(Debate, 17 November 2015, Legislative Assembly, NSW Parliament)
I strongly oppose the Betting Tax Legislation Amendment Bill, which will progressively reduce the betting tax collected on horse and greyhound racing over five years to prop up an industry which profits from animal cruelty and problem gambling.
The popularity of racing in Australia has been waning over recent years due to exposés revealing the true nature of the industry.
Racing treats animals as disposable commodities.
Animals are subject to intense training and racing which cause physical stress and risk significant painful injuries including torn ligaments and tendons, dislocated joints and bone fractures and breaks.
Last year, the Melbourne Cup favourite had a heart attack in his stall and died only a fortnight after it won the Caulfield Cup. Another horse fractured a bone after being spooked by someone in the crowd when it was returning to its stable – the horse was destroyed. A few weeks ago a horse was euthanased after a fall at Randwick Racecourse. At the recent Melbourne Cup, a horse fractured its fetlock.
In greyhound racing, up to 200 injuries are reported and around five dogs are killed as a result each week during races.
Racing injuries are rarely treated because treatment is expensive and not worth investing in given animals will not be able to race again.
In greyhound racing every year about 18,000 healthy dogs are killed most not long after birth because they will not run fast enough to make a profit with the rest destroyed when they retire at three or four years. The greyhounds used to breed more pups get destroyed when they stop breeding at around five or six years. Greyhounds normally live to 12 to 14 years.
We know that live baiting occurs widely in the industry. Live baiting involves training greyhounds by making them chase and maul to death live animals like piglets, rabbits, kittens and possums strapped to a device that is spun around a track. Bait animals are subject to terrifying and excruciating deaths so that greyhounds will run faster and bring in a higher return.
There have been countless exposés on doping in the racing industries to enhance animals’ performance.
When not training or racing, animals are kept in confined conditions with little or no social interaction or mental stimulation, often suffering from boredom. It is not a happy life.
I welcome the Special Commission of Inquiry into the Greyhound Racing Industry in New South Wales but my confidence in the process has been undermined by this bill. While the tax savings for greyhound racing will be quarantined until the outcome of the inquiry, there seems to be an expectation that this industry will continue despite its reliance on cruelty.
Racing is also associated with human suffering from gambling loss.
Fifteen per cent of the $19 billion spent by Australians on gambling each year is spent on wagering according to the Productivity Commission, which amounts to $2.8 billion. The vast majority of this expenditure is on thoroughbred racing.
People lose their life savings, their homes and money they don’t have on the races. Wagering has been surrounded by rigging scandals and there are increasing reports of betting companies pursuing customers and enticing them to bet more and more.
Racing provides no long term community or economic benefit – even the Legislative Council select committee inquiry into the greyhound industry which recommended a tax break admitted little community benefit in greyhound racing.
The bill would result in a loss of $260 million over five years followed by losses worth at least $90 million per year of government revenue. Surely this could be better spent on health, education, housing, environmental protection, the arts, open space or any other wider public benefit.
Racing is not glamorous and provides little to the community. It is an archaic industry that profits from cruelty, suffering and greed. It does not deserve tax breaks to make it viable, in fact it should be phased out.
New South Wales is failing to adequately support industries of the future, with neighbouring states and countries doing much more for the digital innovation sector.
Instead the NSW Government is providing corporate welfare to prop up a cruel industry of the past, largely because of the influence of vested interests associated with it and a media campaign from the Daily Telegraph.
What a ridiculous precedent this sets at a time when we should be future proofing our economy.
I strongly oppose the bill.