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Motion: Greyhound Racing

The Hon. T.A. FRANKS (11:26): I move:

That this council—

1. Notes with concern:

(a) the ongoing matters raised by the Coalition for the Protection of Greyhounds and the admission that live baiting has been occurring in this state; and

(b) that Greyhound Racing SA undertakes its own oversight of animal welfare and industry policies, and is the only state-based racing body in Australia that remains exempt from freedom of information laws.

2. Calls on the Malinauskas government to establish an independent inquiry into greyhound racing industry practices and governance in South Australia.

I rise today to move a motion calling for an independent review into the greyhound racing industry in our state. This is an issue that the Greens have supported for a very long time, and indeed I have spoken at length about this issue in this place over many, many years. I thank groups such as the Coalition for the Protection of Greyhounds for their consistent and excellent work and for giving advice and firsthand experiences of how unprincipled the greyhound industry in our state truly is, despite their protestations.

This is a pressing topic. It is an urgent topic. It requires immediate attention. Actually, it needed immediate attention when I first introduced a similar motion to the one that I introduced today back in 2016. It is clear to us in the Greens and many in the community that the industry in South Australia has yet to make the needed substantive meaningful change or to take accountability for their actions, despite assurances made to this parliament in those previous years and assurances that previously stymied such independent reviews of their operations.

South Australian-based greyhound trainers Troy, Connor and Jackson Murray were all found guilty of live baiting by Greyhound Racing SA's independent integrity hearings panel on Friday 16 June and they were issued, quite rightly, with life bans. Live baiting is an illegal practice, involving the use of a live animal as prey to get the greyhounds to run faster. However, it should be highlighted that it was not in fact Greyhound Racing SA, who currently self-regulate their own industry, who came across this damning evidence. It was in fact whistleblowers—whistleblowers, volunteers, not the industry—who called out this sadistic behaviour. This is deeply concerning, not only to the Greens but also to the community, and many in the community are asking how this could have happened.

Greyhound Racing South Australia's CEO, Bodelle Francis, has said that it was the first-ever confirmed case of live baiting in this state, but we know from examples across the border that this is just the tip of the iceberg. All greyhound racing monitoring and enforcement in South Australia is done by the industry itself. It is done by Greyhound Racing SA. However, I think it is fair to say that their focus has been on the care and welfare of their greyhounds rather than the detection of animal cruelty associated with greyhound racing and training or the potential animal cruelty associated across the board.

Greyhound Racing SA issue and enforce their own fines. There is no independence here. I spoke earlier on this year in question time about the death of greyhound Weblec Gem, a South Australian dog who died on the track after being raced in over 38º heat in February this year. The GRSA integrity hearings panel after the fact—very long after the fact—then came out to say that Weblec Gem had been doped with metformin at the time of his death. The consequence for that owner? A six-week suspension, a fine of $300 and an order to return the prize money. The consequence for the dog? Death. The pressing question is: is that good enough?

It was also found that Raymond Borda—who has been involved in greyhound racing for the past four decades and is a well-known sponsor of greyhound racing in Queensland, Victoria and New South Wales, and even had his own sponsorship deal with Greyhound Racing SA in 2014—has been illegally exporting greyhounds to China. This was revealed in Victoria in their parliament. When this was reported in Victoria, their industry equivalent, Greyhound Racing Victoria, said they will not be following up on this matter simply because Mr Borda is from South Australia, despite being also registered there. Will Greyhound Racing SA now be holding him accountable at our end? That question clearly remains to be answered.

Greyhound racing is only currently commercially run in eight countries right across the globe. The largest of those countries is the United States of America. In that nation, Oregon has just become the 42nd state to ban it. Greyhound racing is now banned in 42 states of that nation. It should be banned here.

Huge amounts of public money—our taxpayer money—is being given to private business in this industry. Since its corporatisation in the year 2000, the greyhound racing industry in our state has received substantial government funding, including most recently a $24 million stimulus package in 2019 to the racing industry overall in our state. However, and this should be of concern to all of us, confidentiality provisions and exemptions to freedom of information laws have obscured even the most basic transparency being required from this industry. That lack of transparency prevents concerned individuals from addressing legitimate concerns. It erodes public confidence and undermines accountability.

There is no harmonisation between the funding process and animal welfare legislation to protect the wellbeing of those animals involved in racing activities or to prevent any potential harm or mistreatment. This is not good enough. Supporting racing activities that are inherently tied to gambling, and so profit, with public funds should be more carefully evaluated so that the treatment of animals used in these racing industries meets community expectations. The deaths and injuries involved with this particular industry have shown that they have lost their social licence.

