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Motion: Greyhound Racing Inquiry

The Hon. T.A. FRANKS : I rise to conclude my remarks on my motion calling for an independent review of the greyhound racing industry. Before I lose the attention of the council, I seek leave to table documents—approximately 50 pages of photos.

It is often said that dogs are humans' best friends but stories emerging from our greyhound racing industry in this state show that with friends like that, who would want enemies? Greyhounds, of course, as we know, are often because they are raced not afforded the same protections as every other breed of dog in this state.

Since 2015 in particular, when it was shown horrific and cruel practices such as live baiting were common in the greyhound racing industry, states and territories have generally attempted to establish some kind of regulation of the industry. Here in South Australia we certainly know that regulation does not lie largely within state jurisdiction.

Despite millions in taxpayer funding for the greyhound racing industry, Greyhound Racing SA still provides very little information on the dogs it exploits and kills. The South Australian state government has allowed animal welfare oversight to remain with the commercial dog racing body that has had responsibility for racing promotion since the early 2000s. There are two conflicting objectives there.

Curiously, Greyhound Racing SA is also the only state-based racing body in Australia that remains exempt from freedom of information, although that point is yet to be tested in the courts. It is something, however, it insists it enjoys as an organisation. That allows it to operate in secrecy. In the ACT, laws were introduced to ban greyhound racing and they remain in place. Some states such as New South Wales and Queensland have now established independent regulatory authorities governed by legislation. Tasmania has a model where a commercial entity oversees the implementation of regulatory requirements, as well as protecting and advancing commercial interests.

A recent review has identified many conflicts of interest and critical deficiencies with such a model and the Tasmanian government has now committed to reform that system. A survey from January commissioned by GREY2K USA Worldwide and the Coalition for the Protection of Greyhounds found that a clear majority of people in Australia, some 57 per cent, think that greyhound racing should be banned or phased out. An even larger majority, 69 per cent, oppose the government subsidising the greyhound industry.

Beautiful, gentle greyhounds are subjected to unimaginable cruelty, neglect and exploitation every single day in this country. The greyhound racing and gambling industry abuses, maims and kills these gentle animals for profit and for profit alone, discarding them callously when they are no longer there to make a buck.

Recently, there has been one exposé after another, first in our own state where gut-wrenching footage of greyhounds being kicked, beaten and pulled has finally forced the state government to promise an inquiry. Now we have evidence from Victoria that dozens of greyhounds have been left to die from racetrack injuries that their trainers refused to treat. This year so far has not really shown much improvement for greyhounds. Despite the industry's PR spin, all racetracks are dangerous and cause a range of injuries from fatal skull fractures to painful abrasions. Most fatalities are euthanasia for leg injuries.

The death of a greyhound at a weekend race meet on 10 September has sparked even more concerns about the conditions of the industry in our state. According to a stewards' report, one greyhound was euthanised and four others were injured after that race meet in Mount Gambier. That is more than half the animals that were raced in that race meet. One dead, four injured, one race. Ten-year-old Cadillac Hadlie died after she collided with another greyhound on the track, falling at almost 70 km/h. She reportedly suffered from a fractured wrist and was euthanised by the on-track vet.

As the racing industry does not disclose the number of casualties at each track, the Coalition for the Protection of Greyhounds analyses all publicly available stewards' reports to provide a complete picture of the suffering greyhounds are forced to endure every day on Australian tracks. As of this month, this year 87 dogs have died on Australian greyhound racing tracks and over 8,000 dogs have been injured.

Over 70 per cent of greyhounds are discarded annually. Many of them are never rehomed. The national rate of greyhound breeding in 2020-21 was about six times the industry's capacity to then rehome them—six times the industry's capacity to then rehome them. Breeding numbers are way too high to ever rehome all racing greyhounds.

This leaves volunteers and volunteer organisations to do the lion's share of rehoming despite the industry being more than financially capable of doing so. The greyhound industry's national turnover was $9.4 billion in 2020-21.

Earlier this month, ABC Investigations uncovered a supply chain involving Australian agents identifying and procuring winning greyhounds for Chinese breeders:

Australian greyhounds are being purchased for up to $220,000 each and exported to China where they are fuelling an underground racing industry by exploiting loopholes in Australia's regulations…

One good example is the case of Australian greyhound Katoby, which in September 2020, was exported to South Africa, according to microchip records obtained by greyhound welfare group Free the Hounds.

