MORE senior federal Nationals have spoken out against the NSW Coalition government’s shock decision to ban greyhound racing, starting from July next year.
Nationals’ leader and Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce told 2GB Radio today he supported the live cattle trade and was always “natural enough very sceptical” about government interventions and tried to stay away from “banning anything”.
“If you ban things, I think you have to be careful (because) you start hurting people that you didn’t expect to hurt,” he said.
“It’s best to try and work with the industry and get them to sort of sort out their problems.”
Mr Joyce admitted his comments would cause him “grief” because people would say he was speaking out against his political colleagues.
However, he admitted he hadn’t read the report which led to the ban announcement last week by the Baird government “and to be quite frank I don’t intend to read the report”.
“I know a lot of people who own greyhounds – they are probably doing it a bit tough to be honest,” he said.
“If there’s a way around this we should try and find it – that would be my humble advice.”
The NSW government’s response came after the McHugh report said the greyhound racing industry had lost its “social licence” after failing to address animal cruelty practices like live baiting, which the general public didn’t tolerate.
The decision is being watched closely by other animal use industries that face escalating pressures from animal liberationist lobby groups determined to ban their industries by applying political and commercial pressures through media driven acts of public shaming, over welfare standards.
Critics are attacking the report that underpinned the NSW government’s ban and warning of legal challenges to try and save the sport which is regarded as an important social and economic contributor, to rural communities.
With livestock farming industries also facing growing political pressures, Mr Joyce said “you’ve always got to try and regulate it, monitor it, make sure people are doing the right thing and jump on them from a great height if they’re not”.
He said the greyhound racing industry involved many people who can‘t afford to participate in the racehorse industry because it was too expensive but they can “afford to own a dishlicker”.
“That gives them an opportunity sort of to be at the track,” he said.
“It’s not the top end of town who’s at the greyhound track - it’s the bottom (end) and you’ve got to be a little bit careful in jumping into a section of their life because it’s their life; it’s their right.”
Mr Joyce also warned against the NSW Nationals potentially siding with the Greens to pass the legislation on banning greyhound racing – a move which may also require the Animal Justice Party’s Upper House member Mark Pearson.
“I know where the Greens are off to – they want to ban rodeos, ban the live cattle trade and ultimately they’ve got a thing against people who eat meat,” Mr Joyce said.
“They think animals are people and people are animals.
“Watch out getting too close to them because you’ll end up Misery Gully because it’s not connected to sanity.
“Where they end up is craziness.
“If you look at some of the animal husbandry things they want to bring onto farms via the Greens it will be a nightmare.”
Mr Joyce said the Greens also wanted to close down the irrigation industry and on land management in agriculture they wanted to give trees more rights than farmers.
“If you run with the Greens the country goes broke – it’s quite simple,” he said.
“You can run with them but you just won’t be able to afford schools or hospitals or anything because we will go broke.
“It’s crazy old economics when the Greens are involved - well-meaning lunacy.”
Victorian Nationals MP and cabinet minister Darren Chester said the greyhound racing ban was a state issue and primarily one for the NSW Government to deal with.
But he said he was concerned about the way in which a vast number of people were effectively being punished “for the misdeeds of a smaller number of people”.
However, Mr Chester said he’d read some of the report into the NSW greyhound industry and it was “very damning”.
“There's no-one who thinks that the mistreatment of animals is appropriate, but it is a concern when a small number of people relative to the greater group involved in the greyhound racing industry are going to see this industry banned at the expense of others,” he said.
“The Victorian greyhound racing industry went as far as appointing a former homicide detective in Charlie Bezzina as their lead investigator into integrity matters.
“I would be hopeful that there's an opportunity for the greyhound racing industry to work with the NSW Government, seek one more chance, if you like, put some more integrity measures in place.
“I am uncomfortable with the loss of an important industry, particularly as it impacts on a lot of battlers in regional areas and regional parts of NSW.”
Mr Chester said it was “too big a line” to draw a comparison with the 2011 Indonesian live cattle suspension because the NSW Government went through a process with an exhaustive inquiry over a 12-month period.
But he said the live export ban was really in response to a TV program and a Twitter outrage campaign and a whole bunch of emails with the trade “done over” in about 72 hours.
