witnesses have since been vilified by elements of the media or by industry sources and have expressed concern about being singled out and targeted by elements of the industry. Death threats were made to NSW Deputy premier Troy Grant by people from within the industry.
Mike Baird's backflip in greyhound racing will alienate voters already unhappy with politics as usual. But hey, it's only animals, right?
Mike Baird’s cave-in on his greyhound racing ban is one of those moments that makes you think politicians really are as bad as the disengaged, the malcontented, the conspiracy theorists say they are, that they’re every bit the venal mediocrities and grubs many in the community malign them as.
We don’t know the details of Baird’s backdown yet. But, for once, the policy detail is irrelevant. Undoubtedly there’ll be frameworks and programs and safeguards and commitments and evaluations. Jargon like “management” and “proactive” and “zero tolerance” and “world’s best practice” will be deployed. The words comes straight from the managerial and bureaucratic handbooks and often mean nothing; in this instance, they mean less than zero. This is an industry that fundamentally relies on mass slaughter of and cruelty to dogs as its business model, and it will now be allowed to continue. And even if, by magic, you could rehome the thousands of greyhound pups whelped each year that aren’t deemed good enough to run, if you could somehow delete from the industry the hundreds of trainers and owners who brutalise dogs and torture animals via live baiting, that doesn’t change the inherent cruelty of the sport. Dogs get injured, disabled and killed while racing and training, just like horses. Their spines snap, their legs break, their skulls crack. Then they’re put down — or if they’re lucky, face a lifetime of disability and pain.
That’s what greyhound racing does. That’s what will continue no matter what “best practice” or other bureaucratic drivel is put in place, no matter how much greyhound abusers say they “love their dogs” and that “the dogs love to run”. This is an industry that, even more than horse racing, has abuse and death at its very heart. There’s no proactively safeguarding that away.
But the process here is what is genuinely disturbing. This is, by all possible evidence, a popular ban with voters. More than 60% of voters want an end to greyhound racing, according to the most recent poll; that follows polling from Essential showing support at around 55% in NSW. But the industry, and its media allies, have helped overturn it. News Corp has been in the thick of it, driven by the gambling profits it stands to make from the continuation of the greyhound abuse industry. All things being equal, you’d think a clutch of people who not just opportunistically but systematically abuse, torture and slaughter dogs wouldn’t get much traction in the media. But the media makes money from that abuse, that torture, that slaughter, so things are by no means equal.
Not by a long stretch.
We’ve seen good policy overturned before, of course. We saw Kevin Rudd weaken and eventually abandon what was initially a worthwhile emissions trading scheme, we saw Labor abandon Rudd and the mining tax in the face of a campaign of lies. This is different, of course. The impact isn’t, nebulously, on the national interest, or on future generations, or on quality policymaking — the stuff we obsess, or pretend to obsess, about in Canberra. It’s animals — the dogs that will die at the hands of the abusers who race them. They’ll be forgotten, of course, the lurid names under which they race jotted down in a scrapbook somewhere with the notation “spinal injury in race 4, euthanased”. Just dogs. Who cares? Only the people who undertake the emotionally exhausting work of trying to rehome the often battered and damaged animals that survive the industry, animals abandoned by their owners, confused, scared, poorly socialised, bearing the scars of abuse. Try doing that for a week and see how many of these good people are inner-city, latte-sipping elitists.
Then there’s Luke Foley, the mostly invisible opposition leader in NSW, a mediocrity from a party so wretched that it can only dream of mediocrity, one that became a by-word for corruption and mismanagement in its far-too-long period in power. Foley peddled a middle-class fantasy of working-class authenticity barely one step removed from cloth caps and “it’s grim oop north” cliche, with an assumption that low-income people have some genetic disposition to enjoy hurting animals at its trite, patronising heart. The party that gave us Obeid, Tripodi and Macdonald purporting to stand for the working classes? Seriously.
But of course it all come down to Mike Baird, a man with the political smarts and policy courage to successfully take electricity privatisation to NSW voters, humiliated over something backed by nearly two-thirds of voters. Interesting what that says, isn’t it, about the relative power of the media elite — relentlessly pro-privatisation (a position I share) — and voters in a city like Sydney. There’ll be much written about how Baird has trashed his credibility; already there are comparisons with Kevin Rudd, another politician on whom voters pinned hopes that he was more than just another politician, that he believed in something and was prepared to stand up for it.
