Baird’s Greyhounds KO

Outbursts of fury directed at greyhound owners’ and trainers’ abuse of greyhounds was a regular cycle over a century and more.  Perhaps the greatest outburst was after the ABC’S 4 Corners televised “Making a Killing” on 16 Feb 2015 which saw the departure of the board and CEO of Greyhound Racing NSW.  Justice McHugh was commissioned on 6 May and reported on 16 June ‘16.

Then Premier Baird and his Deputy Troy Grant (Nats) announced a total ban of dog racing from 1 July’17.  Baird admitted to be surprised at his “acceptable risk” announcement’s savage mauling by such people as Alan Jones and Sam Neill, as well as the usual suspects, the GBOTA and the wide network of sporting and country communities.  Baird tossed out Ministers from Cabinet who expressed even gentle contrary views.

This analyst had been engaged by GRNSW in 2003 to do a desktop reconciliation of records on three Hunter tracks which led to an economic appraisal of their investment potential, which led to engagement to recruit a new CEO – so there was a good relationship with stakeholders built up over a year.  When Baird exploded, I had had additional exposure to UK Localism principles, which include “local solutions to local problems”.

I applied Localism to develop a stronger governance model covering McHugh’s detailed reforms, involving clubs, inspectors in LG and GRNSW, RSPCA, private investigators and Police.  This can be called a “Mishan Economics” approach which is also known as Freakonomics. The principles are:

Doggies flowchart

  • using the clubs and local councils to regulate the industry as with Liquor Accords in regional centres, away from the owners, breeders and trainers who have intrinsic conflicts (offences are by minorities but all lose through the former’s misdeeds)
  • Club board members would be cleanskins with overwhelming commitments to the industry within its communities. They would supply councils with the best possible data and support the funding, with security operatives to be used where more effective.  GBOTA operates venues so they would be owner but not manager in such circumstances, with full transparency to ensure integrity
  • Councils would be funded from the industry for assessed resource levels under Office of Liquor & Gaming guidelines and budget methodology – full time rangers may not be necessary and contracted security operatives could work with them and investigate emerging conflicts of interest
  • Council rangers would roster resources in line with registered activities’ coverage and integrate surveillance with other duties (such as watching for waste dumps and abandoned vehicles)
  • The central regulatory regime would otherwise apply, as properly discussed and determined within a more professional State framework.

The essence is that the best expertise in governance should manage policy-setting not the vested interests which are recycling past mistakes.  A  permanent solution is needed urgently.  It is more important to save 3,000 jobs than to lose a few in the centre by moving efforts to clubs and councils (but not GBOTA).  McHugh’s central standard-setting arrangements deserved better consideration.  With liquor, local solutions through Liquor Accords must replace the crude universal restrictions.

A backroom “political” compromise will not satisfy the post-Four Corners, post-Special Commission, post-Baird community interest;  or even the best interests of the industry should they realise how their failures will repeat.

Baird, Grant, Baird’s adoptee Morris Iemma, the Nats’ Minister Paul Toole, Nats’ MsP and even the media refused to listen, so Baird was able to close-down deliberations to the “option” that had been created by Jack Lang and which had permitted local abuses to flourish way past Wran’s 1979 ban on live baiting.

As predicted, reports of animal abuse continue to appear in the media, and will until 2179 or a Localism approach is designed that works.

PM Turnbull condemned the ban and said that plenty of people kill rabbits, to finally concluding that it is a State matter.  At the time Baird was in deep do-do with perceived arrogance over alcohol bans in Kings Cross and Manly/Newcastle, and LG amalgamations, among other issues.

Here follow key correspondence of the time to illustrate how stupid Baird’s and the Nats approach was and remains.  The industry deserves better.

 

Letter to Baird of 6 Nov ‘16

NB  illustrations omitted and placed in a consolidated file, appendices brought into text for convenience, some text removed due to duplication.

Finding a sustainable solution to the greyhound racing crisis

When politicians are presented with a clear problem for which there is a  proven solution, they have a responsibility to act.

Malcolm Turnbull 17 October 2016

©  6 November 2016

The greyhound racing industry has faced cycles of criticism of substandard tracks and under-reporting of injuries and deaths of dogs, the low usage of vets and poor treatment of injured dogs, the “wastage” of slow and old dogs (basically, shooting with a rifle), and the despicable practice of live baiting using piglets, possums and rabbits.

Four Corners published a sensational but meaningful expose of “Making a Killing” in February 2015 in the above terms.  The report produced governmental clean-outs of management and boards in several States, the appointment of a Special Commission of Inquiry in NSW under Justice Michael McHugh, and eventually a deferred banning of all greyhound racing activities in NSW, with Queensland putting the industry on a “last chance” warning.

The McHugh report was released in early July 2016 and it presented surveys of fragmented and ineffectual regulation in all administrations in Australia, with Victoria’s Milne Inquiry reporting on that, in detail, in April 2015.  McHugh set out the failure of GRNSW’s ethics and industry management and planning performance;  and the industry’s fixation on waging and profits. The industry criticised the accuracy of official data keeping and reporting as well as skills.  Noted dog owner Dr Nathan Absalom was quoted in the media as saying

“If there has ever been a sport that has been mismanaged as badly as greyhound racing, they have my greatest sympathies”.

Greyhound owners, trainers and breeders fought the NSW Premier’s “captain’s call” decision to ban the sport and won a pyrrhic victory when the Government reversed the ban, but the cycle had taken the politics of the sport to a new level.  There have been street marches by anti-dog racing interests, the RSPCA was dragooned onto a government panel against its reservations, and the Greens fought the reversal.  Ongoing transgressions against anti-cruelty laws were reported several times including as the Premier announced the reversal.  McHugh put up strong arguments to not trust the Industry’s record on the various reform promises and their claimed ability to change the behaviours of their trade association-cum-racing entrepreneur, central agencies and licensed individuals and companies.

