Greyhound racing ban passes ACT parliament despite last ditch bid to delay

The ACT will be the first Australian jurisdiction to ban greyhound racing, despite a last minute bid to delay the ban.

As expected, two bills that will both dismantle the local industry and make the sport illegal passed the Legislative Assembly on Tuesday.

The Canberra Liberals made a last-ditch attempt to derail debate by referring the ban to a committee for scrutiny next year.

Manager of Opposition business Andrew Wall said Mr Ramsay’s “ultra-conservative” approach to sub judice meant he had failed to answer key questions about the legislation.

The Canberra Greyhound Racing Club had launched two streams of court action against the government, leading Mr Ramsay to clam up when asked about the ban in the Assembly and committee hearings.

Mr Wall said it would be “prudent” to wait for the legal action to wrap up before the ban was introduced.

But Labor and the Greens brought on the debate, with manager of government business Mick Gentleman declaring: “we’re ready to deal with this now”.

A Liberal amendment to push the ban back by two months to June 30, 2018 was also blocked.

Opposition racing spokesman Mark Parton launched an excoriating attack on Labor, saying it was being “held hostage” by the Greens.

Animal liberationists in the gallery laughed when Mr Parton said they would ban farming and “bacon and eggs for breakfast” if they could.

Supporters of Canberra’s greyhound racing industry were noticeably absent from the gallery during the bills’ passage.

At least 100 supporters marched on the ACT Legislative Assembly one day earlier vowing further action to stop their industry being shut down.

But ACT Attorney General Gordon Ramsay doubled down on his claim greyhound racing was “out of step” with community expectations.

Mr Ramsay said phone polling – which the government had previously refused to release – revealed 66 per cent of those surveyed agreed with removing funding from the greyhound racing industry, and 99 per cent had nothing to do with racing.

He said while the size of the ACT industry meant greyhound racing in the territory was “but one drop in a very polluted ocean”, it could not be extricated from the record of NSW.

“As recent as last week, Greyhound Racing NSW banned a trainer for killing a greyhound puppy by smashing it over the head with a hammer twice. This particular trainer has had 15 race starts at the Canberra Greyhound Racing Club,” Mr Ramsay said.

Mr Ramsay challenged the animal welfare record of the Canberra Greyhound Racing Club, which club officials have described as unblemished.

“My office has compared data from steward reports, and OzChase records managed by Greyhound Racing NSW,” Mr Ramsay said.

“Of 215 dogs checked by a vet at the track between September 2016 and August 2017, 78 were given incapacitation certificates. This means that they were injured on the track.

“Of those, 28 never raced again as of November 22, 2017. Of all those dogs, only five were ultimately documented as retired. These statistics illustrate a very real concern that the Canberra Greyhound Racing Club is not living up to its public commitment to a 100 per cent rehoming rate.”

Greens leader Shane Rattenbury said while NSW had reversed its position on greyhound racing, he believed the industry’s problems were so systemic, reform was not possible.

He likened greyhound racing to whaling, another “outdated” industry that society realised was cruel, but he would “happily” have a beer at the pub with anyone from the greyhound racing industry as he had no problem with them personally.

But Liberal MLA Giulia Jones accused Labor and the Greens of telling Canberrans who the “good and bad guys” were.

She said some industry workers had found it hard to get new jobs because of the “lies” the government had told about greyhound racing.

The ban will mean from April 30, people caught illegally racing greyhounds could face a fine of up to $15,000 or a year in jail.

Owners who live in the ACT but race outside the territory will need to apply for a greyhound racing controller licence annually.

The ACT government’s transition package will also be extended to September 30, although the deadline for applications will be June 30.