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Speech: Freedom of Information (Greyhound Racing) Amendment Bill

The Hon. T.A. FRANKS: I thank the contributors today, the Hon. Nicola Centofanti on behalf of the Liberal opposition and the Hon. Justin Hanson on behalf of the Labor government. I remind the council that AJP Recommendation 13, which is one of the 86 recommendations of the Ashton review from the independent inquiry undertaken by Graham Ashton AM APM, who was the lead reviewer, and Zoe Thomas, the review director, and given to the minister in November last year and accepted, reads:

Amend freedom of information legislation to ensure there are no exemptions applicable to the racing industry.

This bill here today would ensure that it was clear that freedom of information requests to Greyhound Racing SA were to be complied with. I note that this has been a longstanding issue that I have raised many times in this place. I have been raising it for somewhere near a decade and I note that it was sparked by a 2016 freedom of information request, which I have tabled in this place before and raised in this place before, where I simply asked for statistics of greyhound racing in South Australia. Matt Corby, the then chief executive of Greyhound Racing SA, replied on 27 June 2016:

We refer to your letters of 27 April, 28 April, 29 April, 2 May, 3 May, 4 May, 5 May and 6 May 2016 by way of purported applications under the Freedom of Information Act 1991 (the Act).

It appears that the abovementioned applications are misconceived as the Act applies only to the 'agencies' as defined in the Act. Greyhound Racing SA Pty Ltd is not an 'agency' within the meaning of the Act and the Act has no application in respect to it.

At that time in July 2016, I was afforded some legal advice via Shaw & Henderson, who are criminal and commercial lawyers. I note that that legal advice responded to my email that posed two questions, and I quote:

1. Is GRSA an agency liable to the provisions of the FOI Act? and

2. If GRSA is not accountable under the FOI Act, which Minister or Department should questions relating to GRSA be directed? To save time, I seek leave to simply table this document so that next time we have this debate, both the government and the opposition are able to digest it.

Leave granted.

The Hon. T.A. FRANKS: In summary, at the time I received the advice, it did contend that GRSA should in fact be complying with the Freedom of Information Act. This bill would have simply clarified that. It was also, as I said, recommended by the Ashton review, a groundbreaking review which indeed found that the very things that animal advocates have long argued were happening here in South Australia in greyhound racing are indeed happening here in South Australia in greyhound racing.

By resisting this very simple bill to allow freedom of information requests and to ensure that they are complied with by Greyhound Racing SA, we are simply allowing the industry to carry on as they have done now for decades. I note that speakers have pointed to the appointment of Mr Ashton. Indeed, he does come with an outstanding record, but I would also note that, until the Four Corners exposé, he had been the commissioner in Victoria for five years and had no idea that live baiting existed in that state, so we cannot rely on one person to do this job. Indeed, it is a job that the parliament should be doing, and that the government has committed to do.

Mr Ashton, on ABC radio in the afternoon last week, in fact said that his job was not to implement the recommendations but to report on the implementations and progress of the recommendations. Mr Ashton is not a member of parliament. Mr Ashton does not have a vote in parliament. The Labor government and the Liberal opposition do have votes in parliament. They are, in fact, the only ones that can implement a change to our laws to ensure that recommendation that freedom of information apply to Greyhound Racing SA is in fact put into law, and that recommendation is able to be achieved.

I also note that Mr Ashton has now been announced, despite the government last December promising that there would be someone in place by Easter this year. It was far beyond Easter this year that the announcement of Mr Ashton was made and then, in the fine detail, we find that he does not actually start for some months to come; in fact, not until the second half of this year. He has no enabling legislation at this stage. He has no powers of inquiry bestowed upon him, and I note that in Victoria, while he was charged and given quite significant powers to undertake his job there within integrity and ensuring integrity in the racing industry in that state, he indeed asked for more powers because the ones he had conferred on him by Victorian legislation were not enough to do his job.

I find it extraordinary that the South Australian government has now announced the appointment of an eminent Australian to do an important job but has not given him the powers to do that job. I look forward to working with the government, who say that today they cannot support this legislation. I would say they will not support this legislation, but if they are willing to continue to work toward the goal of achieving all 86 recommendations being implemented within the time frame given, I do look forward to working with them further on this.

I will be pursuing the issue raised within the legal advice that I have now tabled, and seeking both Ombudsman and other adjudication of whether or not in fact Greyhound Racing SA should have always been subject to freedom of information requests. What this parliament does with its inaction today—for anyone who wants to know what is actually going on in the industry, as opposed to the very small reports that they might provide to the Minister for Racing—is it keeps the veil of secrecy over this industry that has been exposed by the Ashton report to be behaving inappropriately.

It does not reflect the expectations of the South Australian community in general and, more specifically, the pledge that they believe the Premier and the Minister for Racing made in December last year. It does not hold that pledge to the standard it should be. It is incredibly disappointing for those in the Animal Justice Party who worked in good faith with this Ashton review. It is incredibly disappointing to the RSPCA and the Coalition for the Protection of Greyhounds, who, again, worked in good faith to see the Ashton review expose what it did and to be an appropriate, independent and robust report.

It is a betrayal of all the work that went into that report to not enact the simplest recommendations that would provide proper and appropriate accountability and scrutiny over an industry that is predicated on gambling on animals, that has been exposed time and time again as behaving in inappropriate ways and that has shown that it cannot be trusted to govern itself.

It is an understatement to say that I am disappointed in the Malinauskas government today and I am very disappointed in the Minister for Racing, who has some idea that by opening up the Freedom of Information Act we somehow open a Pandora's box of unanticipated outcomes. Greyhound Racing SA should be subject to freedom of information, the government has agreed that it should be subject to freedom of information. They have said they accept the recommendation that Greyhound Racing SA should be compliant with freedom of information, but here we are, in a vote in parliament, where the government will not, because they say they cannot, support Greyhound Racing SA very clearly and explicitly being subjected to freedom of information requests.

I note that we have very small organisations in this state that are subjected to freedom of information requests; we have seen many in the APY Executive, for example, and that is a tiny organisation that does not make money out of gambling on animals, yet they are required to comply with freedom of information requirements, as they should. This idea that some mythical Pandora's box will somehow be unleashed and every tiny NGO might suddenly have to comply with a freedom of information request, which is something I have been told outside of this chamber but that was not made explicit in this chamber, seems to be one of the bogeymen being presented here.

I acknowledge that at least the Liberal opposition is open to having a discussion and open to voting for this measure and this recommendation being implemented in the future. If the Malinauskas government continues to obfuscate and resort to rhetoric rather than real action on cleaning up the greyhound racing industry, the Minister for Racing will only have herself to blame for any cruelty, illegality and corruption that may continue under her watch.

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