Greyhound Racing Prohibition

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I make a contribution to the debate on the Greyhound Racing Prohibition Bill 2016. I state from the outset that I have never been a fan of greyhound racing. As a young girl from a working-class family in Canberra and then in rural New South Wales, I was exposed to greyhound racing. My father, a woodchopper, would take the family to country shows where greyhound racing would often feature. My grandfather was a punter, and I remember him putting bets on the dogs. 

Gaming and racing in New South Wales run a close second to stamp duty as a mainstay of State revenue. The New South Wales Government builds motorways, train tunnels and light rail by encouraging, promoting and skimming from the top of gambling addictions among the working classes of this State. That is how it is and how it has always been in New South Wales.

While this State Liberal Government does crooked deals with casino operators to protect and build their businesses, I have a great deal of sympathy with the view of animal rights activists that greyhound racing in New South Wales is responsible for well-documented and systemic animal cruelty. However, when it comes to gambling industries, Mike Baird is no innocent. Likewise he is no innocent when it comes to profiteering by property developers. Here the duality of stamp duties and gambling taxes meet. While Mike Baird has destroyed Sydney's night economy with the blunt-force lockout laws, he continues to manage a legislative protection racket on behalf of the owners of The Star casino.

Mike Baird has gifted public land in Barangaroo to property developers like Lend Lease, Mirvac and Grocon, and he has gifted Jamie Packer a new casino at Barangaroo. Let us join the dots: Mike Baird relies on gambling revenue and stamp duty to fund unpopular projects like WestConnex and the new tolls gantries along the M4. Likewise the Liberal Party relies upon the political donations of developers like Crown Resorts Limited. In the past eight years, $500,000 of donations to the Liberal and National parties have flowed from Crown Limited, Crown Resorts, Crown Ltd, or whatever Jamie Packer calls it these days. This occurred throughout the years that we now know the Federal branch of the Liberal Party was laundering illegal donations from property developers on behalf of the State branch of the Liberals. Under reforms introduced by Labor Premier Nathan Rees in 2009, it became illegal for property developers to make donations to political parties in New South Wales. Labor did this to break the unseemly link between planning policy and political influences in the State.

Instead, a property developer would give money to the Federal Liberal Party—or sometimes a dodgy front in the form of a foundation whose sole purpose was to raise money for the Liberal Party. This donation would then be transferred back to the State branch in a separate payment that would disguise the true origin of the money. These matters are the subject of lengthy Independent Commission Against Corruption investigations. In any case, this is about stamp duty and gambling taxes. Now we find ourselves looking at the issue of greyhound racing. Prime public assets exist in the form of greyhound racing tracks on Crown land across this State. The most obvious example of this public land that could be turned over by the Baird Government to its corporate backers is Wentworth Park.

Wentworth Park, which is located in the heart of Glebe, smack-bang in the middle of the Balmain electorate which is held by Jamie Parker, will now be vulnerable to overdevelopment because of the decision of his colleagues in the Legislative Council to jump in headfirst with the Baird Government. Labor put forward a simple amendment to ensure that these public spaces would stay in public hands unless Parliament resolved to sell them. It would have meant that the Government would have been forced to debate the merits or otherwise of any sell-off proposal. However, as these public spaces are now left unprotected what comes next? Being waterfront land Wentworth Park would be an ideal high density real estate development precinct. It already has a tramline so perhaps the Baird Government can persuade Jamie Packer to build a new casino there. Residents could catch the tram from casino to casino.

The SPEAKER: Order! The member for Blue Mountains should be heard in silence.

Ms TRISH DOYLE: I said at the outset that I abhor animal cruelty. The evidence that came to light in the February 2015 Four Corners report, "Making a Killing", as well as the evidence tendered to the McHugh Special Commission of Inquiry into Greyhound Racing in NSW is stomach churning. Live baiting and the killing of healthy dogs is rife in the industry. That is not to say that every trainer or owner, every punter, bar worker, grounds keeper or betting shop worker is guilty of these things.

The SPEAKER: Order! Every member should be heard in silence.

Ms TRISH DOYLE: But to pretend that these things do not happen, to say that they should be allowed to continue to happen and to continue to ignore them means that we become complicit in them. It is incumbent on members in this place to put a stop to these cruel, inhumane and criminal activities. But we cannot ignore the impact that this bill will have on the livelihoods of people who are not guilty of the abhorrent practices brought to light by Four Corners and the McHugh inquiry. The bill before us specifically rules out any financial assistance to those affected by the proposed ban. Section 29 states:

(1) Compensation is not payable by or on behalf of the State:

(a) because of the enactment or operation of this Act, or for any consequence of that enactment or operation  …

When the live export issue was reopened there were new protections and the people whose livelihoods depended on trade were supported and assisted in the meantime. The Baird Government specifically ruled out this sort of financial assistance. I am disappointed in The Nationals who speak ad nauseam about the economic impact of live export suspension but who cannot bring themselves to vote for industry assistance for workers and business owners in another industry that is strongly represented in their electorates. The Nationals, bar a few, are silent about the need for industry assistance and financial compensation for law-abiding, caring and ethical participants in this industry.

I have struggled with my position on this bill, as have many Opposition members. All too often politicians front the media or speak in debate in this Chamber and tell their constituents that they have all the answers. We put our opinions or our policies to the public as a series of self-evident truths and we tell ourselves and those around us that we must deliver those policies with surety and confidence. I have conflicts in relation to this bill and I have been struggling for weeks with how to respond to it. I have not participated and I will never participate in or enjoy this so-called sport. At this point I acknowledge a few hundred constituents who respectfully and passionately informed me of their opposition to greyhound racing, based on the animal welfare issues brought to light by the McHugh inquiry.

Many have spoken to me of their anger and despair about these serious and unconscionable animal abuses. I say tonight that I am with them on that point. But significant human impacts arise from the legislation that is before us tonight. I do not accept that the only way to improve animal welfare outcomes is to bankrupt low and middle income earners, many thousands of whom love and care for their animals.

Nor do I accept that the main beneficiary of the greyhound racing industry closure should be the white-shoe brigade and the mates of Mike Baird Pty Limited.

This bill will create as many problems as it aims to solve. I did not come into this Parliament to create financial hardship for workers or to enable the privatisation of public assets. Nor did I come into this place to line the pockets of property developers and major gambling interests. Mike Baird's legislation has failed these tests. Nevertheless, a decision has seemingly been made by the Premier before debate and usurping the proper parliamentary process. This is a complex matter. I note two things in conclusion: an assistance package for those good people who love their dogs must be a priority as the industry is closed down; and the care, protection and welfare of the creatures involved in greyhound racing must be paramount as the Government implements the closure. As a member of my community whom I deeply respect said to me, "We measure our value by how we treat those unable to speak for themselves-human or animal."

This legislation hurts both and there must be a better way.