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

Ms GRALEY (Narre Warren South) — It is a pleasure to rise and speak on the Racing and Other Acts Amendment (Greyhound Racing and Welfare Reform) Bill 2015. I am very pleased to see that the ministers for racing and agriculture have swiftly brought this bill to the house for our consideration.

I must say that a night out at the dogs was always regarded by my family and friends as a good night out. To all of us watching the dogs go around and having a bet seemed like good clean fun. I do not think it occurred to any one of us that animals would be maltreated to provide this sort of entertainment for us humans, and we never thought that having an evening out would be compromised by the awful practices that we saw on the Four Corners report about live baiting.

I might also say that I always thought that having a bet at the dogs was a pretty easy way to lose your money. I had a grandmother who was a starting price bookie. She used to have her betting sheets hidden in a drawer. All these strange characters used to come into my nanna’s house, and as children we used to wonder what was going on. She would always say to us, ‘Stick to the horses, not the dogs. It’s too easy to lose your money on the dogs’. Whilst I have had attended dogs meetings and had the treat of winning and losing, I must say that I prefer to have a bet on my favourite animal, the horse — but I digress.

To have this bill come before us is very timely and very important. As I said, we were all sickened and horrified by what we saw on the Four Corners report. I think it was the member for Frankston who said it brought tears to his eyes.

Mr Edbrooke — Absolutely. It did.

Ms GRALEY — It really did make you well up very easily. I think that Animals Australia’s chief investigator, Lyn White, summed it up for us all when she said:

What we have documented is sickening, shocking and profoundly disturbing, not only because of the horrific cruelty —

and it was horrific —

but because of the human behaviour that is revealed.

As the member for Eltham has just said, dogs are the best friends of man and woman, and it is awful for us animal lovers, particularly dog lovers, to see this sort of live baiting. Other animals being used to excite dogs to perform, to salivate and do all sorts of things to get them racing as fast as they possibly could was very disappointing and degrading. As Lyn White said, to think that humans are capable of this sort of behaviour for pleasure — the pleasure of winning, the pleasure of owning a dog — is sickening and horrifying.

I am pleased to see that those opposite are supporting this bill, albeit with a very small number of speakers. I do not know why they are not speaking up in support of animal welfare; it is a bit surprising. Obviously they are busy and have other things to do.

Mr Southwick interjected.

Ms GRALEY — Goodness knows what they are up to over there, but nevertheless they are supporting the bill, as their few speakers have said when they have indicated their support for the bill.

However, I did hear — and I think it was the member for Essendon who alerted us to this — that the Greens party, represented by the member for Prahran, are opposing this bill. Like many members, I have received emails asking me to oppose this bill. I can understand that people were very upset when they saw the footage on TV, and there are some people who take the attitude that animals racing — whether it be horses jumping over hurdles or dogs racing around a track — is not an activity that human beings should participate in and that we should protect animals. We on this side of the house are well aware that, as legislators, we have a responsibility to find a way of regulating the racing industry, a very important industry for Victoria.

Indeed in my own patch is the Cranbourne Racecourse, where you can have a really fantastic night out with tricodes racing, all the forms of racing — harness, gallops and the dogs — on the one night. It was Rob Hulls, the previous member for Niddrie, who invented tricodes racing; he came up with this bright idea. He asked, ‘How do we get people back to the races? What sort of novel idea could we have?’. He came up with the idea of tricodes, and the Cranbourne Turf Club has taken to it; it is a very, very popular night out and showcases just what the industry can be.

People go along to the tricodes and enjoy it. They take their families. If I recall correctly, the races start at twilight, and it is a good night out. People who go to this race meeting need to know that animal welfare is being looked after. That is why it is important to have this legislation before the house to provide what we would consider a balanced and measured approach to regulating the industry.

We do not want a few mavericks, a few bad people, a few sadistic people spoiling it for those who not only work in the industry but also enjoy the spectacle of racing.

As I said, the racing industry is overwhelmingly a very big and proud and very well run industry. I see that $315 million is its economic impact, so lots of people benefit from having the racing industry well regulated and well run — and they have the benefit of enjoying it. We also have 3000 full-time jobs. Lots of people are employed in this industry, so we want to make sure its integrity is highly regarded by not only those in the industry but everybody outside of the industry, including the punters and the spectators as well. This piece of legislation does just that.

The bill will broaden the functions of the Greyhound Racing Victoria (GRV) board and include the responsibility for promoting animal welfare, including greyhound welfare, across the industry. It will also modernise the governance arrangements for GRV and require that a member of the board and the GRV Racing Appeals and Disciplinary Board has expertise in animal welfare. That is why in anticipation of this Mr Rob Greenall was appointed to the GRV board in October 2015. Mr Greenall has more than 25 years of veterinary experience, during which he has overseen a number of projects to improve animal health and welfare. He is exactly the sort of person we want to have in that position. To those people who have emailed me, and to the Greens, if they were in the chamber to listen to this, we would be saying that we are putting people on this board whose paramount reason for being there is to make sure that the animals’ welfare is at the forefront of thinking and decision-making on these new boards.

The bill will also extend the powers of the racing integrity commission to enable it to audit the animal welfare processes and systems of a racing control body to the extent that they relate to integrity in racing and to refer complaints about animal welfare to the appropriate body. Very importantly, because I know that the people who have emailed me would want to know this, it actually clarifies the penalties for offences relating to live baiting in the Racing Act 1958. We want to know that people who participate in the industry are well aware that if they go down this path of using live baiting ever again, they are going to feel the full force of the law. The penalties will reflect the fact that the general public has no stomach for and no patience with animals being abused for the entertainment of others or for the industry’s economic value.

On that basis, with that contribution, I commend the bill to the house and finish off by applauding the two ministers — the Minister for Agriculture and the Minister for Racing — for bringing this bill to the house in such a timely and measured manner.