An estimated 1500 greyhound racing supporters gathered at Hyde Park in Sydney on Tuesday and presented Opposition Leader Luke Foley with 35,000-plus signatures on a petition opposing Premier Mike Baird’s decision to ban greyhound racing in NSW from July 1 next year.
Representatives from Bulli, Dapto and Nowra – and others from as far afield as Gunnedah, Forbes, Casino, Canberra and Wagga –were addressed by greyhound owners, trainers and breeders in addition to business owners, Shooters, Fishers and Farmers MP Robert Borsak, Christian Democrat leader Fred Nile and Mr Foley.
A number of officials and participants flew in from Victoria and Queensland.
“My family have never owned, trained or bred a greyhound but our business will close due to Mike Baird’s ban,” Luddenham Pet Foods co-proprietor Rebecca Pace said.
“We process 20,000 kilograms of fresh pet meat weekly and 80 per cent of our clientele are greyhound trainers.
“We deliver to all parts of Sydney and have weekly drop-off at the Dapto track.
“We employ 12 full-time staff and they have kids in school and mortgages to pay but Mike Baird cares not that they will lose their jobs.”
On Monday, Mrs Pace had a phone conference with her local Liberal MP Tanya Davies – the State Member for Mulgoa - and was shocked at Mrs Davies’ lack of foresight into the consequences this State faces if the ban proceeds.
“There will be a bio-security issue, loss of income to treasury, GST and let’s not forget all the little people who will lose part time jobs and the impact on regional NSW yet Mrs Davies had no clue to the disaffect,” Mrs Pace added.
“Without the five no-human consummation abattoirs in NSW, the reporting of notifiable diseases in livestock will fail.
“That leaves us susceptible to disease outbreaks as deceased livestock are likely to be left to rot paddock.”
The proposed legislation is expected to be introduced into Parliament next week but the battle for greyhound racing’s survival has just begun.
The Greyhound Racing Industry Alliance has commenced a Supreme Court challenge and High Court action is expected to follow.
Baird under fire from MPs over industry shutdown
Liberal and Nationals MPs have thrashed out the decision to shut down the NSW greyhound racing industry during marathon party room meetings, with one telling Premier Mike Baird: "You've got this wrong".
Another MP against the closure asked Mr Baird whether the government would also ban rugby league due to the scandals it has endured or cricket due to match fixing, according to a source in the Liberal party room.
The meetings on Monday were the first time MPs have gathered after the announcement by Mr Baird and deputy Premier Troy Grant last month that the greyhound industry would be closed from July 1 next year.
Legislation enacting the ban is due to be introduced to parliament next week.
Sources said MPs spoke passionately both in favour of and against the ban.
One source said Liberal MP for Riverstone, Kevin Conolly told Mr Baird: "You've got this wrong" while outlining the plight of industry participants in his electorate.
Upper house MP and former government whip, Peter Phelps, compared the issue of live baiting in the greyhound industry with scandals in rugby league and match fixing in cricket, wondering if the government would also ban those sports.
"He got quite emotional," the source said, adding that Mr Baird responded with equal passion to defend the ban.
Mr Baird reportedly told the meeting he had no intention of closing the industry before he read the damning report of the Special Commission of Inquiry in NSW Greyhound Racing by former High Court judge Michael McHugh.
Mr McHugh's report which found as many as 68,000 greyhounds were slaughtered as "wastage" in the past 12 years "because they were considered too slow to pay their way or were unsuitable for racing".
It recommended the NSW Parliament decide whether the industry has lost its social licence and should be no longer able to operate.
But some Nationals, including Cootamundra MP Katrina Hodgkinson, Barwon MP Kevin Humphries and Clarence MP Chris Gulaptis have publicly argued against the ban, warning it will devastate local communities.
The industry argues it has reformed since the issue came to light in an expose of live baiting by ABC's Four Corners program and deserves the chance to prove itself.
Last week it launched legal action in the NSW Supreme Court seeking to have Mr McHugh's report declared invalid.
The summons seeks a declaration that Mr McHugh's report be declared invalid because it was unreasonable, lacked procedural fairness and went beyond the terms of reference.
Opposition leader Luke Foley has promised a Labor government would overturn the ban.