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TUESDAY 10.20am: The Baird government has confirmed a backdown of its ban on greyhound racing in NSW following a sustained campaign of media and industry pressure.
It has been reported the new deal will be a reversal of the ban but with some conditions and some of the key changes will be the same as those proposed by the greyhound industry, including:
- Capping breeding to 2,000
- Reducing the number of tracks
- Reducing the number of race events
- Whole-of-life dog cycle management
- $1,500 bond for every dog bred
The dramatic backflip comes despite Premier Mike Baird's repeated claims that the decision was final and a matter of principal and it was "locked in" that the industry would be shutdown on July 1, 2017.
Mr Baird announced the ban earlier this year following a special commission of inquiry report that found 68,000 greyhounds had been euthanised in the past 12 months because they could not or were too slow to race.
But he has faced immense pressure from the Opposition, media outlets and the industry since the announcement, with expectations of a large swing against the government at the November 12 Orange byelection.
Cabinet met on Tuesday morning to discuss dumping the plan, with their decision emerging shortly before 10.30am.
Baird in embarrassing backdown on greyhound racing ban
Premier Mike Baird's capitulation to opponents of his ban on greyhound racing in NSW will also see the industry subject to a statutory review - but possibly not for at least three years, pushing the issue beyond the next election in 2019.
But in an embarrassing twist, police on Monday night charged a Cabramatta greyhound trainer with animal cruelty offences, alleged to relate to the live baiting of greyhounds.
The man, Chad Achurch, is a registered greyhound trainer and owner and was refused bail to appear at Liverpool local court on Tuesday. Mr Achurch has been charged with torture/beating and causing the death of an animal, committing an act of aggravated cruelty upon an animal and using an animal for training greyhounds.
In a humiliating backdown for Mr Baird, cabinet is preparing to revisit the ban on Tuesday morning after a sustained media and industry campaign since it was announced in July and amid expectations of a large swing against the government at the November 12 Orange byelection.
The decision to ban the industry from July 1 next year followed the report of a special commission of inquiry headed by retired judge Michael McHugh. It found up to 68,000 greyhounds had been euthanised in the past 12 years because they were too slow or unable to race.
The inquiry was prompted by revelations aired by the ABC's Four Corners program about live baiting in the greyhound industry.
But cabinet is set to consider a reversal of the policy, despite Mr Baird having argued for months that closing the industry is "the right thing to do".
Just over a week ago Mr Baird declared the July 1, 2017 shutdown date "locked in. That is firm."
"On the basis of evidence we put it through Parliament," he said. "We think that is the right decision".
It is expected cabinet will consider a range of options that will encompass significant elements of a plan put forward by the industry.
Among them is a controlled breeding program, total life-cycle management for greyhounds, including those unable to race and life bans for animal cruelty, including live baiting.
Fairfax Media understands that cabinet will also consider introducing a statutory review of undertakings given by the industry, which could take place in three years. If that timetable is agreed upon it would push the review beyond the March 2019 election.
It is understood Mr Baird met with greyhound industry transition taskforce chief John Keniry on Monday, who told him the industry had shown "a willingness and determination to reform".
On Monday chief executive of the NSW Greyhound Breeders, Owners and Trainers' Association, Brenton Scott, said the industry had "always believed that the issues in the industry could be fixed in an alternative way and have communicated this clearly since the proposed ban was announced".
But Humane Society International, which along with the RSPCA heaped praise on Mr Baird's original announcement, warned a change of direction would reveal the Premier's true character.
"It was so good to see a political party do something because it was the right position not just because it was politically advantageous," HSI Australia director Verna Simpson told Fairfax Media.
"To turn his back on it now would show him to be the man he is, not the man we thought he was".
RSPCA NSW said it "continues to support the ban" based on the findings of the special commission of inquiry.
Mr Baird has repeatedly denied he would shift position and has accused Opposition Leader Luke Foley of political opportunism and lacking principles for opposing the ban and promising to overturn it if elected.
On Monday Mr Foley highlighted Mr Baird's repeated statements in Parliament and elsewhere that he would not back down on the ban.
"Mr Baird has said this is a matter of great principle ad infinitum for three months now," he said.
"It seems the principle most important to Mr Baird is saving his own skin".