HON ALISON XAMON (North Metropolitan) [6.42 pm]: It was great to see so many animal welfare groups at Parliament yesterday and I want to make some overarching observations on the state of greyhounds, the greyhound racing industry in Western Australia and my concerns about the current regime, which I think continues to prioritise profit ahead of greyhound welfare.
I thank the minister for his response to my question in Parliament last week about the measures that have been undertaken by this government regarding the animal welfare of greyhounds. It was a comprehensive response. I recognise that this government has implemented a number of strategies designed to improve the wellbeing of greyhounds and minimise the numbers of animals that are euthanased. The most recent announcement last night was the welcome advice that the government intends to address the muzzle laws for greyhounds in its review of the Dog Act later this year. These changes are certainly positive but I do not think these actions go far enough to address what I think is systemic cruelty inherent within the industry. Greyhound racing, I think, is fundamentally cruel and it is the Greens’ position that it ultimately needs to be banned altogether. The welfare and treatment of animals, whether they be native, companion, or production animals, has always been a major concern for the Greens and for me. Animal welfare has been a priority campaign area for the Greens both locally and nationally, and we have a long and very proud track record of speaking up for animals. The Greens strongly believe that the way we treat greyhounds must be sensitive, humane and compassionate. We must and we will stand up to call out cruelty and inhumane treatment wherever we see it. I have met and will continue to liaise with stakeholders, non-government organisations and other interested parties to work together to further reform the greyhound racing industry in WA, being very clear that we are trying to work towards its abolition.
Australia remains one of only eight countries in the world with a commercial greyhound racing industry, and Australia’s, unfortunately, is the biggest. Internationally meanwhile, the industry is in decline. According to Animals Australia, in the United States greyhound racing is illegal in 39 states, 28 of 49 tracks have closed since 2001 and gambling on greyhound racing has been dramatically reduced.
Australians love their companion animals. Most Australian homes have a dog, cat, bird or some other companion animal as a valued and treasured part of the household. I do not think, therefore, it was at all surprising that Australians were shocked when the ABC Four Corners program “Making a Killing”, which focused on the greyhound racing industry, was broadcast in February 2015. It was a shocking and sickening exposé that used undercover footage to reveal an industry riddled with illegal and unethical practices, including the widespread use of live baiting and massive numbers of dogs being killed right across the industry in New South Wales. These revelations so disturbed the government of then Liberal Premier Mike Baird that he immediately announced greyhound racing would be banned in NSW. That would have been a really good outcome but, unfortunately, in the face of a very strong lobbying campaign from the industry, he backflipped and the industry was given a lifeline and put on notice. However, the animal welfare arguments in favour of a ban remain undiminished.
One of the most disturbing facts exposed by the Four Corners program was the extremely high level of what the industry euphemistically terms “wastage”. This seemingly innocuous term refers to the premature and utterly unnecessary euthanasia of otherwise healthy greyhounds—just ones who are not considered fast enough to be a success on the track. Appallingly, across Australia, tens of thousands of these beautiful and gentle dogs have been killed, including many being shot and illegally dumped in mass graves. Although there is no evidence live baiting and other illegal activities is as widespread in Western Australia as it was in New South Wales, the Greens believe it is essential that we maintain the highest levels of scrutiny to the industry and the welfare of greyhounds here in the state, and where we play a role particularly if they are sent overseas.
The Greens’ policy on greyhound racing is based on the fundamental overarching principle that the cruel or inhumane use of animals for sport, recreation or entertainment should be abolished. The Greens therefore are committed to, as I said before, ending greyhound racing and the export of racing greyhounds from Australia. The horrendous revelations from NSW and the abortive attempt to ban the cruel practice did at least lead to a massive spike in public awareness and critical scrutiny over the appalling practices that have been at the heart of the business model of the industry—principally, massive overbreeding and live baiting. Although this has meant the industry promised it will clean up its game, unfortunately, the only way we can be sure this ultimately occurs is to end greyhound racing.
There is significant opposition to the use of greyhounds in racing across Australia. Organisations that advocate for animal welfare, such as the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, Animals Australia and local grassroots groups like “Free the Hounds” have long called for reforms, if not outright abolition of this outdated and archaic activity. The Greens are on the record with our ongoing opposition to greyhound racing. We know that, across Australia, tens of millions of dollars in public money is handed over to the greyhound racing and gambling industry each year by states and territories in prize money for building new tracks and in tax breaks.
However, while this occurs, Greyhounds Australasia estimates that the industry is responsible for the unnecessary deaths of anywhere between 13 000 and 17 000 healthy greyhounds a year. Like millions of ordinary Australians, we want to see greyhound racing banned on animal welfare grounds, and we do not want to see public money— not one cent—used to subsidise greyhound racing and gambling.