Animal Welfare (Jumps Racing) Amendment Bill

Introduction and First Reading

The Hon. T.A. FRANKS (16:50): Obtained leave and introduced a bill for an act to amend the Animal Welfare Act 1985. Read a first time.

Second Reading

The Hon. T.A. FRANKS (16:51): I move:

That this bill be now read a second time.

I introduced this bill today, for the second time in this place. Those members who were in this place at the time will remember that I introduced a mirrored bill in 2011. At that time, I raised awareness of the cruel practice of jumps racing in this state, and noted that Queensland abolished jumps racing in 1903 over 100 years ago.

In New South Wales it became a criminal offence through legislative reform in 1997; in WA they have not had a jumps race for over 70 years; in Tasmania it is now close to 10 years since they have had a jumps race; and, indeed, in the ACT and the Northern Territory it has never been a major part of the racing scene.

In 1991, a federal Senate Select Committee on Animal Welfare recommended the phasing out of jumps racing in all states over three years. Sadly, many key decision-makers in many jurisdictions ignored this recommendation and today we see South Australia and Victoria standing as the last two jurisdictions which hold jumps racing.

South Australia has an opportunity now to rectify this error, and it is an error that perpetuates animal cruelty, not just according to the Greens, but according to the Law Society’s advice to my previous bill.

I will be issuing a request to the Law Society to provide similar advice on this bill, but I suspect it should come back exactly the same as it said last time, and recommend the passage of my private member’s bill because (as the Law Society put it, but I will truncate it a little) it would clarify what they believe already to be an illegal act under the Animal Welfare Act.

They already believe that jumps racing is in contravention to the Animal Welfare Act, and that it is a cruel practice and is likely to be illegal, but it is difficult to prosecute those issues. So my bill, if passed, would simply make what they believe already to be a breach of the law a clear breach of the law

Jumps racing has a small part to play in the South Australian racing industry. I note even this week, a race that was scheduled for Murray Bridge has been cancelled because there was only one starter. Very recently, the South Australian Jockey Club has come out and said that they do not want jumps racing at Morphettville, and, indeed, Morphettville remains the only metropolitan location for jumps racing in the country.

The stance of the SAJC has however been ignored by Thoroughbred Racing SA which intends to pursue jumps races at Morphettville this calendar year. I hope—and, certainly, this bill would ensure—that this calendar year (2015) will be the last time we see jumps racing take place, not just in metropolitan South Australia, but in regional South Australia as well.

It is an industry that accounts for I would say probably 1 per cent of the overall industry, but it certainly seems to accrue 99 per cent of the bad publicity that this industry gets. They only have to look at the greyhound racing industry at the moment to see that bad publicity is not something that any animal racing industry can sustain for an extended period. Jumps racing must go the way of dog fighting and cock fighting.

These two practices are currently banned in this state under our Animal Welfare Act, and jumps racing should be the same. These are outdated and cruel pastimes that have no place in a modern, civilised society. The extensive work of the senate committee back in 1991 raised serious concerns about the welfare of horses participating in jumps races:

Those concerns are based on the significant probability of a horse suffering serious injury or even death as a result of participating in these events, and in particular, steeplechasing…

The concern was exacerbated by evidence suggesting that, even with improvements to the height and placement of jumps, training and education, the fatality rate would remain constant. The committee therefore concluded that there was an inherent conflict between these activities and animal welfare. Accordingly, the committee recommended that jumps races be phased out by the mid-1990s.

Many decades on, we are still seeing jumps races being held in South Australia, but we are seeing sponsors pull out as they do not wish to be associated with this practice, and we are hearing more and more voices against jumps racing. In the previous debate in this place, I note the words of the Hon. Ian Hunter, now the minister with responsibility for the Animal Welfare Act. He stated in his speech:   Jumps races are very different to flat horse races—that stands as unquestionable. Jumps races are endurance events for both horse and jockey, run over much longer distances than flat races. Jumps races can be up to five kilometres long, compared with the average 1.5-kilometre flat race. In hurdles, horses jump lightweight frame fences with brush tops, and in steeplechases horses jump higher, more solid obstacles.

Jumps racing jockeys are generally heavier than flat-race jockeys and often have less experience. Jumps horses are typically horses that have been bred for flat racing, trained to run at full speed, but have proven too slow to win on the flat…Those old, slow nags just do not return.

Minister Hunter, then a mere backbencher, went on to note the same statistics I have just given you with regard to the senate inquiry and, indeed, the phasing out of jumps races in other states. He noted with some concern that the previous Victorian government actually pledged $8.85 million towards jump racing in that state.

I note that Denis Napthine, the then Victorian Liberal minister, who went on to be premier, was indeed involved with the jumps racing industry and certainly had a particular perspective on keeping it going. Minister Hunter finished his speech to this council by saying that jumps races do not significantly contribute in terms of employment to this state, and went on to warn the jumps racing industry that:

…if the jumps industry were serious, it would move to shorten the jumps races to being equal to flat racing in length and reduce the number of jumps accordingly, and it would have the same weight requirements for jockeys as flat racing. That would be a start. That would show that the industry is serious in addressing the very real problems inherent in jumps racing. If it does not, it should not be surprised if this parliament is again debating a bill to ban their industry some time in the future.

Well, this is some time in the future. The SAJC has indicated that they do not wish to see jumps racing in the metropolitan area of South Australia. The minister was quite right; as a backbencher, he looked into the crystal ball and saw that public sentiment would continue to grow in its force against the running of jumps races in South Australia, and, indeed, we would be seeing another bill before this place.

I have introduced this bill today with the support of many animal welfare groups, not least of which is the RSPCA, which is currently mounting a particularly strong campaign to see 2015 being

the final season for jumps racing in South Australia. The sponsors are hearing the public voice loud and clear. The industry is being propped up interstate by previous government moneys. I would hope that we will not see a similar performance by this government, and I doubt that we will see a propping up of this industry by the Weatherill Labor government.

I hope that this debate will be based on the factual evidence that this is a cruel industry. The legal advice we have previously received from the Law Society is that they believe this practice is illegal but, taking into account that it is very difficult to get a prosecution, even though they say that jumps racing is animal cruelty, we should clarify that law once and for all—end this industry within an industry which, for those members who do support the racing industry, is providing that 99 per cent of the bad publicity and damaging the industry those people say they love so much.

Since 2009, 15 horses are known to have died in South Australia as a result of jumps racing. The true death toll is, of course, believed to be higher: horses that die at trials are not added to the official statistics. Indeed, the number of jumps races that take place in this state is so small as to mean that the numbers, while they might seem to some to be quite low, are a real warning bell. The proportion of horses that die in jumps races compared with flats races is extraordinary. It should be an alarm bell to anyone who cares about the future of the racing industry in this state.

With those few words, I commend this bill to the council. I note that there will be a concerted campaign on this issue. I look forward to the Weatherill Labor government assessing this issue, judging it on its merits. Indeed, where they say that they have no control over the racing industry— where Mr Bignell has said that, because of previous Liberal regime changes, he has little power in this industry—I ask them to remember that they do have full control under the Animal Welfare Act, that the minister for the Animal Welfare Act, minister Hunter, sits in this house and that this government can act to end jumps racing this year once and for all.

Stay Connected

Sign Up to news and updates from Tammy.