But Katoby ultimately ended up in China, appearing on the Chinese breeding website Greyhound YY. Videos posted on social media show Katoby advertised for breeding…

Katoby's last registered owner Daniel Flanagan told ABC Investigations he believed the dog was in fact being sent to Ireland, and he had obtained a passport from Greyhound Australasia for that transfer. He said he was not aware that Katoby was sent to South Africa or that the dog ended up in China…

Further microchip records obtained by Free the Hounds show two other greyhounds sent to the United States and the United Kingdom from Australia in 2020 appearing on the same Chinese breeding website as the other dogs…

In 2016, under the Coalition government, a NSW special commission of inquiry report by former High Court judge Michael McHugh strongly encouraged the federal government to take a more strident approach to regulating greyhound exports itself.

'The time is ripe for the Federal Government to step up to the plate. It is the only entity that can provide national leadership in respect of what is an important area concerning animal welfare. There is an opportunity for it to do so,' Mr McHugh wrote.

Since that time there have been no changes made to the way the federal government oversees greyhound exports.

I also wish to refer members of the council to the March report this year of the Coalition for the Protection of Greyhounds, which undertook an assessment of the effectiveness of Greyhound Racing South Australia as a regulator. In particular, they focused on Greyhound Racing SA's applications of sanctions and penalties in response to breaches of the rules and how well GRSA looks after the welfare of greyhounds that race on South Australian racetracks.

The Coalition for the Protection of Greyhounds found that GRSA routinely prioritised continuity of racing over implementing sanctions that might deter breaches of the rules by other industry participants. As an example, two-thirds of people who presented greyhounds with banned substances—that is, substances that give a dog an unfair advantage over non-doped dogs—did not have to serve any period of suspension. The only consequence was to return any prize money won. It is clear that these penalties are too soft to be a genuine deterrent.

The Coalition for the Protection of Greyhounds also found that Greyhound Racing SA's doping control program is antiquated and predictable, which makes it easy to plan doping programs around race days. As a result, it is certain that doping is more prevalent than detected by Greyhound Racing SA. Anyone who bets on South Australian greyhound races should be concerned about how level the playing field really is.

The Coalition for the Protection of Greyhounds also identified that greyhound welfare plays second fiddle to marketing and commercial considerations. We know now that, despite assurances from Greyhound Racing SA, live baiting practices are still occurring in this state. We also know that the courts may well be powerless to truly act, given it is video footage that exposes these things, and that does not come from the industry itself, it comes from the animal advocates. We know that the courts will require those advocates to out themselves, which means that they cannot continue to expose the cruelty and the illegality, and in fact we continue to create a crime of exposing illegal activity when we should be focusing on ending the illegal activity.

Regardless of which side of the fence you sit on, we need to ensure transparency in any industry, particularly an industry that is so heavily kept afloat by the government. I think one day we will look back in disbelief that we allowed this industry that exploits such gentle animals to ever exist, and that we thought reviews and self-regulation could somehow fix the inherent systemic cruelty that comes with mixing animals and gambling. Animals are not property to be abused for profit. They are living, sentient beings. Anyone who has opened their homes to greyhounds knows how gentle and intelligent they can be.

Ultimately, the people in this state, according to the polls, want to see an end to greyhound racing, and I certainly look forward to seeing what comes of the Premier's announced inquiry that came, in no small part, as a result of not just this motion but, as I mentioned, the aforementioned investigations and exposés by the animal advocates of the cruelties.

I wish to note that at the start of my speech I tabled some documents, and I now wish to alert members of the council to what was in those documents. Since the Premier announced the state government would ensure what they call an independent inquiry and a review of greyhound racing in this state, I have had expressed to me concerns from those whistleblowers who have come to me, and in fact who led me to originally move this motion, and have been part, I believe, of pushing the government for an independent inquiry.

I note that, under the independent inquiry as it currently stands, submissions technically close at the end of this week. The appointment of the commissioner has caused some concerns with groups such as the Coalition for the Protection of Greyhounds, who have written to the Premier asking that whistleblowers be given protection. So far, under the terms of reference of that inquiry, whistleblowers are not protected. It may surprise some members, although it should not surprise all members, to know that it is not only the animal advocates who have come to me asking for whistleblower protection, it is also trainers themselves who have sought increased protection so that they can blow the whistle on what is going on within Greyhound Racing SA.