Rudd turned out not merely to be just another politician, but barely even that. Baird, it seems, is the same, just another shitty politician looking after himself. Still, it’s only dogs, eh Mike? Their blood will wash off easily enough. More easily, one suspects, than the damage to your reputation will be repaired.
The purchase of a major punting website by News Corp could be behind The Daily Telegraph’s campaign against the Baird government’s greyhound racing ban, as the paper confidently predicts Mike Baird is about to cave in and allow the industry to continue, delivering the company more revenue and commercial opportunities.
The company last week revealed it had acquired punters.com.au, without disclosing the price. Described as about “making racing more awesome”, punters.com.au offers racing news, tips and a form guide on different kinds of animal racing, including greyhound racing. According to marketing blog Mumbrella, in July former Telegraph manager Simon Anderson was appointed to head a gambling division within News Corp as part of a major move into wagering. The company is currently struggling to deal with collapsing print revenues and the slow death of its Foxtel subscription television service. According to News Corp execs quoted by Mumbrella, the company is explicitly seeking to leverage its animal racing reportage both to gain more revenue from readers and sell access to its readership to “wagering clients”.
Ironically, punters.com.au has offered more balanced coverage of the revelations of mass slaughter, animal torture and systemic industry cover-ups that have emerged about the greyhound racing industry than The Daily Telegraph, which for several years had been rated as Australia’s least-trusted newspaper. The paper has run an aggressive campaign against the ban announced by the Baird government in July, and this morning reported that Baird would overturn the ban tomorrow.
Angles of attack from the Telegraph have included claims that vast numbers of dogs would have to be re-homed due to the ban (as opposed to the routine slaughter of dogs that occurs now; another greyhound graveyard was revealed just today), attempts to dispute the details of the McHugh report that prompted the ban, claims the ban was “destroying the lives of ordinary people”, encouraging a revolt by Nationals MPs against the leadership of Deputy Premier Troy Grant, and claims the ban had led to a collapse in Baird’s political fortunes. In fact, polling has shown strong and growing support for the ban; new polling on the weekend showed support for the ban at 64% in NSW.
In none of the Telegraph‘s attack pieces has the company’s looming purchase of punters.com.au been disclosed, despite the obvious financial benefit News Corp stands to make from a continuation of the industry. Indeed, the Telegraph website only ran a Herald Sun article on the purchase last week, sourced from a junior reporter at The Australian. There was no disclosure of the purchase or the conflicted position it places the company in in today’s “exclusive” that Baird was about to back down on the ban.
Many writers as The Australian (which has also taken a pro-greyhound racing line) have personal connections to the greyhound industry, but these have been disclosed.
Sep 5, 2016
Medical experimentation on greyhounds continues in Melbourne, with researchers guaranteed dogs by the Victorian government's refusal to shut down the greyhound exploitation industry.
Victoria’s gruesome record for fatal experimentation on greyhounds is continuing, with Monash University researchers publishing a paper on how they suffocated dogs, then revived them and killed them again.
A team of researchers at Monash and the Alfred Hospital led by Professor Frank Rosenfeldt, head of cardiothoracic surgical research, used greyhounds for heart transplant storage experiments, according to a paper published earlier this year in The Journal of Heart and Lung Transplantation.
The experiment involved chemically restraining the dogs using acetylpromazine, then anaesthetising them and placing them on ventilation. Ventilation was then shut down to suffocate the dogs, after which their hearts were removed, preserved for four hours, then transplanted, after which the greyhounds were briefly monitored, then killed (again).
The experiment has come to light amid continuing controversy over the use of dogs in medical and dental experiments in Victoria. Last year the University of Melbourne’s Dental School was revealed to have undertaken a shocking experiment on greyhounds involving teeth implants. Greyhounds are a particular favourite of medical researchers due to their ready availability: the greyhound racing industry has a massive “wastage” problem of tens of thousands of unwanted dogs across Australia.
The Victorian government has rejected calls to close the greyhound racing industry despite NSW and the ACT shutting it down in the wake of horrific reports of animal abuse and slaughter and attempts by the industry to cover up its abuses. The board of Greyhound Racing Victoria was forced to resign in disgrace after the ABC’s 4 Corners “Making a Killing” story in February 2015, but the Victorian government insists the industry has now overcome any problems. The Victorian industry is estimated to produced over 6500 dogs a year, the majority of which end up unwanted and treated as “wastage”, with a small proportion re-homed and the majority killed or provided for medical experimentation. Researchers like the Monash team are guaranteed a steady supply of canine subjects for years to come.