Animals Australia has a flyer that is titled 'The ugly truth about greyhound racing'. I refer all members to it. In that, we are informed that approximately 8,000 pups born each year will never race, and most likely will be killed. They say five dogs every week are killed on the racetrack. They say piglets, possums and rabbits are all victims of brutal live baiting. They talk about the fact that most of these dogs who do live have lives of deprivation when they are not on the racetrack. After they are retired from racing, four out of every five dogs are killed. This is approximately 10,000 dogs annually, as Animals Australia have contended. Those figures are astounding and unacceptable.

Racing greyhounds are subjected to increased forces on their bodies that may result in injury, with the subsequent risk of debilitation or catastrophic consequences. A previous United Kingdom study found that the lack of transparency in the greyhound industry there was associated with reduced confidence that injury data is being reported accurately and is being used to improve so-called greyhound welfare.

I think it is a fairly simple thing to now ask the question: how many greyhounds in our state are being needlessly killed, either before they ever hit a racing track because they are too slow or they have served a racing career and made their owners potentially a profit but they cannot be rehomed? How many each year in South Australia are being killed? How many are included in this so-called wastage rate that seems to be part of the business model of this industry, despite their previous promises and despite their protestations?

What I would say to this industry is that perhaps if your business model does rely on a number so high that it is unpalatable to the public—if truly declared—then you need to change your business model, or we will change your business model for you.

All available databases only track greyhounds from birth until they leave the racing industry, essentially relieving any accountability of this industry for reporting once a dog is registered as having left the so-called sport. Therefore, dogs that are euthanased after retiring from the racetrack due to injuries or lack of rehoming are potentially not recorded. This suggests that the number of euthanased or destroyed greyhounds is higher than what is being captured currently.

In comparison, the horseracing industry has been making progress towards better equine traceability through the requirement of a six-monthly update on all active thoroughbred horses and animal updates for those registered with the breeding community. Annual reports for thoroughbred racing show the percentage of horses that are being retired from racing and those that have reached end of life.

Priority should be given to minimise and ultimately achieve zero unnecessary euthanasia of greyhounds. This is why we need a South Australian inquiry—an independent and non-politicised inquiry—to ensure that South Australians know what really is going on in our state within this industry. It is the compassionate thing to do, but it is also the responsible thing to do. Certainly, there is much more I could say today, but with these words I would hope that members of the government, the opposition and the crossbench will take this motion seriously and see a need for this industry to improve that transparency.

I recall that in February 2015, revelations were made in the Four Corners program 'Making a Killing'. Those revelations used undercover footage and exposed the practice of live baiting. Following the airing of that report, the greyhound industry across the country received unprecedented scrutiny from the general public. At that time this parliament considered an inquiry and ultimately rejected it, taking the assurances of the industry that they were able to regulate themselves and that they would be better in the future and more transparent.

As the greyhound racing industry relies on the use of animals as commodities for the pleasure of gambling patrons and the profit of their owners and patrons, and the financial gain of both is a goal, there is no wonder that the general public is so outraged by the unacceptable treatment of these animals. Soon after that Four Corners report was aired, official inquiries into the greyhound racing industry were conducted in multiple states. In 2015, Queensland published the MacSporran report, which was followed by the New South Wales McHugh report in 2016.

All 15 recommendations put forward by the MacSporran report were accepted by the Queensland government, including the formation of an independent statutory body to ensure industry integrity and the tracking of greyhounds from birth to leaving the racing industry. This would encompass tracking details of injuries and deaths that occurred during the course of racing.

The then Premier of New South Wales took a stronger stance and made an attempt to ban greyhound racing in New South Wales altogether, and we know that many in politics are fearful of the campaign that was then launched against that government. Despite strong opposition in the community to greyhound racing, it became quite clear how influential industry stakeholders really are, and that ban was of course overturned. I note that at the time, the ACT banned greyhound racing and that ban remained. It was not subjected to a similar campaign.

In South Australia, Premier Malinauskas has, in the last week, said publicly that he is now open-minded to an inquiry. In fact, even the CEO of Greyhound Racing SA, Bodelle Francis, has said she would support 'any type of inquiry'. Well, it is time for that inquiry. The best time to start was yesterday, or in fact back in 2015. The next best time is now. Self-regulation of an industry that uses animals for profit under a gambling regime needs independent oversight, and currently we do not have that. It is literally putting the fox in charge of the henhouse to let greyhound racing in South Australia continue to regulate itself.

So far we have had to take the greyhound racing industry's word for it that they are somehow different than their counterparts across the border. Indeed, they have not had the scrutiny of their counterparts across the border. But we have seen time and time again that they are not actually different to other states and we know that players in the industry traverse all states and territories, other than the ACT, in this country.

While this industry exists, the temptation at least and the likelihood that these vicious practices will continue is high. At this point, I seek leave to table a document for the benefit of members, entitled 'Current state of greyhound racing regulation: South Australia', which was prepared by the Coalition for the Protection of Greyhounds, dated March 2023.

Leave granted.

The Hon. T.A. FRANKS: I also seek leave to conclude my comments.

Leave granted; debate adjourned.

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