There have been strong moves in the United Kingdom to provide local solutions to local problems and these have special relevance to licensing surveillance and policing of local liquor, animal management and congestion hot-spots among other issues facing communities.  As the NSW Government put it when in Opposition in 2010,

… we will start the change to … give back to local communities at all levels as much decision-making, and participation, as possible – because we understand that people who live with those decisions, and who will directly benefit from those decisions, have a much greater interest in making the right decisions than bureaucrats and Ministers located elsewhere….

As Percy Allan says ‘NSW should stop being run like a penal colony that is micromanaged through heavy-handed commands and controls from Governor Macquarie Tower’.

A “localism” framework is described in this advisory as a tool for governments and regulators to consider when re-designing their systems, especially as Governments have a new determination to respect animal welfare and place the industry on death watch.

To ignore any opportunity, localism or whatever, that might improve the industry’s prospects and community acceptance, would violate the Prime Minister’s wise words as quoted above.  Continuing with past practices that have failed repeatedly is not a sound option if community and political confidence is to be improved.

Regulation is a government core responsibility but responsibility is an obligation on everyone.

A “draft green paper” was prepared:

Contents

  1. Introduction: the challenge of winning political and community acceptance
  2. Issues in Australian Greyhound Racing
    1. Governance
    2. Regulation
    3. Animal welfare
  3. Lessons from Milne, McHugh and Experts
  4. The principles of Localism
  5. A Localism approach to Greyhound Racing
    1. Governance
    2. Regulation
    3. Animal welfare
  6. An agenda from Greyhounds Australia

The greyhound  history is ugly as documented by Justice McHugh.  His was a highly analytical report that was slandered by the industry.  No industry party has a right to rest on its oars:  not GA, GRNSW, GBOTA, Racing NSW or its forbears, or DPC.  McHugh has enough evidence to sink the industry without pausing if published in a concise matrix;  but he missed a few points which gives us an opportunity to get involved.  So far I have been denied access to Iemma and his terms of reference exclude all such people anyway (which makes his work quite fragile).

My solution has an optimal level, a full process re-engineering;  and a progressive mid-point;  but the immediate issue of survival is in balance.  We should face that first hurdle of proving credibility through not excluding me and putting true options to the Government and community;  then deal with sustainability.  The industry has to broaden and lead the Iemma agenda in case that is yet more quicksand.

McHugh doubted the industry’s ability to meet community expectations and he appears to have been right.

Then the Government announced its third mistake – its Iemma Panel is committed through its terms of reference to incorporate GBOTA’s “reform” ideas which were unspecific, based on failed practice and exclusionist of outside views, in other words, re-cycling of old problems reflecting the heat of their campaign.  This bias points to the industry’s capture of the Government after the Premier went into free-fall after he gave up the High Moral Road.  The Panel is to

develop an appropriate governance structure for the NSW greyhound racing industry that will set a benchmark among like jurisdictions and ensure best practice across NSW regarding the transparency and integrity of the industry

except that it will only consider industry suggestions, not the best in the community and overseas!  It is supposed to

propose any additional measures that the industry needs to take in order to meet community expectations regarding the integrity of the industry and the welfare of the animals involved in it;  and make any other relevant recommendations considered necessary to ensure community confidence in the greyhound racing industry.

…but they won’t and can’t due to the terms of their Terms of Reference.  Further, Mr Iemma has taken a combative approach to RSPCA concerns and on implementation matters.  Political polling indicates community discontent with the Government’s overall handling.   The third-go Iemma Panel will not reverse that nor resolve the substantive issues if it continues on an isolationist path. 

 Industry bodies are seriously conflicted through internecine warfare with each other, the industry association “winning” recently, and commercial self-interests which the industry association tries to disguise, but the industry and Greyhound Racing NSW seem to be incapable of articulating a counter-proposal that would meet a broader balance of governmental, community and industry “needs”.   Such an alternative has been proven, especially under the Localism banner in the UK.

 To illustrate why the Iemma Panel is handicapped, it is tied to the following “guarantees” dated 9 August from GBOTA’s “Alliance” (comments are in the right-hand column), given that much of McHugh’s report shows that such matters are complex, difficult and resisted by the industry:

·      A total life cycle management plan for all greyhounds born into the industry, including every greyhound which is unable to race as well as retired dogs.

·      A controlled breeding program which would immediately limit the amount of greyhounds being bred for racing within NSW to 2000 annually.

·      A zero tolerance attitude towards animal cruelty which would result in life time bans for any participants found guilty of acts such as live baiting.

·      Providing strict standards to ensure the safest racing environment as a means of eliminating avoidable injury.

These are non-specific except for 2,0000 whelpings which bears no relationship to numbers used by the AJC, McHugh and others. McHugh described industry stalling on quota calculations etc

 “Controlled breeding” has been derided by GRNSW/JWG because of owner and breeder variances and high level of interstate movements.  Chipping is essential but the degree of compliance has been questioned by Working Dogs.

 Zero-tolerance and strict standards largely pre-date the Alliance and are not a bargaining offer.  Implementation has been resisted by the industry and is well behind UK standards.  GRNSW performance on testing etc was disgraceful.  McHugh gave reasons for his “ an industry-wide, structured program for socialisation and habituation is not viable” so guarantees are suspect.