Monash University did not respond to Crikey’s request for a response.
New South Wales
Aug 9, 2016
Mike Baird's plan to ban greyhound racing has come back to bite for both major parties.
Legislation banning greyhound racing in NSW from July next year remains a mystery. The proposed bill hasn’t been seen by the cabinet, Coalition, opposition MPs, Speaker or the Bills Office despite the fact it is due to be introduced in Parliament later today or tomorrow.
Publication of the bill is under a cloud because Premier Mike Baird and Deputy Premier Troy Grant, leader of the Nationals, have been preoccupied with hosing down mutineers in the lower house.
An 11th-hour meeting by National MPs on Monday night agreed to ask Baird for the ban to be delayed for three years while the chronically damaged industry reforms itself. “Tell ‘em they’re dreamin’,” as Darryl Kerrigan says in The Castle.
If Baird and Grant make too many concessions to their lower house “refuseniks”, they risk alienating the critical votes of four Greens MPs and one Animal Justice Party MP to secure the legislation’s passage through the upper house.
The small batch of backbench recalcitrants all bear political grudges against either Baird or Grant: Jai Rowell, Liberal MP for Wollondilly, for being dumped as a minister in 2015; and three Nationals: Katrina Hodgkinson, MP for Burrinjuck and Kevin Humphries, MP for Barwon, both axed from Baird’s post-election cabinet in April last year, and Andrew Fraser, the irascible MP for Coffs Harbour.
The government-commissioned report by former High Court judge Michael McHugh found that between 48,900 and 68,500 greyhounds were killed in the past 12 years and that 20% of trainers engaged in the illegal practice of live-baiting.
It confirmed the horrifying practices exposed by the 2015 award-winning Four Corners program “Making a Killing” and concluded that the industry’s culture condoned “the mass slaughter of tens of thousands of healthy greyhounds” simply because they weren’t winning races.
McHugh, a brilliant QC once associated with the “Legal Eagles” racehorse betting syndicate, is married to former left-wing Labor MP for Grayndler Jeannette McHugh.
It is not only Baird and Grant who are making a hash of greyhound reform — Opposition Leader Luke Foley is as well.
In a rash moment of opportunism, Foley took Labor MPs into an alliance with the disgraced greyhound lobby and supported last week’s protest march from Hyde Park to Parliament House. He was joined at the rally by upper house MPs Fred Nile and Robert Borsak, of the Shooters and Fishers, making an unusual unity ticket.
At question time last week, Baird embarrassed Foley by reading a letter to an anti-greyhound racing group from rising Labor backbencher Jo Haylen, MP for Summer Hill, in which she said:
“Overwhelmingly, the people who have contacted me do so in support of a ban and I have expressed that view to the leader and will continue to argue the case within my party and the Parliament. I am a passionate advocate of animal welfare and in my view the [Michael] McHugh report is clear in its conclusions. Abuse in the greyhound racing industry is systemic. There are doubts as to whether the industry can make the necessary reforms to guarantee animal welfare.”
Haylen also wrote on social media: “I am a proud and passionate supporter of animal welfare and I have put my view and the views of the vast majority of my constituents to the Leader of the Opposition.”
Another Labor backbencher, Trish Doyle, MP for Blue Mountains, wrote on Facebook that constituents wanted a greyhound racing ban “at a rate of almost 100 to one”.
“I abhor animal cruelty and have never been a fan of the so-called sport,” Doyle wrote.
Further grief was inflicted on Foley when Grant tabled transcripts in Parliament that discredited prominent dog trainer Tony Gannon, one of the Labor leader’s allies.
In a taped phone call after discovering Four Corners had footage of live-baiting, Gannon told then-CEO of Greyhound Racing NSW, Brent Hogan: “I would have bashed the fuck out of them and took the camera. I mean, if you know they’ve got the video, surely you would have done something?”
In the conversation Gannon said: “Personally, I don’t care about dead rabbits. The issue of money is more my concern to keep the industry going.”
Foley and Senator Sam Dastyari, a former NSW Labor general secretary, held a joint press conference with Gannon at Wentworth Park dog track to whip up opposition to the proposed ban.
Foley foolishly told the media conference: “It’s great to be here with respected greyhound industry figure Tony Gannon.”
When Grant, a former police inspector, tabled the transcripts in Parliament, Grant rubbed in Foley’s embarrassment saying the Opposition Leader should never have aligned himself with Gannon.
