Legislative Council: Wednesday, April 10, 2024


Greyhound Racing

The Hon. T.A. FRANKS (16:12): I move:

That this council—

1. Notes:

(a) the 86 recommendations arising from the extremely critical findings of the Ashton Independent Inquiry into the Governance of the Greyhound Racing Industry report;

(b) the consequent December 2023 pledge by the Malinauskas government to appoint a Greyhound Industry Reform Inspector by Easter 2024; and

(c) that Easter 2024 has now passed with no appointment having been made.

2. Condemns the Malinauskas Government for its inaction to ensure greyhound racing integrity and animal welfare.

I rise today to observe the findings of the Ashton review into the governance of greyhound racing in this state, a review made public in December 2023, a review where 86 of the recommendations of Mr Ashton, the RSPCA and the Animal Justice Party were accepted in principle by the Malinauskas government, a review which recommended that greyhound racing have an independent inspector for the next two years commencing in Easter and, with that two years, the greyhound racing industry being put on notice that they will not have a social licence unless they comply and clean up their act.

Last week was Easter. Last week was when the Malinauskas government and the Minister for Recreation, Sport and Racing promised the South Australian people, in light of the horrific findings of the Ashton review, that greyhound racing would have an independent inspector oversighting integrity, the industry and animal welfare from Easter 2024.

What did we see last Easter, last week? We saw a lot of Gather Round and nothing about the greyhounds. We saw a Premier and a minister very keen on a photo op, but not so keen on the follow-up, the hard work that needs to be done to ensure that this state is not oversighting, is not endorsing, animal cruelty. The recommendations—the 86 recommendations of former Victorian police commissioner, Mr Ashton—are really practical, but one would say should have been already in place in this state. This is what happens when a government takes its eyes off the ball and says that the racing industry, an industry that makes profit from gambling on animals, can somehow regulate itself and be expected to do the right thing.

The most crucial part of the Malinauskas government ensuring that this industry does clean up its act, that this industry does not continue to harm animals, that this industry does have integrity, that it is not open to corruption and maladministration, is to appoint the recommended independent inspector that former commissioner Graham Ashton has recommended, that the Malinauskas government and the Minister for Recreation, Sport and Racing said would happen by Easter.

They have failed at the first hurdle. They have failed to ensure not only the social licence for those who support this industry but to convince those who have been calling out the cruelty in this industry for year upon year upon year that this industry has any future in this state. The Malinauskas government may well need legislation to ensure this independent inspector, which is what they stated in December last year. Where is that legislation? Where is the inspector?

How can we trust, when the Premier tells us in all seriousness, in all graveness, that he was lied to by this industry, that he is gravely concerned about the horrific instances that have been uncovered in this quite extensive and thorough report that all members of this place should read? How can we believe the Premier when they have not even bothered to keep their own promise to ensure an independent inspector was in place by Easter 2024?

I will not go into detail, because members should read the governance inquiry of Mr Ashton for themselves, see the photographic information in there, see the examples time and again, note the words of the RSPCA, which indicates it is not resourced to undertake the surveillance necessary to ensure that animal welfare issues and live baiting offences are properly investigated and prosecuted, including the striking and kicking of a dog that horrified South Australians when it was shown on the ABC and was enabled in some ways, in terms of the other photographic imagery, by parliamentary privilege that had to be used to expose this cruelty.

How can we be assured about these things that were uncovered, not as an aberration by Mr Ashton but, in his own words, which I paraphrase, as being far too common in this industry—not as an aberration, but as something that was going on unchecked and unaddressed and far too often in this industry? How can we believe a word the Premier or the Minister for Recreation, Sport and Racing says when they could not even been bothered to keep their very first promise on this incredibly important inquiry?

This inquiry was a long time coming, an inquiry that I first moved for as a parliamentary select committee of this place back in, I believe, 2016, which had the support of the Liberal Party until the greyhound racing industry convinced them otherwise and made promises about reducing breeding numbers, doing better and being more transparent, an industry that continues to rail against freedom of information requests into it, which I note is another recommendation of this report that must be implemented urgently.

This industry should not be exempt from freedom of information requests by any member of the public or indeed members of this parliament. Unless the Malinauskas government can get on and provide us with an independent inspector for greyhound racing in this state—someone of the highest integrity, someone who has the confidence of the community—then this industry has to end and it has to end now.

With that, I commend this motion to the council. I note that I will be bringing forth legislation soon to ensure that at least one of the recommendations is implemented, namely, that this industry in South Australia, the greyhound racing industry of SA, should be subject to freedom of information requirements and become more transparent in that way. If they will not do it voluntarily this parliament can make them, where this Premier has currently failed to do so.

Debate adjourned on motion of Hon. R.B. Martin.