Neither the Premier’s nor Deputy Premier’s teams have shown the ability to develop a sensible way forward.  There is not just one option – local solutions and local surveillance are potentially superior to the industry’s ideas (as the Coalition argued in 2010).  The political trick of using a former opponent (the Labor Premier who started the Metro “fiasco”) is not new, rarely succeeds and in this case is doomed.  A “localism” solution might improve the long-term acceptability of the industry but the Government, influenced by the industry, refuses to consider it. 

 Key points:

  1. Decisions to ban racing, to cancel the ban, to reduce the number of meetings, to restrict racing-related whelpings to 2,000 per year (a con in itself), and to ignore options which offer better prospects of breaking the cycle of dreadful revelations, all in the absence of sound data, amount to unprofessional governance or worse.  The Government swallowed the 2,000 offered by the industry Alliance without knowing that meant “wastage” of an almost equivalent number of dogs which shows the perils of slap-dash backroom deals.  there is a risk the lust for wagering will push “competitive” sports indoors or “underground”, such as cock- and dog-fighting.  What a nightmare that would be and what a conundrum has the Government created!
  2. The industry’s preoccupation with commercial considerations needs to be balanced by more general concerns for animal safety and welfare, regional employment, and family and small business viability. Conflicted interests abound in sports sectors and while engagement is vital, a clean structure of industry separate from standards- and rule-setting, separate from standards enforcement, is needed.  Having a governmental GRNSW and an Integrity Commission is clumsy;  and enforcement arguably should be through existing local enforcement officials which would better match inspections with the locations of offences without conflicted responsibilities.  The idea of doing enforcement through the RSPCA was muddle-headed.
  3. Good decision-making is encoded in Treasury and other regulations as including strengthening of data and performance indicators, assessment of options, discussion of scenarios and risks, and engagement of stakeholders – all without rancour. Demoting and dismissing elected and other officials for pointing out issues as the Premier did is anti-democratic.  Earlier political appointments to key positions marred industry development.  The 2010 Coalition promises to implement localism have been negatived by Baird
  4. The industry shows clear signs of groupthink which inhibits sound judgement. Their suggestion that a new Integrity Commission would be governed by industry representatives was weird.   Their “guarantees” were accepted by the Baird Government but are imprecise, somewhat irrelevant and impossible to progress within the Government’s timetable anyway.  Why did the Government give them credence and force them on the Iemma Panel (which has been secretly delayed anyway)?

The proposed “localism” option for discussion is summarised here (details to be explained). It involves no cost-shifting to councils:

 

Regulatory reform will mean nothing if MsP cannot fathom obvious options because the industry has blinkered them.  There are matters of substance and timing which need to be ventilated as well as questions of fair treatment.  I assume it can be agreed we need to do the best possible job now to meet balanced expectations – community, polity and industry.  Therefore we must not repeat past mistakes.  The industry and Parties must not lock-out “outsiders”*.  Ideas must not be pinched (RG’s linking the regulation of liquor and greyhounds was).

 

* Groupthink is a special issue affecting  teams under pressure.  Here’s a description from Mark Rosenberg (Balanced Curve):

When cohesive groups are making decisions there is a psychological drive for consensus that suppresses disagreement and prevents the investigation of alternatives. Janis showed that the syndrome is latent in all cohesive groups – government or otherwise. The groupthink effect tends to corrupt a team’s decision making in two ways. First, it effectively bypasses the independent opinions of team members. Second, it discounts the relevance of information from outside the team. Successful teams, especially, are prone to groupthink, as success can generate a hubris that is intolerant to all outside opinion, and the team’s thinking becomes divorced from reality. The first-line protection against groupthink is a team sufficiently diverse in thinking styles that criticism of ideas and constructive conflict are normal parts of team functioning.

What did Baird do?

BOF/Baird had police and media reports of liquor regulation experiments in Newcastle and Manly, and Police and Police Association pressures to introduce severe restrictions in Kings Cross and other specific hotspots.  Local solution? – no, they imposed bans in Kings Cross and applied them across the State.  Responsible publicans in the Blue Mountains and Eastern Suburbs, as examples, complained about the impacts on trading and employment;  and the chair of the Broken Hill Liquor Accord pressed for exemption;  but Baird maintained a dictatorial hardline across the State regardless of evidence.  Tourism operators pointed to the absurdity of a sterilised world city during the evening strolling hours of Asian and Mediterranean visitors.

Regarding greyhounds, Baird had the report of Justice McHugh’s Special Commission of Inquiry which questioned whether the industry’s social value or contract had expired following Four Corners’ dramatic revelations;  but it was alleged Baird focussed on just one of some 80 points of discussion when dropping his “demise” bomb.  McHugh did not discuss alternative regulatory approaches to those suggested by GBOTA – finding that GRNSW had “failed miserably” – apart from removing GRNSW from regulatory activities (they suggested a new Integrity Commission have one country and one city club rep each, and one each of trainer, breeder and wagering) with the Integrity Commission taking over regulatory functions (barring industry participants).   This would improve central standard-setting but McHugh did not discuss devolution of local enforcement to local authorities acting in concert with cleanskin clubs which defect does not seem to have been noticed in industry coverage.  (RSPCA was discussed but their availability has been constrained by economic realities and corporate directions.)  McHugh was concise and correct in focussing on GBOTA’s commercial orientation and distortions in GRNSW:

On no view of the evidence were the many failings of GRNSW identified by the Commission the product of a lack of involvement of industry participants at the Board level or a lack of consultation and communication between the Board and industry. They were largely the product of industry culture, poor regulation, dysfunctional management, and prioritising commercial imperatives at the expense of animal welfare.