“What we will not do is stand next to thugs and bullies unlike others who may choose to do so,” he told MPs.
By week’s end, Dastyari remained the only Labor identity still backing the discredited industry, and he has yet to resile from bizarre comments condemning Baird’s ban, which comes into force next July.
“This whole thing reeks of inner-city elitism, where the pastimes and enjoyment of thousands of NSW residents is looked down upon by a bunch of snobs,” the $200,000-a-year senator and former Hawker Britton lobbyist said.
From the Crikey grapevine, the latest tips and rumours …
Going to the dogs. NSW voters might be wondering why Labor leader Luke “the Invisible Man” Foley has elected to spring from his normal state of complete obscurity to oppose the Baird government’s decision to close the greyhound “racing” industry, which keeps more people employed killing dogs than racing them. One Labor source — Crikey has been contacted by a number of Labor figures dismayed at Foley’s support for the dog killers — says look no further than Foley’s newish chief of staff, former “controversial” Channel Seven Sydney news director Chris Willis, who was unceremoniously given the flick from his old job last year. Willis, probably best known to the public for his long-running feud with popular Seven News veteran Chris Bath, “encouraged Foley to go hard against the greyhound ban”, we’re told. Presumably the same unerring judgement that Willis employed at Seven has led him to believe there’s political capital to be made from backing a bunch of people who slaughter and brutalise tens of thousands of animals a year.
CUB left hopping. Carlton and United Breweries is being picketed by staff after they were laid off when the beer company cancelled its contract for maintenance workers. The workers at the Abbotsford plant in Melbourne were told that they could return to their jobs on individual contracts, which they say would result in a 65% wage cut factoring in penalty rates and other entitlements. The brewery, which makes Victoria Bitter and Carlton Draught beers, has been bussing in non-union workers for the last four weeks while ex-staff wait outside. Beer production has reportedly taken a hit, but now the brand’s standing with its customers is also facing damage. Posts on the VB Facebook page are less than complimentary, including this one, which gets in the spirit:
Mirabella pops up in Melbourne Ports. Her party may have deserted her, but Sophie Mirabella has not deserted her party. Mirabella was spotted yesterday far away from her former electorate of Indi, scrutineering in the seat of Melbourne Ports. Michael Danby is expected to hold the electorate in Melbourne’s inner city, even though the Liberals’ Owen Guest polled more than 10,000 more votes than Danby in first preferences.
Teething problems. The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age launched new websites this week after months of beta testing. While The Age‘s new site is still online, the SMH has reverted back to its old design. The post from editor-in-chief Darren Goodsir welcoming a “new dawn” for the site has also been removed. A Reddit user complained that the new site was showing him someone else’s name when he logged in, although the “my account” page had his own details. Now we don’t want to throw stones in glass houses, but it looks like there has been a hiccup in the process of rolling out the new site.
UWA v West Australian. The University of Western Australia’s student magazine, Pelican, has canned a sponsorship deal with The West Australian newspaper to protest against its cartoonist Dean Alston. Pelican writer Kate Pendergast wrote on the publication’s website this week that Alston’s cartoons were “crude mysoginst ink”:
“Dean Alston is a prolific, provocative and roundly-acclaimed cartoonist. Having published over 14,000 drawings to date and received honour with a number of awards (including a Walkley in 1991), he has since the late eighties been under the employ of WA’s state newspaper the West Australian as editorial cartoonist. Though heading into his autumn years at 66, Alston has told the ABC he has no plans of retirement and will most likely ‘die at his desk’. His wit has been dubbed ‘wicked’, and his line-work — it’s pretty great.”
She went on to slam his views on women. The magazine hasn’t revealed what the deal is worth, but it said it has cut the deal over two cartoons deriding women in sport, one called “Wimmin” and the other “AWFL” about the women’s league in the AFL.
“So. Pelican noticed this and had a think. The West is currently in a sponsorship with us; or rather (because we don’t control our own advertising, and our budget is hardly our own), the UWA Guild. It has been since our first edition of this year, when the marketing arm of the Guild struck up an advertising contract. They have both a banner advert on our website, and an ad space in our magazine negotiated to run in five print issues. A free 12-month digital edition subscription is also offered to students (valued at around $300). There is one remaining print advertisement booked, set to feature in Edition 5, and following this the possibility to continue and expand our relationship into the future. The sponsorship is of significant benefit and value to Pelican financially — out of it, we’ve managed to pad our pockets with a tidy sum, that by commercial agreement, we’re not allowed to specify.”
