I was scheduled to give this speech in Queensland parliament on 25 October 2022, but Labor government MPs intervened to ensure I was not able to give this speech.
This government sure loves the racing industry, and in over 7 years of government we’ve seen millions of dollars flow in government handouts, with very little improvement in conditions for animals. Responding to dire concerns about Queensland’s racing industry, this bill basically enacts a Racing Appeals Panel which is independent of the Queensland Racing Integrity Commission. The Commission is responsible for animal welfare and integrity matters within the three codes of racing in Queensland: thoroughbred horse racing, greyhound racing and harness racing. This new Panel will replace all current internal reviews and the majority of QCAT appeals. This bill marginally increases the level of integrity in the Queensland racing industry and the Greens won’t be opposing it.
But today, I want to talk about the issues that continue to plague our greyhound racing industry. These issues will persist despite any reform that is rushed through parliament today. These are the issues that are begging for this government’s attention.
I have a greyhound called Buddy. His race name was Honcho Leader and lucky for him, and me, he wasn’t very fast, and has a short racing career, and he now lives the life he deserves, spending most of his time on a soft couch. The increased uptake of adopted greyhounds in households across Queensland would suggest that life is pretty good for Buddy and his friends. Sadly, the numbers do not bear this out. Recent reports indicate that the number of rehomed Australian racing industry dogs has flatlined in recent years. And basically, the national rate of greyhound breeding in 2020-21 was about six times its capacity to rehome them. The greyhound industry has not reformed. And yet, it’s difficult to even know the extent of dogs that are lost to this industry without greyhound whole-of-life tracking. New South Wales is currently developing a whole-of-life tracking regime at a cost of $3.6 million.
Meanwhile, here, we have a government spending $40 million opening new tracks, and killing more dogs, instead of implementing the most meager of safeguards against unnecessary animal abuse and death. In Queensland, every time a dog races they have a greater than 3% chance of being injured or killed. In 2015, a leaked Greyhounds Australasia document stated that ‘the industry is responsible for the unnecessary deaths of between 13,000 and 17,000 healthy greyhounds each year’ for being too slow - or too shy - to race. In April 2015 - the early days of this government’s first term - 55 greyhounds were found in a mass grave in Bundaberg, with police saying they may have been beaten to death. At that point, investigators warned that they had barely scratched the surface in exposing the greyhound racing industry’s practices.
Over 7 years of government, instead of taking any meaningful steps to improve greyhound welfare, all that the government has done is pump millions of dollars into this industry. An e-petition to this parliament last year set out the issues really well:
Although the Racing Integrity Commission announced ‘holistic greyhound life-cycle tracking’ in 2020, greyhounds are only tracked from birth to de-registration. We need tracking reflecting a greyhound’s whole life cycle, from birth, to retirement, to death.
Right now, when a greyhound is removed from the state racing industry, it is very vulnerable. It can be sold or given to a third party as a companion animal, but unless the new owner elects to register them as such, the animal effectively doesn’t exist and can be euthanased.
We need a publicly accessible system to track greyhounds for their entire life including breeding, naming, raising, training, racing, retirement, rehoming and death. We have seen similar issues with the horse racing industry, with terrible media reports airing in 2019 about the treatment of horses at an abbatoir in Queensland. After the inquiry that followed, progress in implementing the recommendations is slow. In 7 years of government, nothing meaningful has happened to improve the welfare of animals in Queensland’s racing industry. In this time, government handouts have seen the industry balloon, with no care for the animals driving it. Instead, the government are going to be putting $40 Million into building a new track at Ipswich. $40 Million. Over 72,000 people have signed a petition to oppose this, which was delivered to the Premier earlier this year. The Petition urges the Premier to “reconsider permitting the construction of this racing complex and instead put the significant sum of $40 million towards areas of public and community interest”.
10,000 people made submissions opposing the greyhound track, being rushed through under a Ministerial Infrastructure Designation. MIDs were once a tool just for developing essential public infrastructure - public schools, fire stations, things of that nature. But the government now uses this process to allow private entities access to a streamlined, undemocratic planning approvals process, that can sidestep local planning rules, and sidestep genuine community consultation and engagement. This track will result in the injury and death of many greyhounds, and will clear koala habitat trees and areas of regulated vegetation. The MID report reads “A significant number of submissions raised concerns regarding both the welfare of greyhounds and the potential community impacts that may arise as a result of the proposed MID”,
Every dog that dies on this track, every koala that dies because its habitat has been cleared, is blood on the hands of the Deputy Premier and this government.
At least 8 dogs have died on tracks in Qld this year.
There is no humane greyhound racing. This is a cruel, violent, outdated sport and if this government really cared about jobs, about rural economies, then invest in education, invest in our chronically underfunded state schools, invest directly in housing, invest in the arts, invest in hospitals.