Ms O'CONNOR question to MINISTER for RACING, Ms OGILVIE
As you know, leaked Tasracing documents reveal plans for the Greyhound Adoption Program to kill more ex-racing dogs. On Tuesday you told parliament Tasracing has appointed Dr Martin Lenz to the newly created position of Chief Veterinary and Animal Welfare Officer and that he is providing:
… advice and services to Tasracing and the broader Tasmanian racing industry regarding the delivery of animal welfare.
We understand that when Dr Lenz was heading the Queensland Greyhound Adoption Program in 2017, almost a quarter of the dogs that went through that program were killed.
Allegations have now been raised online by an ex-ORI employee about the Director of Racing. They claim Mr Helmich, fresh from his position in minister Jaensch's office, asked the Chairman of Stewards and Chief Vet to kill greyhounds with catastrophic injuries off-track. These gentle dogs, in extreme pain, were taken off the track by trainers, dragged to vets and killed, all so that track death statistics can be down.
Minister, you are overseeing an industry that is brutalising, injuring and then torturing dogs. How can you claim to care about animal welfare?
Mr speaker, I thank the member for her question, which I note had a number of questions contained within it. I will do my best to answer those. It is a very important question.
I am aware of the matters you raised in relation to the important information on racing integrity issues. I think it was raised on Twitter, which is probably not the forum on which such important issues ought to be raised, so if you have information on that, I recommend that you send it through to ORI.
Ms O'Connor - You've got the same information we have.
Mr SPEAKER - Order.
Ms OGILVIE - Obviously it is not appropriate for me to comment on specific employment matters relating to ORI staff, but I understand it was a former staffer who made those comments. That is the first issue.
The second issue in relation to matters of probity and integrity. These are critically important to the racing industry. I am very happy to seek advice on these matters that come up for my attention. I have spoken to the acting secretary of the Department of Natural Resources and Environment this morning who has agreed to consider the content of the social media activity and consider an appropriate action.
Ms O'Connor - Are you saying that the allegation is not true about Mr Helmich?
Mr SPEAKER - Order, Ms O'Connor.
Ms OGILVIE - Second, in relation to the matters you raised regarding the Greyhound Adoption Program (GAP), as I said on Tuesday, Tasracing has released a draft GAP working group paper - and I emphasise the word 'draft'. The draft paper is undergoing consultation. Until that consultation is concluded, it also would not be appropriate to provide wider commentary. What I will say is that the Tasmanian Government and Tasracing want to increase the number of greyhounds that are rehomed whilst also reducing the time taken to rehome them.
A recent review of the GAP by Tasracing senior management and the Chief Veterinary and Animal Welfare Officer identified a need to make strategic and operational changes to the GAP. This will see more greyhounds rehomed in shorter time frames, and I would have thought this House would be very supportive of that.
Ms O'Connor, I will also share with you that on Tuesday some comments were made by the Independent member for Clark that the new draft proposal for GAP would see the death warrant of hundreds of innocent greyhounds. That is simply not true. That member also made a claim that trainers will be effectively in charge of GAP. This comment is inaccurate. Finally, a comment was made that a trainer can make the difficult end-of-life decisions, which also is inaccurate.
The Government is the strongest supporter of the Tasmanian racing industry, which makes a vital contribution to our economy and employment, particularly in regional Tasmania. The Government is committed to improving animal welfare outcomes in the racing industry across all three codes, and we recognise the importance of ensuring animal welfare measures in racing meet with community expectation.
From a global perspective, we know that the trend in euthanasia is down, down, down. From 2013 when I think the former minister in that government was there, we have seen hundreds of reduced deaths. We went from about 435 to around 43 at the moment. So, from a personal perspective I would just like to say I do think it is important that we get our facts right, that we get our data right and I hope what I have shared today goes some way to facilitating that.