Releasing the hounds

Out of the dark: Iconic Dapto greyhounds has a future after the decision to reverse the Baird NSW Government ban on the sport this week. Picture: Adam McLean

Out of the dark: Iconic Dapto greyhounds has a future after the decision to reverse the Baird NSW Government ban on the sport this week. Picture: Adam McLean

SO THE right thing to do, turned out to be wrong.

Like with marriage equality and climate change in the federal arena, there is a political determination to act on ideology rather than practicality.

This column has stated before, live baiting – and other illegal activity in the greyhound industry uncovered – is disgraceful and abhorrent.

Those using these practices live in a world detached from society’s standards and deserve every penalty thrown at them.

But to eliminate an entire sport in NSW sits uneasily.

It’s an issue which has polarised opinion. 

The battlers versus the activists.

Wasteage, rehoming and the willingness to clean up its own act. 

Arguments and counter-arguments which increasingly lose perspective and fail to find practical solutions.

The Michael McHugh inquiry report was damning and NSW Premier Mike Baird’s stance was the industry was incapable of change. 

Or at least it was until the people of Orange, in particular, were waiting with brickbats for Baird’s Coalition partner, the Nationals, at next month’s by-election.

The whispers of a backdown have been growing louder for the past couple of weeks, even as Baird maintained the July 1, 2017 shutdown date was “locked in. That is firm”.

By Wednesday, the tune had changed.

"I got it wrong, we got it wrong, the cabinet got it wrong and the government got it wrong," Mr Baird said.

Politically, the whole episode has been bizarre. Strange bedfellows, with the Liberals and the Greens backing the shutdown and Labor and the Nationals standing firm against.

Labor opposition leader Luke Foley spotted the gap and ran through it as well as Sharks premiership player Ben Barba ever could.

Campaigns from sections of the more conservative media turned on the Baird blowtorch.

So now former premier Morris Iemma is in charge of cleaning up the mess created when Baird tried to clean up the mess.

Sure, the political heat might be turned down in Wollongong, compared to in other regional NSW areas, but nowhere in the state are the implications greater than in the Illawarra.

Dapto, Nowra and Bulli make the South Coast a greyhound stronghold and part of the cultural landscape for the best part of a century.

“It has been a great relief for a lot of people,” Bulli’s operations manager Darren Hull to the Mercury this week, summing up the sentiment of those involved in racing greyhounds.

“The last three months have been a very stressful period in people’s lives and I have come in here see it everyday and on every Saturday at race meetings. It wasn’t nice seeing those sort of things.

“To Mike Baird’s credit, he said he got it wrong. 

“There is no shame in coming out and saying they got something wrong. I think the government has realised that there was going to be a lot more impact on people’s lives than they thought there was going to be.”

The inquiry was prompted by revelations aired by the ABC's Four Corners program about live baiting in the greyhound industry.

The government has suggested the new regime will include mandatory life bans and increased jail terms for live baiting and registering greyhounds for their entire lives.

There will be an independent regulator and more resources for enforcement and prosecution and animal welfare.

Respected people within greyhound racing know there is only one way to recover from the near-death experience, as Baird overcomes his own political shockwave.

Harsh penalties and practical measures. 

“We don’t want (live baiters) in the game,” Dapto president Tony Glackin said this week. “They have to go.

“Zero tolerance is the only way forward.”

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