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NSW greyhound ban rescinded after poll threat.

Byline: Jonathan Kay

NEW SOUTH WALES premier Mike Baird yesterday admitted to "getting it wrong" as he announced a reversal of the Australian state government's decision to ban greyhound racing from July next year.

The ban was initially announced in July, and legislation passed the following month, after a special commission of inquiry reported "overwhelming evidence of systemic animal cruelty, including mass greyhound killings and live baiting ... the NSW greyhound racing industry has fundamental animal welfare issues, integrity and governance failings that cannot be remedied."

However, the popularity of Baird's coalition government has plummeted in the polls since the announcement and, in a widely-anticipated U-turn, told a press conference: "We got it wrong. I got it wrong. Cabinet got it wrong. The Government got it wrong.

"The feedback that I have received from my cabinet colleagues, that MPs across government have received from the community is, yes, they were horrified by the findings in the special commission of inquiry of what was going on in the industry but they have also said 'why did you not give the industry one last chance?' That is what they have said consistently again and again.

"My personal convictions on the animal cruelty of this have not changed at all ... but it's clear, listening to the feedback and on reflection that we did not give the good people in the industry a chance to respond, a Mike Baird: "We got it wrong. I got it wrong" chance to reform. And I have to say, on behalf of that, I'm sorry. That is something we should have done and we need to address it."

Baird went on to outline a new plan which will allow greyhound racing to continue in the state, albeit with ministers suggesting the industry has agreed to certain conditions including restricting breeding, reducing track and race numbers and putting in place a bond for every dog bred.

Baird said: "Today I can announce that the greyhound industry will be given that one last chance. It will be given an opportunity to reform as it needs to.

"We will be ensuring that the toughest animal welfare standards, the toughest regulation and governance, are put in place.

"In order to effect that, we are establishing a special panel which will be led by former premier Morris Iemma."

The state's governing racing body, Greyhound Racing NSW, welcomed the announcement in a statement: "The decision by the NSW Government recognises that there are many thousands of responsible participants around NSW who are actively involved in the greyhound racing industry either through training, racing or supporting the sport and who love and care for all of their greyhounds.

"Over the past 18 months, GRNSW has introduced robust and wide-ranging reforms to tackle abhorrent practices headon, while making significant improvements to animal welfare and to the supervision of the industry.

"GRNSW has also been determined to rid the sport of people who refuse to abide by the rules of racing and are unwilling to adopt the highest of animal welfare standards.

"While the NSW Government's decision is welcome, GRNSW and the rest of the greyhound racing industry is under no illusion that this reform agenda needs to continue for the industry to have a future in NSW.

"GRNSW looks forward to working with all stakeholders to ensure NSW greyhound racing can become a more sustainable and vibrant industry that is adequately supervised and regulated and puts the welfare of the greyhound at the centre of everything it does."

Australian welfare groups have been angered by the about-turn. Claire Fryer, a campaign coordinator at People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, said: "The government has acted on speculation about their polling numbers and pressure from individuals who gain financially from this abusive industry, and ignored the vast majority of NSW constituents who abhor the inherent brutality of greyhound racing."
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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:The Racing Post (London, England)
Geographic Code:8AUST
Date:Oct 12, 2016
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