McHugh’s judgement was questioned by the industry in areas allegedly outside his legal expertise but the report looks solid enough to be the foundation for an informed discussion.  That is a rare animal in today’s NSW and Baird unilaterally and without consultation with anyone but his Nationals Deputy Premier-cum-Police Minister, announced less than one-year’s notice of total cessation.

M Turnbull

The Prime Minister was asked on the ABC’s Insiders program on 28 August 2016 if he stuck by his reported comments that NSW Premier Mike Baird “got the greyhound racing ban wrong”.  On the previous Monday Sarah Martin had reported in The Australian comments from attendees at a dinner in Perth to the effect the PM had described Baird’s decision as an “over-reaction … outrage over treatment of rabbits used in live baiting — a key ­reason for the industry losing political support — was surprising, given that rabbits were a feral pest and were regularly shot and poisoned …”.

PM Turnbull’s response was, “I’ll stay out of the state matters and leave the state matters to Mike as I’m sure he’ll leave the federal issues to me”.

That is understandable in intense local issues such as animal cruelty,  but not where indigenous Australians’ local expectations were dashed after the Federal Intervention in the Northern Territory;  and the PM himself put a different slant when he assumed office – he would reduce congestion in the cities, eliminate ideology and enforce mode-neutrality, restore Infrastructure Australia (iA) as watchdog over state projects seeking federal money, and pursue innovation in the cities and so on.  Many commentators including Lucy Turnbull have remarked on the impossibility of managing our cities on a them-versus-us basis.

Baird’s ban completely missed the point of enforcement efficacy.  The problem of cruelty is endemic but enforcement by a centralised bureaucracy and/or the industry of its own members are farces, no matter that incidence has fallen (two wrongs indeed).  Baird’s focus on banning instead of evidence undermines Jobs & Growth, national productivity and tourism.  Both issues show up multiple mistakes in agencies – silo- or “black box” thinking as the Daily Telegraph put it.

The nature of poll-led governments is that second-raters think up second-rate schemes which become law and apparatchiks rush about  trying to make them look credible while the pollies bask in the bright lights of TV ads at public expense: the result is rubbish for the community.

Then Baird stepped into the muck, well and truly

Media pressure on the Premier was intense and some Liberal and more Nationals MsP expressed their opposition to the decision publicly.  A party room challenge to the Deputy Premier was mooted.  Baird repeated his commitment to the high moral ground, then his resolve collapsed ….

The conditions he announced included RSPCA inspections but they quickly walked away, possibly because financial stringencies has led them to network economics and re-prioritisation, but perhaps too the potential for entanglement in conflicted relationships and reduced credibility when things went wrong – as they must.

Data availability and credibility are critical deficiencies in the greyhound industry’s analyses.  The Greyhound Alliance repeatedly refers to a KPMG Report on issues of industry sustainability but the report’s absence and reference to a data-collection focus (one of KPMG’s blind spots in local government discussion papers for the Baird Government) belie an automatic assumption of credibility.

Annualising race meetings were laudable.  The troubles experienced by GRNSW’s Integrity Auditors are alarming, GRNSW has outlived its usefulness.  The most critical aspects of Baird’s compromise were the continued ignorance of better local enforcement (to improve surveillance and data-reporting), and the arbitrary limit of 2,000 whelpings per year, together with not coming to grips with the industry’s inadequate response to non-commercial expectations.  The “case to pause” follows as  compromises will be second-best or worse and this should not be a matter of legalities.  The above table explains the differences between McHugh, GBOTA and Baird scenarios, with comments.

Employment

The “captain’s call” to close down an industry employing some three thousand people with 13,000 participants, mainly in regional centres, and generating some $250 million in benefits to the State economy, ignored employment and regional survival.  That so much of the benefits are generated through regional venues did not matter to the Premier, it seems, any more than his imposing $190 million in unnecessary rating imposts on SMEs and families in the Blue Mountains.

Simply to show the difference between living in the Premier’s and PM’s benign Harbour estates, look at these data from ABS (they reflect both liquor and greyhound employment):

Better enforcement of greyhound standards

Zero-tolerance of live baiting, prohibition of small animals in licensed kennel areas and tracks and the like were enacted previously.  The current media attention on penalties is misplaced to that extent.

The Case to Pause is based on commonsense in “structural” matters.  We know there is a tendency towards cruelty in dog racing.  Central agencies do not have a good track record in self regulation although the associations are now frantic with worry.  The consequences of knuckle-headed decisions will fall mainly on regions where the likely loci of regulation also reside.  Additionally there is a risk the lust for wagering will push “competitive” sports indoors, such as cock- and dog-fighting.  What a nightmare that would be!

McHugh’s scheme had a new Greyhound Racing Integrity Commission as regulator (free of industry participants – endorsed here), a new Animal Welfare Committee comprising animal welfare NGOs and an independent vet, replacement of GRNSW’s failed Integrity Auditor position by a statutory NSW GR Integrity Auditor, and GRNSW governing commercial operations.  The need for the latter is questioned.  Clubs should be corporate entities and governed by corporate law.  Industry associations advocate members’ commercial interests in other sectors;  while Governments has and should have an integrated Office covering racing and gaming across all codes.  Trade associations often do member group training under accredited schemes and so should GBOTA.

