Mid-morning last Thursday Premier Mike Baird stood aside his Deputy Premier and Minister For Sport Troy Grant to hand down the findings of the 15-month Special Commission Of Inquiry Report into NSW Greyhound Racing, prepared by the Honorable Michael McHugh QC.
The exhaustive report made 80 recommendations – 79 of which would have seen New South Wales greyhound racing firmly continue on with the massive reform measures it has undertaken since the ABC’s 4 Corners program “Making A Killing” aired in February 2015.
Last week’s announcement by the Premier could have gone one of two ways.
Let’s roll up our sleeves, the good old Australian way, and introduce the report’s recommendations and give the industry in NSW 3-5 years to continue its rehabilitation and reform, instilling trust and faith in the thousands of great people that participate in the industry across the state.
The other option was to unfavorably pre-determine the NSW greyhound industry’s ability to reform and regain community trust, grab out the big red pen and put it in the too hard basket. Showing scant regard for the dire and immediate ramifications the decision will have on the lives of thousands of Australians.
There is no getting away from the fact that the numbers released in the report last Thursday are confronting and damming.
They were yesterday, they are today, they will be tomorrow.
They clearly highlighted that for too long reckless and unstainable breeding numbers were generated which went unchecked, needing much tighter regulations with higher levels of accountability – something the industry has met head on, accepted and implemented nationally, over the past 15 months.
The savory aspect was that no matter how confronting, there is an insatiable want from those within the industry to face those challenges and come out the other side, no matter what the cost.
Participants that needed to be educated on the social practices the industry needs to uphold in this state - to firstly survive and then flourish - have been, in bucket loads.
The level of education has been immense. And welcomed.
There was a way forward. The amount of progress made in the past 15 months with strong leadership and governance from GRNSW and Greyhounds Australasia has been profound.
Imagine what could be achieved in 3-5 years?
Now, imagining is all the industry in New South Wales, seemingly has to do.
After Premier Baird’s announcement last Thursday, Racing Minister’s in Victoria, Queensland and South Australia came out in staunch support of the industries in their state, resolute in their desire to see the sport and all the good people involved in it, through their most trying of times.
How can three state’s be so defiant in getting behind the good-willed and hard-working people they represent while one doesn’t entertain the prospect of diving head first into exhaustive reform to eventually see the industry flourish as a consequence?
That’s a question we all need to be asking.
It would be unfair, and probably impossible for that fact, to try and quantify the amount of people that will be affected by this implausible decision. It’s about as far reaching as you get and to single out any one example wouldn’t be doing justice to the next, or the one after that.
One thing is for certain though and that’s thousands of good Australians, involved directly or indirectly with the industry, are now lying awake at night wondering how they will soon put food on the table for their families.
Many invested to the brink in the sport they love so much, 99.9% of who put the care and welfare of their greyhounds before themselves. And that’s fact; we as an industry see it, each and every day.
For all the facts and comments bandied about, that’s one not for debate. By anyone.
There are exceptions, there is in every walk of life. Bad things sometimes do happen.
After last year’s scandal broke, where individuals were given life-bans for illegal live baiting practices, Deputy Prime Minister at the time Barnaby Joyce said: “It’s time to take a breath…when something is broken you fix it, you don’t throw it away.”
That’s the Australian way isn’t it?
Thousands of good-hearted, hard-working NSW participants are paying the ultimate price for the deeds of a few. Each and every day the vast majority of participants have continued to do the right thing…now their lives are in tatters.
Greyhounds are their life. Their trade. For most, all they know – their livelihood. Their passion. Their love. The reason they get up in the morning.
The industry will fight. It’s a resilient one, built on the cornerstone of hard work and comradery - it has been part of the social fabric in NSW since 1929.
The racing industry as a whole needs to rally – “united we stand, divided we fall” should be the catch cry, asking themselves “what if we’re next?”
There was a way forward. There still is. It’s not too late.