The editors got a response from The West Australian‘s editor Bob Cronin, and unsurpisingly the paper chose to keep the cartoonist over the small sponsorship deal.
Not what you were looking for. While Theresa May is about to take the reins as Prime Minister of the UK, the Liberal Democrats (the British branch, not David Leyonhjelm et al) are not so happy about it. This is their 404 page:
New South Wales
Jul 11, 2016
The Baird government's ban on greyhound racing reflects an industry unable and unwilling to reform itself and an industry engaged in industrial-scale cruelty for no benefit.
The report by former High Court justice Michael McHugh into the NSW greyhound industry makes for, literally, sickening reading. There’s an entire volume — 237 pages — on what the industry terms “wastage”, but what normal people would understand as slaughtering dogs. Mass slaughtering.
McHugh provides the maths based on hard numbers from the industry itself:
“Over the last 12 years, in excess of 229,219 greyhound pups have been whelped in Australia. Of these, approximately 97,783 were whelped in NSW. Twelve years is within the natural lifespan of a greyhound and some will live longer. There are currently 6,809 registered racing greyhounds in NSW. That number will have varied slightly over this time period. Absent death through misadventure or illness, it follows that approximately 90,974 greyhounds should be alive today… where are the remaining 80,721 greyhounds? What was their likely fate?”
The following pages explains what drives this — the ignorance, stupidity and cupidity of greyhound breeders and the industry body, Greyhound Racing NSW (GRNSW), overbreeding, poor breeding, mass euthanasia of those deemed unable to race, the euthanising of those injured while racing, the euthanising of those deemed too old to race.
That’s before you get to the atrocious conditions many dogs are kept in before being deemed unfit to survive, before the live-baiting, before the pain dogs endure from being ill-treated by owners, “stewards” and the pseudo-vets who lurk in the industry.
What’s all this for? McHugh reviewed several reports about the economic contribution of the greyhound industry in NSW, and thought they were all too high. The lowest one suggested it generated $145 million per year and employed the equivalent of 1500 people. The commission itself could only find just over 600 employees (full-time or part-time) in the industry, and it concluded the industry’s economic contribution was falling. Indeed, it found there were serious questions as to whether GRNSW itself could afford to keep running, so parlous was the industry.
The attacks mounted on the NSW government’s decision to ban greyhound racing next years centre on three points — that it’s some sort of inner-city elitist attack on a working-class pastime, that the industry can reform itself to significantly improve animal welfare, or that it’s a kind of nanny statism.
The McHugh report spells out in forensic detail why the idea that GRNSW and the industry could somehow reform itself, or be reformed, is ludicrous. This is an industry that can’t afford to reform itself, and doesn’t want to. GRNSW is barely financially viable as it is; a former CEO, in fact, told the commission it wasn’t.
It would only possibly be financially viable if major changes in the distribution of gambling industry revenue and taxation were made in its favour, and it shut a large number of racing clubs. The fundamental changes in industry practice needed to make anything more than token changes in animal welfare in the industry will cost money. Where will that come from? Why should taxpayers fund the industry to conduct itself in accordance with even the most basic standards of animal welfare? GRNSW proposes that owners and trainers foot the bill. Except, the commission found, that’s not going to work.
“Speaking generally, if the industry continues, the outlook for participants is bleak. The reforms envisaged by GRNSW will add to the cost of owning, training and breeding while increases in prize money are at best uncertain. The opportunity to increase prize money to meet these rising costs will be hobbled by the reforms that GRNSW must make to enable the industry to meet welfare standards that are even arguably acceptable to the community.”
Moreover, even if it could afford to, GRNSW simply can’t do what is needed — it “has not been able in the past, and is unlikely in the future, to ‘appropriately’ address the problem of wastage,” the commission found. But GRNSW doesn’t really want to reform. The commission itself uncovered evidence of systematic lying by GRNSW to hide the extent of greyhound deaths and abuse, which was still going on last year, well after the industry had learnt it was under severe scrutiny:
“the Commission finds that GRNSW engaged in the conduct knowingly and with the intention of sanitising the information that became available to the public concerning injuries suffered by greyhounds. The motive for the policy was the hope that, by doing so, substantial criticism of the greyhound racing industry in NSW could be avoided. Similarly, deaths on track were not recorded in the stewards’ report… This conduct of GRNSW was revealed only as the result of the Commission’s investigations. It may have continued to this day if the Commission had not discovered it.”