UK standards are laid down centrally and enforced locally by councils and by stewards acting in concert with animal welfare officials.  To paraphrase the EXPLANATORY MEMORANDUM TO THE WELFARE OF RACING GREYHOUNDS REGULATION 2010:

  • a quality-accredited Greyhound Board of Great Britain would be able to self-regulate the industry but for the small number of independent venues (26 registered courses compared with 9 independents)
  • all kennels and greyhound tracks in England are covered by the same minimum welfare standards with progressively improved traceability of greyhounds
  • the requirement that all tracks must have a veterinarian in attendance at all race and trial meetings as well as sales trials will help ensure the fewer greyhounds are run whilst injured and where injuries do occur these are treated quickly and recorded.
  • the recording of injuries and outcomes of drug testing should help tracks identify any risk factors involved in the causes of injuries
  • the requirement that all racing greyhounds to be permanently identified by microchip and earmark, with the details of the owner on a national database, will help improve the traceability of greyhounds.

There are vocal complaints of over-breeding and animal abuse but governments have maintained the above principles consistently.  (In the UK it is alleged that better data collection from 2010 was accompanied by less publication!)

The Coalition’s Localism Policy Undertakings

Localism is world-wide trend and should be the basis of government reform if Australian governments are committed to “jobs and growth”.  The NSW Liberal/National Opposition went to the 2011 election with the following undertakings among others:

… we will start the change to reverse the clutches of Labor’s central control, and give back to local communities at all levels as much decision-making, and participation, as possible – because we understand that people who live with those decisions, and who will directly benefit from those decisions, have a much greater interest in making the right decisions than bureaucrats and Ministers located elsewhere….

Unlike Labor, we trust local people to make good decisions.  But while New Zealand is acting to further entrench community engagement in the system, Kristina Keneally and NSW Labor are trying to find new ways to disenfranchise people – including through new attempts to compulsorily acquire people’s houses to be on-sold to developers, which we strongly oppose.

As Percy Allan says ‘NSW should stop being run like a penal colony that is micromanaged through heavy-handed commands and controls from Governor Macquarie Tower’.

The Baird Government does the opposite, and should not.

Conclusions

Greyhounds and liquor racing have common themes in that the State-imposed “one size fits all” approach is inappropriate.  Local problems must have local solutions as the Coalition espoused in 2010.  The following conclusions apply to the current greyhound crisis but are applicable to liquor licensing in normal local contexts.

  1. The Government should implement a “pause” to allow a proper debate over such currently unknown matters as
    1. minimum racing viability parameters
    2. improvement of data collection and reporting
    3. better governance arrangements including
      1. Justice McHugh’s suggestions for the Integrity Commission, Integrity Auditor and Animal Welfare Committee
      2. Deletion of GRNSW with commercial regulation provided by Office of Liquor & Gaming NSW and corporate law re clubs
  • Delegation of local surveillance to council enforcement officers in line with clear accreditations and independent funding and monitoring by cleanskin clubs which are empowered to contract-in security operatives if suspicions arise about illicit associations between operators and regulators. The RSPCA should maintain its independent status
  1. The Government should adhere to principles of fair debate and discussion over options and scenarios so as to restore community confidence that employment, regional development, animal welfare and commercial sustainability are balanced
  2. The fundamental principle of separation between commercial and regulatory matters should be observed at every level of the industry apart from overt, accountable representations by industry association/s. GBOTA is both commercial operator and sole policy advocate which is a dangerous combination from the point of view of “the public interest”.

The specific elements are:

  • owners and trainers are to observe zero-tolerance standards in not having small animals on the premises, not over-breeding, not shooting or drowning unwanted puppies and dogs, using vets and observing their instructions, and so on
  • owners working with breeders are to manage their whelpings in accordance with Government directions and ensure chipping and other registration requirements
  • Integrity Commission to implement McHugh’s perspective on track and kennel, travel and racing conduct etc
  • GBOTA to provide accredited group training and follow-up re socialisation and behaviour adjustment (akin to other trade associations)
  • vets are to be independent and contracted to attend at each venue
  • surveillance of animal treatment is to be done locally by independent agencies
  • clubs are to ensure their local operations bring credit to the industry and surveille all aspects of local integrity, they have to be cleanskins
  • RSPCA is to be the main independent investigator and be supported by clubs, vets and Rangers as appropriate
  • Integrity has to be elevated over commercial self-interests, and central data collection and reporting are to be timely, uniform and meaningful as contained in my main document.

 

Grattan’s recommendation that independent agencies conduct assessment processes is interesting:  if the Iemma Panel is terminated before it even starts, whether Justice McHugh with a small panel is welcomed back, or an eminent citizen is appointed, the Government should open the process up.  If there is any sincerity left in the Government’s agenda, it is now necessary to terminate the Iemma Panel or force a restructure of its approach.   If the Government continues as is, it will experience further pillorying.

________________________________________________

Letter to new Premier Berejiklian dated 27 Fed ‘17

The most toxic political issue in NSW in 2016 was widely regarded as being Premier Baird’s and Racing Minister Grant’s abrupt decision to ban greyhound racing as being “the only option” when that was patently not the case.  Baird’s departure in January 2017 and Grant’s move elsewhere might have given the new Premier a chance to redress Baird’s Government’s blunders and create a new style of government as had been her stated intention – but the actuality in greyhounds, with release of the Iemma Reform Panel Report, is a sadder sign that it’s “business as usual”.

In an industry where self-regulation failed a long time ago and which had no alternative solution, regulatory capture of local politicians and their Parliamentary clients by self-interests has seen a close-down of political wisdom.  Berejiklian and Labor (who “welcomed” the Panel’s Report) have added even more elements by continuing Baird’s mistakes and misinformation, such as:

Gamekeepers turned poachers

  • Continued confusion of roles in governance and operational areas and of self-interests’ representation in mainstream rule-setting and club responsibilities which have to be cleaned-out if future abuses are to be minimised
  • Department of Premier and Cabinet – the supposed source of internal expert advice actually helped develop the mistake, nurture it, then bring it to infamous bloom:   despite a detailed knowledge of IPART they seem to have not realised that IPART is part of the solution in place of a “groupthink club” that has never worked
  • GRNSW continues where it arguably should not – Racing NSW is the obvious organiser, GR mismanaged operational and ethical programs and even encouraged live-baiting that had been banned in 1979
  • RSPCA – reluctant to join in but was persuaded to by Baird, found one point of disagreement but seems to have missed many and now cannot argue against other defects in the scheme
  • Cabinet – led by local vested interests, endorsed the Baird/Grant blunders but now seems to have endorsed continuance of them, without learning from mistakes or being informed by better options.