I refer members to the requests and online advocacy of the Coalition for the Protection of Greyhounds that they be given that whistleblower protection. It has not been afforded to them. It has not been made part of the terms of reference, and I call on the Minister for Racing to ensure that the terms of reference are changed to ensure that whistleblower protection, so that trainers may also come forward.

Those in the industry who deal with the rehoming of greyhounds have come to members of parliament like myself, and they have provided to me quite graphic and concerning and disturbing footage of what they have observed over many years. In the footage, in the photographs that I have tabled today, you will see pictures of concerns around health and veterinary care.

Some of the dogs, you will note, have pannus. While pannus is treatable, these are pictures of dogs who have been presented to the GAP program and the rehoming services with pannus so bad—and that should have been easy to treat and managed through eye drops—that dogs have arrived in the care of the rehomers almost blind. When trainers have been questioned as to why they do not treat that, they were told that the drops will show up on a drug test, so the trainer has chosen to let the dog become almost blind so that it can continue to be raced rather than be treated.

I have seen many pictures of this damage over the past few years and they are highly disturbing. Other members of the GAP program have talked about trainers who have turned up and demanded that their dogs be euthanised without even being assessed. Somehow it is seen as a cheap and easy way to have their dog put down so the trainers do not have to pay. When they have been told that that was not going to happen, one became verbally abusive and threatened staff and, in fact, had to be escorted off the premises.

There were official complaints made about that particular trainer. While they were informed that he had received a 'quiet word' and was asked to apologise to GAP staff, the bullying and the aggression towards the GAP staff was never formally addressed. The inquiry into it took not days, not weeks, not months, but years. That is not affording those volunteers and workers within this program—this program that is much lauded by Greyhound Racing SA—the dignity and respect that they deserve.

Another investigation was asked to be held when a different trainer ensured that his dogs were euthanised by using what has been called a loophole in the rules; that is, the trainer retired his greyhounds into his name and then took them to the vets to be euthanised. The investigation into that was paused because a more severe welfare case came to light, which goes to show that in fact the response to this is certainly not to the level that I think most South Australians would expect. The investigation into that took some years and concluded that, indeed, there was no penalty for that trainer's actions because he was right; it was a legitimate loophole that Greyhound Racing SA has not put any resources into to ensure that other trainers do not use it.

In terms of further footage and pictures that I have tabled today, other than pannus, you will see animals who have presented with highly worn teeth and were emaciated with extremely graphic and poor physical condition. It certainly does not take a vet to see that these animals have not been well loved and they have not been treated as our best friends. They have extreme balding, near blindness and emaciation. There are also photographs of the conditions that they have been kept in, which show algae in the water—if there is any water at all—rancid meat, and excrement uncleaned for more than many weeks.

These pictures, I think, need to find their way through the system in this independent inquiry, but I table them today because the Coalition for the Protection of Greyhounds does not have faith in this inquiry as it currently stands. There have been no protections provided for whistleblowers. These issues have been raised internally with Greyhound Racing SA over years and have not been appropriately addressed, and now the Premier has appointed somebody to undertake an inquiry that will take a total of one month, at this point, in terms of receiving all the information by the end of this week and then reporting to the Minister for Recreation, Sport and Racing.

I also note that the coalition and I share their concerns, and I have raised with the Premier's office that I have attempted to take some of these issues to the minister herself and have been refused meetings in the past, so I do not hold great faith in this inquiry reporting to the minister. I urge the Premier to take on the job of receiving this report from the independent inquiry.

Time and time again, it will be the animal advocates who keep pushing this industry, but we know that money talks when it comes to animal cruelty and that our laws are sadly lacking when it comes to ensuring justice for these animals. The continued subjugation to the industry I think disappoints most South Australians. Overall, I think Australians want to see us do better. Certainly, an industry that is not self-regulating is the very least that the Malinauskas government should do. Looking at whether or not this industry can ever be made compliant with the Animal Welfare Act, were it to be properly applied and enforced through our courts, is something that should remain on the table.

I echo the concerns of the whistleblowers who have come to me, that they think this is yet another sham, but I will hold out some faith that the Malinauskas government so far has actually stepped up by at least ensuring this particular process. However, I urge the Malinauskas government to not let it fall before the final hurdle and to actually do this job properly.

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