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Speech: Freedom of Information (Greyhound Racing) Amendment Bill

The Hon. T.A. FRANKS: Obtained leave and introduced a bill for an act to amend the Freedom of Information Act 1991.

The Hon. T.A. FRANKS: I move:

That this bill be now read a second time.

Since 2015, when it was revealed that horrific and cruel practices such as live baiting were common practice in the greyhound racing industry, states and territories have generally attempted to establish some kind of regulation in this industry. For so long we have been assured by Greyhound Racing SA that there was nothing to see here, that the scrutiny on its animal welfare record was misplaced and that they would take their own initiative, their own systems, have their own integrity reviews, to ensure that their internal purposes not only ensured fairness in their race meetings but upheld community expectations for animal welfare standards.

The Greens have campaigned for many years to shed light on the cruelty of this industry. In the 14 years that I have been a member of this place, I have called for our own parliament to inquire into the greyhound racing industry on three separate occasions, not to mention the number of bills I have introduced, questions I have asked or amendments that I have moved to push for accountability on behalf of the greyhounds, whether that is recognising greyhounds as dogs or whether that is calling for inquiries to ensure that assurances given by the industry are properly scrutinised. But as we have seen, those calls by parliament were unheeded until recently with the Ashton review and, finally, an independent inquiry into greyhound racing in this state, which showed it is not different from greyhound racing in other states.

Greyhounds in this time have kept dying and the industry has continued despite whistleblower complaints, despite images captured of dogs living in cages, covered in faeces and not having access to fresh water, sunshine nor any sort of play. Despite footage of cruelty, dogs being kicked or revelations of live baiting occurring in this state, we have seen time and time again the industry claim that there is nothing to see here. This bill will make sure that there is the ability to see what is going on behind closed doors.

Finally, in August 2023, following the release of the distressing footage that depicted the alleged abuse of multiple greyhounds and the use of live baiting, Premier Malinauskas responded by commissioning former Victorian police commissioner Graham Ashton to undertake an inquiry into our South Australian greyhound industry. When that report was finally published in mid-December, it was harrowing, but to many of us it was not surprising. It was a vindication for the whistleblowers and the animal lovers of South Australia who had called it out for many years and who had known how poorly managed this industry was and is.

We have known for a long time that industry assurances were hollow and that greyhounds were suffering. The Ashton report confirmed it, and confirmed that it was not an isolated incident that we saw on our TV screens that brought such horror from the community. It was, in fact, far too common. The Greens welcome all the recommendations of that report.

We note that the government has accepted some 86 recommendations of that report. We look forward to having all of them accepted and implemented by the Malinauskas government, but I note that we are still waiting for the first of any of these recommendations to be implemented. Despite a promise by the Premier last December that by Easter we would have an independent inspector for greyhound racing in this state, we have yet to see that promise fulfilled. He promised it would happen by Easter. The Minister for Recreation, Sport and Racing has been there for the photo-ops but not for the follow-up. We are still waiting for an independent inspector.

But in the meantime, there is another recommendation of the Ashton review that this parliament can progress, and progress today. It has been almost six months since the Ashton report. The government has failed to execute those recommendations, so the parliament can help the Malinauskas government along. Since then, we have had five more greyhound deaths on the track in this state that we know of and the government has failed, of course, to keep that promise for an independent inspector. That very important large step will be needed for all the other recommendations to take effect.

That inspector was meant to be the wake-up call: the start of a two-year period that this industry had of being given notice that if it did not come up to scratch and if it did not comply with community expectations in two years' time from the inspector's appointment it would be shut down. Instead of a wake-up call, the Malinauskas government has treated the Ashton review as if there is a snooze alarm, and the minister keeps pressing the snooze alarm.

It is not good enough, which is why the Greens will move to ensure that freedom of information requests can be made of this industry, as they always should have been able to be made. Since the government and the Minister for Recreation, Sport and Racing have not taken it upon themselves to lead with legislative reform, the Greens are here to do so. We cannot wait any longer.

The bill today is simple. It amends our freedom of information legislation to ensure there are no exemptions available to greyhound racing in this state. It is something that has been contested in law but never tested all the way to the courts. It was also a direct recommendation of the Animal Justice Party and accepted by the inquiry by Mr Ashton himself and, of course, also by the Premier and the minister, so I should think there would be no reason for the Malinauskas government not to support this bill and to get on with ensuring the best of integrity and the highest of animal welfare standards are being adhered to, for fear that freedom of information will uncover them.

Greyhound Racing SA has been the only state-based racing body in Australia that has exempted itself from freedom of information. It has been able to operate in secrecy and, indeed, it has only been through the New South Wales parliamentary inquiry that we saw there, led by my former Greens colleague well over a decade ago, that we actually saw Greyhound Racing SA's own internal workings exposed. It was not through the work of this parliament, sadly.

Currently, if an injured dog is not killed by the on-track vet, the South Australian public has no way to find out what happens to it once it leaves the track. I have had communications that dog trainers are encouraged not to have the dog euthanised on track but to wait so that it does not turn up in the figures. Well, with freedom of information these dogs will not be allowed to disappear from the public view and this publicly funded industry will not be able to continue without independent scrutiny.

There is no reason for Greyhound Racing SA not to be transparent about the number of dogs entering and exiting the industry. The data that they release currently is limited to their annual reports and it is very much a 'Trust us, we're from Greyhound Racing, the figures that we show you here are real'. Well, unsurprisingly, the Greens do not buy it and now we will be able to have the full powers of freedom of information laws to uncover what the real truth is. The truth may well set us free; certainly, I hope the truth sets the greyhounds free. With that, I commend the bill.

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