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Racing and Other Acts Amendment (Greyhound Racing and Welfare Reform) Bill 2015

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Sam Hibbins MP
Member for Prahran
26 February 2016

Mr HIBBINS (Prahran) — I rise to speak on the Racing and Other Acts Amendment (Greyhound Racing and Welfare Reform) Bill 2015. The Greens will be supporting this bill because the reforms it will make will support the welfare of greyhounds in the greyhound racing industry. However, the Greens position on the greyhound racing industry is that it is time it was shut down. It has become clear, not just because of the live baiting scandal, that even with the best efforts of regulation and the best intentions the greyhound racing industry will result in the needless deaths of thousands of dogs. To put an end to the cruelty and the deaths of greyhounds, we must also put an end to the greyhound racing industry.

Dogs that are too slow to have a racing career or that have finished their racing careers because they are not successful, are too old or are injured during racing are put down even though they are otherwise healthy. According to RSPCA figures, 18 000 dogs are put down in Australia each year. Overbreeding as well as the inability to find homes for retired dogs means greyhound racing is an inherently deadly industry for greyhounds, with an estimated 10 000 adult greyhounds put down every year and 8000 pups being killed every year. This is unacceptable.

Greyhounds have a life span of 13 years, while a racing career will only last 1 to 4 years, and they are likely to be put down afterwards. Only 1000 greyhounds are rehomed each year; it is simply not possible for all greyhounds to be rehomed. Greyhound racing is also inherently dangerous, with common injuries to dogs on the track and around five deaths on the track per week. Due to the number of deaths of dogs that do not even race, have been injured during racing or have finished their racing careers, despite whatever regulations will be put in place, the sport of greyhound racing will inherently result in the ongoing needless deaths of thousands of dogs and for that reason alone it must be shut down. I accept that yes, this is an industry that many people rely on for their jobs, for their income and for other economic benefits that have been outlined by previous speakers, but that is why a plan must be put in place with a clear end date in mind for the closing down of this industry. That is what the Greens are pushing for in Victoria, in other state parliaments and federally in Australia. While the changes in this bill are an improvement to previous legislation, this is an industry that we must be pushing to see the end of.

The live baiting scandal shocked Victorians and many other members in this house. Live animals were killed and tortured in the training of greyhounds. It is because of this scandal that the Greens have focused federally on their greyhound policy. We have strengthened our greyhound policy. It is coming to light that even with all the regulation that we can have, the greyhound industry will inherently result in the deaths of thousands of dogs. The state government's initial response to the live baiting scandal was clearly inadequate. It gave Greyhound Racing Victoria $3 million to self-regulate and investigate its own ineptness when clearly the failure had been for Greyhound Racing Victoria to self-regulate its own industry. It exposed a culture of cruelty within the industry, and the fact that this live baiting was uncovered across multiple tracks at multiple sites in multiple states shows that this is more than just isolated instances by a few bad eggs.

Also troubling were the reports of mass graves and mass burial sites of greyhounds, and at the time the Greens did call for Greyhound Racing Victoria to be sacked and stripped of its regulatory powers. We certainly welcome the fact that now all members of that greyhound racing board have moved on.

We have also called for the creation of an independent body of animal welfare, and we certainly urge the government to take up that initiative. We note that the establishment of an independent integrity body is not included in this bill. The investigation by Mr Perna resulted in the recommendation to establish an independent integrity body, and that is being supported in principle by the government. The government has commissioned Mr Paul Bittar to make recommendations on a new model for integrity in the Victorian racing industry, and that report is due back by March 2016.

Going to the detail of the bill, it amends the Racing Act 1958 by addressing the functions and rules of Greyhound Racing Victoria. It makes changes to its constitution, changes to its appeals and disciplinary board, sets out additional functions for the racing integrity commissioner regarding animal welfare, creates offences relating to the use of animals as lures in greyhound races, makes a number of changes to animal welfare arrangements in the greyhound racing sector and amends the functions of the board of Greyhound Racing Victoria to make it clear that it has a statutory responsibility for animal welfare.

Last year Sue Pennicuik, a Greens member in the upper house and our animal welfare spokesperson, moved amendments to the Racing Amendment Bill 2015 to ensure that a person with animal welfare expertise is added to the advisory body. This was not supported at the time, so we now certainly welcome the changes to ensure that one member of the board has expertise in animal welfare ethics and that one member of Greyhound Racing Victoria's racing and appeals disciplinary board must have animal welfare or veterinary experience. This bill also makes changes to the rules in relation to the welfare of greyhounds. We welcome these changes. We do have some concerns that the single organisation of Greyhound Racing Victoria has responsibility for commercial integrity and law enforcement powers, which does give rise to the possibility of a conflict of interest when it might be more appropriate for those powers to be separated.

The Greens would like to see a number of further animal welfare initiatives implemented in this term of government. There are a number of industries and practices that have no place in Victoria, and certainly do not have the support of the vast majority of Victorians. Jumps racing results in the deaths of numerous horses each year, and we have been pushing for it to be outlawed in Victoria. We are seeing one death for every 115 horses that start a race. We need to put an end to the annual massacre of native ducks and protected species. The shooting season went ahead this year despite a significant drop in duck numbers, and we also uncovered that the Game Management Authority is conflicted by having both promotional and regulatory oversight into the game industry and is actively seeking to expand game hunting into other areas.

We also need to end the cruel practices in the breeding, sale and confinement of pets and to abolish puppy farms in Victoria and only allow animals that are from animal shelters and rehoming services to be sold in pet shops. We need to further protect our native wildlife in Victoria, particularly Leadbeater's possum with the creation of the Great Forest National Park, and introduce more humane farming practices, particularly in the banning of sow stalls and the sale of caged eggs. So the Greens will be supporting the bill as it is a step towards improving animal welfare in the greyhound racing industry. But it is clear that despite the best intentions and the best efforts of regulation, the greyhound racing industry will result in the needless and unnecessary deaths of thousands of dogs due to injury, overbreeding, retired dogs and the lack of rehoming opportunities. We need to put a plan in place for the end of this industry.

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Sam Hibbins MP
Member for Prahran
26 February 2016




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