More money from gambling = more incentive for misdeeds and featherbedding

  • Iemma proposes to assuage the GBOTA by siphoning more money off from the gambling pool; but given that obvious options to reduce waste and confusion have been missed, why should poor performance be rewarded?

After McHugh’s demolition of the Greyhounds Australasia/GRNSW/GBOTA culture of deferral, the Panel’s direction is continuance of indecisiveness.    Meaningless assurances, confused distribution of accountabilities and dithering delays are still being accepted.  Iemma has no matrix for matching critical issues arising from evidence and promises, options to address each and the whole, and a consultative pack for meaningful review by various interests.  In fact, each of Baird’s promises has not been met.

The failure to consider genuine “best practice” in the UK and NSW Coalition’s 2011 Platform and  outsiders’ views,  and the rejection of consultation, invoke Lord Acton’s “Every thing secret degenerates, even the administration of justice; nothing is safe that does not show how it can bear discussion and publicity”.  Iemma’s possible future regional “model of centres of excellence” should be considered against the Localism Re-engineering option. In particular, refusal to consider Gibbons’ alternative option meant four main problems:

  • neglect of the potentially most effective surveillance regime
  • unawareness of the opportunity to base the raising of standards on beneficial self-interest (economists’ approach)
  • neglected professional methods and means of determining operating parameters including by IPART, and
  • failure to provide leadership – NSW is following, not leading, interstate comparatives.

The “closed shop” has misinformed the community, industry and media.  As a consequence, in general and specific terms, the conclusion is that it would be unsafe to proceed with the Panel’s Report without extensive re-working.

 

Last November I asked ~

 

Which of these are blame-free in greyhound reform?

I had received correspondence from a number of agencies, all confirming the closed-shop, including Greyhounds Australasia and especially GRNSW, who wrote :  “Thank you for these extracts, certainly is an interesting piece of work…. Governance arrangements for the sport are currently being considered [by Iemma] and we would therefore encourage you to engage with government on this matter [after it had been explained that all such avenues has been firmly shut].   “[Then separately]  I am satisfied that additional correspondence from GRNSW will not alleviate your stated concerns regarding GRNSW or the circumstances of greyhound racing in New South Wales.  I am also satisfied that additional correspondence will not alter GRNSW’s position on this matter”.

“Stated concerns” included the distorted terms of reference and membership of the Panel, with correctly-predicted consequential distorted outcomes;  and lack of leadership from Greyhounds Australia (which participated in NSW reforms and was therefore compromised) and especiallt GRNSW.  The summary of defects follows (Iemma words first):

Self-regulation model (The) industry will have considerable autonomy in managing its commercial operations and in providing incentives that improve whole of life care for greyhounds. The industry also provided some assurance in its August 2016 guarantees that it was viable and had capacity to fund the costs of care for unwanted greyhounds.

The self-regulation model failed but GBOTA continues it – this is the real agenda underpinning the secrecy and faux assurances.  The media should look below the words as the devil is in the details.  NSW Budget allocations are NOT clear and accountable.  Premier’s Department Annual Report concealed local government programs, Metros have been said to be “fully funded” but allocations were tiny and no reconciliation was achieved in political and community awareness.  The number of inspectors could be NIL yet outcomes could be better under Localism Re-engineering.

Industry participants should be able to be appointed to the GRNSW board.

McHugh opposed this and it is unacceptable to have “closed” decisions where vested interests can tilt the course of decision-making even if in minority (49% limit of members).  GBOTA will sit on the rule-making and the club boards – that reflects a nasty reality in general governance guidelines and especially under McHugh’s strict scrutiny of past behaviour.

Public trust  We met regularly and agreed our recommendations by consensus.  A new governance framework will be put in place that builds public trust in the integrity of the greyhound industry and sets the benchmark for all other jurisdictions

In secret and without public contact points – Justice, PMC and Racing NSW denied knowledge that Iemma had even started which was deceitful.  The basis of the Panel (terms of reference and membership) was so biassed that the gross situation should be addressed – bias is there.   Public trust will be eroded by the delays and incorporation of underlying integrity and administrative defects as they are revealed

GRNSW survive  GRNSW should be reconstituted as a statutory state owned corporation and be responsible for developing greyhound racing in NSW as a competitive and sustainable industry. It should be required to meet obligations imposed on it by an operating licence issued by the Minister for Racing. It will develop track safety standards, set the racing program, and oversee the management and administration of race tracks and race clubs including licencing and governance requirements. It will be required to meet the costs of the industry’s operations including regulatory activities, allocation of prize money, and investment in tracks to meet safety standards and achieve optimal track design. This body will have significant autonomy in determining how to structure the industry to achieve commercial sustainability including deciding on the number of tracks it will maintain. It would also have the option of managing racing activities directly.

