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Liberal Government Support for Greyhound Racing Unwavering

24 August 2016

Ms DAWKINS question to PREMIER, Mr HODGMAN

[10.59 a.m.]

In the face of an industry which no longer had a social licence, New South Wales Premier, Mike Baird, took the only course of action he felt he could.  At 3.40 this morning he passed legislation to ban greyhound racing.  A recent RTI listed more than 1600 dead dogs in Tasmania, with 33 in Launceston in one day.  Will you now show that same leadership and put an end to this taxpayer-funded cruelty?

ANSWER

Madam Speaker, I thank the member for her question.  The Tasmanian Government does not intend to close the greyhound racing industry in Tasmania.  That is our position but I am not sure of the position of members opposite.  We want to support this industry and the benefits it brings, including economic benefits, in regional and rural areas.  We also want to ensure that our expectation of the highest animal welfare standards to be upheld by the industry is sustainable, with ongoing implementation of the industry reforms that we have outlined.

We have considered the reviews into circumstances in Queensland, Victoria and New South Wales and are also awaiting the findings of the Joint Select Committee on Greyhound Racing in Tasmania which is due to release its report by September.  The circumstances in Tasmania are, in our view, very different from those in New South Wales, with significant reform being undertaken by the industry.  There has been a clear separation of integrity and commercial functions as well.  Both Tasracing and the Office of Racing Integrity continue to work closely with the greyhound racing industry in respect to animal welfare reform, which certainly remains a core priority.

In relation to circumstances in other jurisdictions, inquiries undertaken into Victoria's and Queensland's greyhound racing industries that have occurred over the past 12 months have provided a number of recommendations setting out new requirements for the industry to reform and, like Tasmania, are significantly advanced in their reforms.  One of the important recommendations from these and all interstate inquiries to date has been the separation of integrity and commercial functions, which is a model already in existence here in Tasmania.

Additionally, the 2015 report undertaken by the chief veterinarian and the Director of Racing into a review of arrangements for animal welfare for the Tasmanian greyhound racing industry provided 29 recommendations, most of which have already been implemented or are in the process of being implemented.

The actions in respect to these recommendations that have been taken by the Government include amendments to the Animal Welfare Act 1993 to enhance the powers of animal welfare officers to enter, search and inspect premises and to collect evidence of an offence and to extend the term of imprisonment to a maximum of five years for offences such as aggravated cruelty which results in an animal's death or serious disablement. 

Racing Services Tasmania was transferred from the Department of State Growth to the Department of Primary Industries, Parks, Water and Environment in July of this year.  This has enabled the division to leverage off the animal welfare and veterinary skills available within DPIPWE to achieve better animal welfare and integrity outcomes.  RST was rebranded as the Office of Racing Integrity to emphasise its role and to differentiate it from the commercial body Tasracing, and this took effect on RST's amalgamation with DPIPWE.  Funding was provided by the Government for the employment of a racing integrity manager and an additional steward investigator to enhance the delivery of integrity and animal welfare objectives. 

An MOU has been finalised by the Director of Racing with the RSPCA Tasmania and Tasmania Police.  There is a range of initiatives we are taking to provide better support, assistance and objective scrutiny of the industry which we support for the benefits it brings to the community.  This Government does not propose to follow the course taken by the New South Wales Government.