But is this some inner-city elitist attack on working class culture? As a supporter of greyhound rehoming, I’ve encountered a number of people who deal directly with the result of the industry’s abuses. There’s not a latte-sipping inner-city type among them — they’re suburban mums and dads, ordinary people who just happen to love greyhounds and hate what’s done to them. And the report deals specifically with claims of the social benefits of greyhound racing, and finds them minimal. Non-participant attendances at racing events are tiny — often zero — and falling, suggesting the community has no interest in it.
The whole notion that abusing dogs is legitimised by some nebulous and fictional benefit of class solidarity has been seized on by NSW Labor, once again exhibiting its extraordinary capacity to vanish when Barry O’Farrell and Mike Baird made bad decisions (Barangaroo, lockout laws, etc) but emerge blinking into the public gaze to rail at its good ones.
NSW Opposition Leader Luke Foley even uttered the immortal right-wing cliche “political correctness gone mad”. Labor Senator Sam Dastyari has promised a Senate inquiry into the ban and the economic benefits of greyhound racing, which would at least have the benefit of being able to personally hear from every single employee in this industry. Presumably, Dastyari and Co. will rigorously scrutinise the fact that GRNSW itself wants to close parts of the industry and its proposed welfare measures will force many participants out.
The right, too, has grabbed hold of the issue in furtherance of its own agenda, viz the victimisation by the left of good, solid, salt-of-the-earth, plain-spoken, honest-working-man, likes-a-drink-and-a-smoke-and-a-punt types, the repository of true common sense wisdom of the kind sneering elitists will never be able to understand, so fried are their brains by Fair Trade soy lattes and quinoa while they put the rights of animals and trees above other human beings.
Those being defended in this episode 6,562,301 of the Culture Wars, of course, are the very people relentlessly targeted by the crony capitalist policies espoused by the walking braindead of News Corpse: slashing health and education funding, removing industrial relations protections and assaulting unions that protect workers is all fine; it’s even OK to steal for your own corporate purposes a working-class sport like rugby league, as News Corp tried to in the 1990s — but taking away a working bloke’s right to bet on the dishlickers is, apparently, an outrage.
And is this nanny statism, a continuation of Mike Baird’s social agenda, locking not just Sydneysiders out of pubs but racers out of greyhound tracks (no need to lockout racegoers, there aren’t any)? This comes down to a judgement call: do you think an individual’s right to their own property extends to allowing them to treat an animal they own any way they like? If you do, then there’s no basis for animal welfare legislation of any kind, since it’s all interference in someone’s property rights. If banning greyhound racing because the industry simply can’t stop its cruelty, slaughter and abuse is nanny statism, then at least be consistent and call for all animal welfare laws to be overturned.
We slaughter cattle, sheep, pigs and other animals in their millions to eat them; even the horseracing industry, a haven for corruption, organised crime and brutal cruelty, at least generates hundreds of millions in revenues and employs tens of thousands of people. What’s particularly nauseating about greyhound racing is that all of this slaughter, abuse and exploitation is going on for nothing other than a few jobs, a trivial economic contribution and a quaint fiction of working-class solidarity. Cruelty to animals is bad enough; cruelty with no point is even worse.
From the campaign
Fiona Brooke writes: Re. “Dispatches from the gaffe war as the battle of idiots heats up” (Friday). Pure gold Bernard. I don’t know whether to wish you more gold in the coming weeks to enable you to spin such wonderful words around, or wish us all some relief with commonsense and logic making an attempt to derail stupidity. Whatever will be, will be.
On greyhound testing at Melbourne Uni
Fred Barton writes: Re. “Greyhounds slaughtered for dental ‘studies’ at Melbourne Uni” (May 25). Once a commodity always a commodity is the fate of racing greyhounds it seems. Seen only as a means to an end by the racing industry greyhounds have three options when they can no longer make money for their owners: Be killed outright, be sold for (usually terminal) medical research, or be adopted. An insignificant few are returned to the farms to serve as breeding stock.
It would seem difficult for Melbourne University to defend killing otherwise healthy greyhounds for a study that provided very little difference in healing outcomes,” unless of course it was necessary to maintain a grant. It’s always about money where greyhounds are concerned, and that is a true shame.
I am a Board member of Grey2KUSA Worldwide, an organization that seeks to end the commodification of these marvelous animals, both on the track and off.