Autonomy was decried by McHugh, rightly.  There is no justification, or discussion of transferring racing to Racing NSW which does the work for the two equine sectors.  There should be no presumption that GRNSW should exist.  Confusion of roles continues, GRNSW should be setting no standards and licensing requirements, they are the domain of the new Integrity Commission and Racing NSW/GRNSW should be subject to its requirements.  Ministerial control has failed along with self-regulation;  and the move to SOC will have the same affect as with WestConnex i.e. loss of trust.  Arguably the Integrity Commission should not report to the Minister who has the commercial development of the industry as a topic of hot lobbying and contention.  How could the Minister possibly be responsible for the management of a racing club!

 Training  … breeders will be required to complete a course to enable them to implement responsible breeding practices…. Most industry participants should be required to complete training or demonstrate existing competency to obtain and maintain their licence… The new registration scheme will be updated by breeders when greyhounds are microchipped at 12 weeks, and registered owners for all other stages of a greyhound’s life, including when it is reared, educated, trained, retires from racing or when it is deceased

“A course …”?  There is no professional discussion of accreditation of training and related socialisation, care and management, all through the breeding, training, ownership and racing/club strata.  All licensed persons must satisfactorily complete training courses that meet accreditation standards in industry as well as under the operating licence.  The alternative source of accredited training, under supervision of the Integrity Commission, is GBOTA in competition with educational institutes.  Updating must be at every vet inspection, drug test

GRNSW sets standards  We recommend that GRNSW have the function of developing new track design and safety standards

GRNSW should not do the work of the Integrity Commission.  The passage is contrary to Kat Ernest’s posting of 10 January which showed the failures of GRNSW and the need to focus on clubs but also the media’s lack of awareness of Localism principles (Panel talk of “optimal” is over-stated, “safe” is to be the focus):

Last year, GRNSW commissioned a research project into greyhound race track safety. The project is being carried out by the University of Technology Sydney (UTS), with GRNSW and Greyhound Racing SA (GRSA) supporting it with $325,000 funding.  The project is expected to be completed some time around May – but that’s still five months away meaning there’s more than 3,500 TAB races between now and then in NSW alone.

So what is the plan for now? If this research is going to pave the way for safer racing, then why are GRNSW taking it upon themselves to be fiddling around with the tracks before there are definitive answers on how to make them safer?…

With such an intense spotlight on the sport is now really the time to be trialling new methods of preparing tracks, just months out from a probable restructure ….

If clubs aren’t fulfilling their duties of preparing safe tracks, it is the responsibility of GRNSW to come down on these venues to ensure the appropriate standards are being met.

It is becoming abundantly clear that the trial-by-error approach seemingly being employed by GRNSW at the current time is not working. Trainers are held accountable for every single aspect of their dog’s lives – it’s about time the authority body and race clubs stepped up and took responsibility for what is happening to dogs racing on their tracks.

Live Baiting  Regulating live baiting under both the racing rules and legislation will enable both criminal and administrative penalties to be applied to individuals guilty of the offence. This will enable the commission to enforce permanent bans on those caught live baiting from the industry.

If not done already, this is an unbelievable breach of the 1979 Act.

The keeping of small animals (dead or alive) that may reasonably be used as a lure should be banned in the rules of racing, where greyhounds are kept, trained and/or raced in one of two ways:

Option 1: (supported by greyhound industry representative) : a. no exemptions for rabbits and possums,  a very limited exemption for piglets

Option 2: (supported by RSPCA NSW) :  no exemptions for rabbits, piglets and possums

No exemptions should be set in advance especially on farms where pigs are raised.  This is too broad a vector for abuse.  RSPCA is supported.  There needs to be a public debate how all hunting breeds should be treated, not just non-registered dogs.  Remembering how dispersed dog-breeding is, I wonder if this is a mode for low-performing dogs to be culled after testing with live lures and then only high-performers will be registered.

Surveillance technology  The installation of CCTV has the potential to reduce the risk of live baiting at private trial tracks, and can provide oversight of training practices.

It is foolish to say that the Commission will not take different risk profiles into account.  “May” have electricity access is less relevant in the days of high-capacity solar/battery technologies all through the leisure industries.  However, forcing licenced persons to justify might seem to be a good idea.  This is not preferred here as the Commission must develop an effective knowledge of all track, training and animal treatment dynamics on all tracks.  Video surveillance is manipulable and irrelevant to unlicensed bush tracks and sheds where abuses will continue.

Wastage  We considered imposing a fixed cap on the number of greyhounds that could be bred for racing in NSW each year as proposed by industry in its August 2016 guarantees. However, we found that setting a cap in NSW immediately could be ineffective because of the transfer of dogs between jurisdictions (and internationally) that would occur outside a cap and because of the poor data currently available to set a cap at the right level.

Ineffectiveness was always known and should never have been offered by GBOTA.  “Industry” should advocate?  Methodology is wrong:  first calculation is numbers of races and runners per race against period and variable costs to set the economic and financial sustainability parameter.  Then come number of tracks including de-commissioning those too expensive to bring to standard considering the overall parameter.  Finally come realistic targets (with reduced injuries and better tracking) for re-homing plus reducing wastage from 40% (Racing NSW and McHugh).  Then you have the right basis for a “quota”.

The parameter calculation should not be deferred as we have been waiting too long already for Greyhounds Australasia and GRNSW to do any meaningful data collection and analysis.  IPART does such work (admittedly sometimes badly) for local government, SOCs and private transport modes etc.  This writer developed a track economics assessment model for GRNSW for the Hunter tracks, that template could be provided without delay and applied by IPART in three months with annual revisions.

Bonds  Owners should be required to pay a modest upfront bond to the integrity commission.  We recommend new requirements for owners and breeders to increase their responsibility for their greyhounds for their full natural life.  These requirements will be coupled with administrative penalties for licencees with high euthanasia rates or poor rehoming rates.  McHugh recommended a significant fee should be imposed on the breeder

Unimplementable at local levels.  Modest should be defined and how can “modest” be equated with a claimed effective change in regime?  Why – exactly – is McHugh rejected?

