Despite startling concerns from participants that the upcoming Parliamentary Inquiry into greyhound racing will have a detrimental effect on the sport, the Greyhound Action Group (GAG) is adamant that it will have a positive outcome.
The GAG were the masterminds behind the inquiry to combat both the binding inter-code agreement that dictates prize money distribution between the three racing codes and the alleged mismanagement of the controlling body of greyhound racing in the state (GRNSW).
The process started when the GAG developed a working relationship with the Hon. Robert Borsak, MLC, Member of the Shooters and Fishers Party, who has been instrumental in promoting the matter
“Bob Whitelaw (GAG Vice President) had a friend who in the Shooters and Fishers Party and he introduced us”, said Greyhound Action Group President, Dennis Carl.
“We went to them and explained what we were after and what happened, what the grievances were and they were very interested. Robert Borsak said to us that many of their members were rural people and that greyhound racing is very important to a lot of rural towns. He came on board and he has been a strong support along with Clayton Barr (Labor Member) from Cessnock so we just kept badgering and badgering until we reached where we are today”.
The Parliamentary Inquiry was successfully moved last week by Greens MP, John Kaye, who will act as the assistant chairman of the inquiry, with Borsak to fill the position of Chairman after the Shooters and Fishers Party supported the motion. Five other positions on the inquiry committee will be filled; two will be members of the Labor Party, the other three will be Government representatives.
What has got many worried is that Kaye seems determined to shed a light on so-called ‘animal welfare scandals’ and ‘criminal involvement’ within the sport.
Adding to this, participants have been anxious that the key issues which were the original aim of the GAG, those being the inter-code agreement and the alleged mismanagement of GRNSW, will be placed on the backburner in pursuit of slandering and bringing down the Greyhound Racing Industry.
The GAG is confident that this will not be the case, with the opinion that the plight of anti-racing protestors is based on an unhinged set of allegations rather than facts.
“Much of what they say is rubbish”, Carl said, “They talk about starving a dog to get it down to a certain weight, it’s insane”.
“My own view is that everything there is an allegation, no proof, it’s all allegations, except one. The one that is not an allegation is the fact that the CEO of GRNSW (Brent Hogan) on National television said that 3,000 dogs are euthanized”.
“The point I want to make is that that he admitted subsequently that he didn’t know the figures because Tony (Gannon, secretary of the GAG) rang him and said ‘What the Hell are you talking about?’ and he said ‘Well I had to say something I was under pressure’”.
“That allegation is the only one that has any validity even though the figure mentioned is not right. All the other allegations are rubbish”.
Furthermore, Carl emphasised that the inter-code agreement and the GRNSW concerns will not be lost amongst the welfare investigations pursued by Kaye.
“It won’t be the case because John Kaye is not the chairman. Robert Borsak is and he (Kaye) is only one of seven”.
“Animal welfare will not dominate and we believe that we have got the answers to the animal welfare concerns and, by and large, I think it can be dealt with relatively quickly”.
“We’re confident in our ability to handle the animal welfare side of our industry and we would be even more confident if we could get the inter-code agreement amended so that we can get more money to achieve that end. We are achieving a decent amount of animal welfare on limited funds”.
“Dr Kaye gave me assurances that the only area that he thought was an issue with animal welfare was with the professional trainers but all the other semi-professional and hobby trainers, their studies have shown that there is no problem, they love their dogs and they recognize that”.
Even though Kaye is the only Greens MP involved, the concerns expressed from some at this stage arise from the selection of the other five people to come on board for the inquiry. Whilst GAG is assured that it will be a 6:1 arrangement and that welfare issues will not be the sole concern of the inquiry, it remains to be seen what insight and interest the other five members will bring.
Chances are just as likely that the number could contain welfare types from the Labor and Parliament ranks which would have an effect, especially when the anti-racing protestors unite with their submissions flagged ‘end greyhound racing’.
In a perfect world, other members would all support the key issues brought forward by the GAG however, we do have to accept that this may not be the case. There is no doubt that the anti-racing protestors see this as their biggest opportunity to bring down greyhound racing and will be fighting in every way they can to do so. Knowing this, whether you agree with the inquiry or not, this is the chance for participants to show that they can work together to protect the industry as it strives for what it deserves.
Many participants will agree that the NSW greyhound racing industry needs to change. The alleged poor management practises of GRNSW have been dragged into the spotlight again of late.
“(Based on the) governance and management by GRNSW, we believe that that they are incompetent and lacking any management capability. The industry has gone rapidly backwards since they have been there”, Carl said.
“We want, as an industry, big changes in GRNSW. The way they are accountable- they are currently not accountable and we want them to be accountable. We want the board to be elected in a proper fashion and we want people of quality and probity- not the cronies that sit in there now”
The struggle to resolve GRNSW’s issues works symbiotically with the inter-code agreement- the original plight of the GAG, which they are hoping will be resolved through the inquiry.
“What we are hoping will come out of the inquiry is that the inter-code agreement is revised and amended to give us a better part of our fair share for what our performance is”.
“The money and the management of the money go hand in hand; we can’t have one without the other”.
“GRNSW should be revamped. We can’t have the current board, it’s got to change”.
“You can’t have an organisation that is accountable to nobody- there is no communication”.
“The industry is in decline. Mr Hogan said in my presence that this industry will be broke, was his words, in 18 months”.
As the NSW Greyhound Racing industry prepares to face one of its most confronting and critical tests to date, it is essential to note that no matter what each participants individual stance is regarding the Parliamentary Inquiry- it is happening and it is happening now.
It is common knowledge that the industry lacks the essential skills required to work together however, if participants want an ideal outcome from the inquiry, now is the time to do what we have never done before and unite for the future of greyhound racing.