Inquiry into Greyhound Racing in South Australia

21 Sep 2016 newsspeechparliament

This speech is in relation to an inquiry into greyhound racing in South Australia. The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK indicates she is not supporting the motion put forward by the Hon. T.A. Franks regarding the inquiry.

Adjourned debate on motion of Hon. T.A. Franks:

1. That a select committee of the Legislative Council be established to inquire into and report on greyhound racing in South Australia, and in particular—

(a) the economic viability of the greyhound racing industry in South Australia;

(b) the financial performance and conduct of the industry and of Greyhound Racing SA;

(c) the effectiveness of current industry regulation, including the level of autonomy of Greyhound Racing SA;

(d) the sale and breeding of greyhounds, including the market conditions and welfare of animals;

(e) the welfare of animals in the industry and the role of Greyhound Racing SA in establishing and enforcing standards of treatment of animals;

(f) financial incentives for reducing euthanasia and prosecutions of animal mistreatment;

(g) the adequacy and integrity of data collection in the industry, including the number of pups born, the number of dogs euthanased and injury rates; and

(h) any other relevant matters.

2. That standing order 389 be so far suspended as to enable the Chairperson of the committee to have a deliberative vote only.

3. That this council permits the select committee to authorise the disclosure or publication, as it sees fit, of any evidence or documents presented to the committee prior to such evidence being presented to the council.

4. That standing order 396 be suspended to enable strangers to be admitted when the select committee is examining witnesses, unless the committee otherwise resolves, but they shall be excluded when the committee is deliberating.

(Continued from 27 July 2016.)

The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK ( 16:11 ): I rise to make some comments in relation to this particular motion and to let anybody who is interested in this issue know at the outset that we will not be supporting the inquiry. I would now like to outline some comments as to why and also to thank members of the public, the RSPCA and the GRSA for their contact. I have had some emails from members of the public urging me to support the inquiry, I have had correspondence with the RSPCA and a meeting with the GRSA.

I would also like to indicate that my colleague, the Hon. Terry Stephens, will be making some comments on this bill as well, as someone who I understand is quite familiar with the greyhound racing industry. I think it is a shame in some ways that this matter is not being debated in the House of Assembly because we have a number of country MPs who have a range of facilities and meets within their areas and I am sure they would like to make a contribution on this matter.

To quickly recap on the issue of greyhound racing which has led us to this matter today that we are debating: in February 2015, I think all Australians were shocked at the exposure of live baiting issues through the Four Corners program, which obtained footage from a number of facilities in the Eastern States. I have referred to these matters before in discussing my private member's bill, including that the CEO of GRSA, Mr Matt Corby, described himself as quite shocked by those matters.

We have had two bills brought to the parliament. There was our private member's bill, which was proposing to licence bullrings. We also had a government package, which included a bill to increase penalties for animal cruelty. That also referred to new arrangements between GRSA and the RSPCA, which I will refer to a little bit later. The New South Wales government, of course, is banning the greyhound industry in that state from 1 July next year.

The continuous message we have had from the South Australian government in relation to greyhound racing in South Australia is that it is a pretty clean industry. When the Four Corners exposure took place, there was no evidence at the time that there were systemic instances of live baiting taking place. Indeed, I think the RSPCA also made the comment that they did not have any evidence of that at the time.

I would like to acknowledge the people who have contacted me post that matter—indeed, it was a whistleblower who led to the drafting of our private member's bill—and other people have spoken to me since. I would have to say that it has not led to anything that has been verifiable or anything that we could take as a matter of breaking of the law, so I have kept an open mind on this matter. However, if there are issues that people say are taking place, we need to be able to take those to the relevant authorities.

I said at the time I moved the bill last year that my sympathies go to the many good and decent people who work in this industry who have unfortunately been tarred with the same brush as those who have undertaken malicious practices. Knowing a few people who are dog breeders, not in this area but in other areas, I understand that they are quite fanatical about the standard of care they apply to their dogs. I understand that there are a number of people who take great care of their dogs who would have been equally horrified about the live baiting practices that they saw on TV.

I said at the time, which was in February last year, that it is time to restore confidence in the industry for the sake of all the honest and decent people who work in it. I still believe that is true, and that is why I think this inquiry is somewhat premature. We have had legislation passed in this place. We will be, and I will personally be, very interested to watch the euthanasia rates closely. I am pleased that the GRSA has today come out with those figures. I think they should have done that earlier. I actually urged them to publish their figures because, as I said to them, the fact that there were figures floating around in the order of 13,000 to 17,000 nationally gave me no comfort at all.

It has been my firm view for some time that the community standards in relation to animal welfare have changed significantly. I could not give you a period over when, perhaps the last five or 10 years, but certainly people view animal welfare as a much more significant issue than they ever used to. I think people find the unnecessary deaths of animals unacceptable, and therefore I am pleased that they are working towards zero euthanasia. They cannot reach it fast enough, as far as I am concerned, but they tell us that will be by 2018.

Indeed, the unnecessary euthanasia of animals is why this parliament has passed the Dog and Cat Management Bill so that not only are puppy farms banned but also to reduce the number of unwanted animals in the community. I am distracting myself, which is not a good thing. We will be watching these euthanasia rates very closely. As I said, they cannot reach zero soon enough as far as I am concerned, and I would urge them to continue all efforts in that regard.

As an aside in relation to the government's legislation which passed last year, I remember saying at the time—and I am pretty sure that the minister agreed with me—that one of the things which was critical in the package of reforms that the government came up with in light of the shocking practices of live baiting that were exposed is that the relationship between the GRSA and the RSPCA is absolutely critical to ensure that, if there are any practices of live baiting, or any other instances of animal cruelty occurring, there be protocols in place and that they be working effectively.

I think one of the disappointing things—and I am not going to point fingers at either of the organisations. I hope that they can sort out their differences because I think, in the interests of animal welfare, it would be most useful if they could work cooperatively to ensure that any animal welfare breaches are brought to court and that those people be removed from the industry and the relevant penalties, and gaol terms, if that is what is required, are brought to bear. While we have this stand‑off between the two it is not assisting confidence, and these matters will continue to be brought to parliament's attention for sorting out.

I urge both organisations to do what they need to do. They both claim to support good animal welfare practices, and I understand that they both do, so I therefore urge them to try to do what they can to mend their relationship so that we can all have confidence that the best practices are being undertaken in South Australia. With those comments, I indicate once again that the Liberal Party will not be supporting the referral to a select committee.

Motion negatived.