“I think the NSW Government has gone through a fair and legitimate process,” he said.
“I'm not comfortable with the outcome, but again, it's a NSW Government decision to make.
“I would have hoped that there's a way to get the industry back on its feet, so to speak.
“If I was involved in the greyhound racing industry in NSW, I'd be going back to the Government and saying, ‘By all means, double the penalties if you have to, increase the auditing process, increase the investigatory activities, but give us a chance to prove we can get this right and give us a chance to prove we can get the industry back on its feet’.”
Opposition leader Bill Shorten also agreed greyhound racing was a State issue and animal welfare was “most important”.
He said there had been “scandalous behaviour” in NSW but he was unsure if the State government had “taken a sledgehammer to this issue”.
Mr Shorten said there were “grave concerns” about people who had done the right thing their whole life in greyhound racing but were being “unfairly tarred with the same brush as the scallywags, scoundrels and criminals”.
“The challenge for me and the challenge I think for Australians, if you want to make sure the animals' welfare is uppermost, but it is important also that we don't destroy people's livelihoods along the way,” he said.
“I would be concerned about the economic impact of this government action and I think that needs to be thought through before we take the sledgehammer to this industry.”
NSW Nationals MP Michael McCormack was the first federal MP to speak up against the ban last week calling it a “hasty” decision by the State government that would spark the sudden loss of 1000 jobs like country dog breeders.
Mr McCormack also questioned why the NSW parliament had not tried to address about 80 recommendations for regulatory reforms nominated in the McHugh report, that he admitted was “damning”, before implementing the ban.
“This decision is far too hasty and will send a shiver down the spine of anyone involved in the beef industry or growing and producing cattle for the live exports market,” he said.
NSW State Nationals MP Katrina Hodgkinson has also criticised the decision publicly in supporting local constituents involved in the racing industry that maintain high animal welfare standards.
NSW Liberal Democratic Party Senator David Leyonhjelm says the ban is a further step forward in implementing the agenda of the extremist animal rights movement which wants to prevent the use of animals by humans, “under all circumstances”.
Senator Leyonhjelm said the decision was also disappointing because of its collectivist approach and rather than dealing with a small number of individual greyhound industry participants who break the law, the government was punishing everyone.
“A small number of politicians rort their expenses and are currently dealt with individually,” he said.
“Applying a collectivist approach could result in all politicians being treated as corrupt.
“It would be difficult for the government to argue against that, given its collectivist policies generally.”
In a statement today, Greyhound Racing NSW (GRNSW) Chief Executive Paul Newson said in the next few weeks the government would appoint an administrator to manage the shutdown of the State’s greyhound racing industry.
“I was asked to take on the role of interim Chief Executive in February 2015 following the disturbing and deeply troubling revelations by ‘Four Corners’ and animal rights groups of serious misconduct being undertaken by members of the industry,” he said.
“Those cruel and sickening images of live baiting will not be easily forgotten and highlighted a serious failing by previous management in their oversight and supervision of the industry.
“The subsequent finding by the Special Commission of Inquiry that far too many healthy greyhounds die each year to sustain the racing industry is equally disturbing.
“It’s frustrating to see the support that has emerged to defend the industry since the government’s announcement, when we often had to deal with the outright denial of the significant animal welfare issues in the industry.
“On many occasions proposed reforms were dismissed and resisted by industry participants and while some participants courageously championed reform, overall there was little appetite to demonstrate the significant change was in place before the inquiry had made its recommendation to government.
“However, I recognise the government’s decision is devastating for all participants in the sport and they are understandably distressed and concerned about what will happen next.”
Mr Newson said in accordance with the NSW government’s announcement, details of how the industry would be shutdown were being developed by a government taskforce following consultation with stakeholders in industry and animal welfare organisations and would be announced later in the year.
“There are still a great deal of unanswered questions such as can NSW participants still have a role in greyhound racing in other states, can breeders and trainers still operate out of NSW and if greyhounds can be transferred to other states, to name just a few,” he said.
“I know from the feedback I have received from participants and GRNSW staff since the decision last week that you want GRNSW to fight the government’s decision, but in light of a clear government policy declaration that it intends to end the industry and our role as a regulator, this places me in a very difficult position and the appointment of a GRNSW administrator will make it impossible.”