It seems that industry pre-judgements and values prevail over evidence-based logic.  Each sentence in this justification is insufficiently defined and assessed against a risk matrix (see introductory comments). “High” euthanasia?  Please explain why high, not any where not certified by a vet.

Interplays  The integrity commission’s enabling Act should specify the circumstances when formal consultation with the commercial entity is required.  The integrity commission’s budget should be based on the efficient costs of performing its functions and it should seek annual funding from the consolidated fund via normal State budgetary processes.   As a condition of the operating licence, the commercial entity should fully offset the costs to Government of maintaining the integrity commission

No “should”.  3×3 road levies, ICAC, National Parks, Community Justice and others’ experience show there is no “should” or “must” in reality.  There is genuine peril in moving to a Budget basis.  Why not allocate directly through a roads-type hypothecated fund.  Consultation must be accountable at all stages – monitoring and evidence collection, formulation, assessment, recommendation then delivery of decisions.

The Queensland Racing Integrity Commission (QRIC) oversees all three racing codes but the proposed NSW integrity commission will have more comprehensive functions.

Adds to logic of Racing NSW being responsible for greyhounds.

Increased distribution of funds has been attacked by Peter V’Landy of Racing NSW and that is a fair point:  why should self-serving wastage be encouraged?

Stewards should be solely responsible for regulating race day events and trials under the rules of racing.

Stewards cannot be “solely responsible”, this is a mistake.  There is significant potential for corruption at such levels.  There is no discussion of applying beneficial self-interest principles at the club level.  The overall omission of Rangers and clubs is a deadly defect of the Iemma Panel’s Report.

 

… paced reform and ensuring changes are practical, understood and will work.

A six-month project team is unacceptable after two years of discussion and controversy.  This is bureaucratese of the worst kind.  Again, the Localism Re-engineering option has been excluded and it is unsafe to proceed with the Panel’s self-serving scheme – see following “offer” to Premier Berejiklian.

The Department of Premier & Cabinet has driven the overall process in a manner reminiscent of then Premier Iemma’s mismanagement of Labor’s Metro “fiasco”.  Its performance seems to have been negative in that it :

  • advised Premier Baird in his and Grant’s abrupt decision to ban greyhound racing as being “the only option” when that was patently not the case (which was my interpretation, correct as events have proven)
  • framed the distorted terms of reference and membership of the Iemma Panel which I predicted would have not produced an outcome reflective of Baird’s firm promises to the community, media and industry (correct prediction as events have proven)
  • handled the withdrawal of Dr Keniry resignation and absorbed his staff but “disappeared” his Report, contrary to Baird’s and Grant’s promises to release it, while compromising the RSPCA’s position
  • participated and even managed Iemma’s exclusion of outside views, even those minor avenues allowed in the sad TOR, including rejection of my efforts
  • participated and even managed the drafting of a Report that has quite extraordinary errors and inconsistencies in it (as documented) as well as that glaring exclusion of IPART in an area that has and will continue to be mismanaged in the industry and which is well within the Tribunal’s expertise (especially using my work on the economic template for Hunter venue assessments)
  • advised Premier Berejiklian to release the Iemma Report without amendment or inclusion of arguably superior provisions even though I had offered my work to the Premier and GRNSW under felicitous terms
  • now, presumably, will advise the Premier to take repealing legislation to Parliament while knowing the Bill is the “fruit of a poisoned vine” and breaks Baird’s and Grant’s promises to the community, media and industry.

I have prepared a peer-reviewed evidence-based package that I think would all but eliminate the grossest abuses cost-effectively, but am frustrated that the industry, Government and its associates are determinedly averse to evidence.  They have not seen the Report due to delays and negativity by Greyhounds Australasia, GRNSW, PMC and Ministers.  That it will be seen by the community before the Government is a sad indictment.

Now that the Panel has reported, the need for better options to be put to politicians, Premier’s, Labor, the RSPCA and the industry is clearly evident.

 

Declaration:

 

Due to the Government’s repeated unauthorised use of his copyrighted material, Gibbons is exercising political and moral suasion, after advising the Premiers he would do so (and receiving no objection).  That means, revealing the problems and pointing to solutions – an approach espoused by PM Turnbull.

Gibbons is a professional consultant and offered GA and GRNSW his “Localism Re-engineering” report, as an adjunct to the Iemma Report.  All rights are reserved pending negotiation.

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Email to Deputy Premier Barilaro 1 Nov ’16, also to Baird’s Chief of Staff

Dear Deputy Premier

I rang before due to the inability to contact Mr Iemma, having been referred to almost every central agency unsuccessfully.  The one person who had it said Morris is using his private email which is extraordinary if true.  I was advised to continue to email you;  and I’m observing the general advice of a very senior Liberal figure who advised me I’d get nowhere by being nice – shout from the street as he succeeds in doing.  So there we are.

I have every intention of supporting the industry and community.  I have experienced discourtesy, unprofessional conduct, and even derived distrust.

My personal interests are now uppermost along with perceived inappropriate information to the community.

There is a solution that can be achieved with mutual goodwill, effecting the policy solution, valuation of IP and reputational preservation on the part of the Premier, Deputy Premier, Mr Iemma and the Alliance.

I cannot do that by myself and after eons of asking, I now say for the last time, let’s talk manu e manu.

The attached is just a taste of how I’m feeling.

I’m on 0408 112001 and waiting for your call, with goodwill at this end