GREYHOUND racing industry protesters   at Lismore Park.
GREYHOUND racing industry protesters at Lismore Park. Cathryn McLauchlan

Gulaptis supports greyhound industry, ban is 'premature'

STATE Member for Clarence Chris Gulaptis will not support the bill to ban greyhound racing in New South Wales, but refuses to be drawn on whether he will cross the floor when it reaches the Lower House.

Perhaps more importantly, his "gut feeling” is that there will not be enough resistance to stop it going through.

Bill rushed through parliament

The bill was rushed through the NSW Parliament's Upper House just before midnight on Wednesday, despite opposition from some of the Government's own members, including Liberal MP Peter Phelps, who suggested the ban would embolden animal welfare extremists.

"Think for a moment: Does this bill encourage or discourage them?” he said.

"Are they going to roll up their swags and go home and say, 'That is it; we have fixed all the problems we have', or are they going to take this as yet another step on their path to ideological purity?

"This week we had People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals calling for Eggs and Bacon Bay in Tasmania to be renamed. These are the sorts of people we are dealing with.”

Ban is premature

But Mr Gulaptis' own gripe with the move is the fact he feels it was premature, despite conceding the industry brought the situation on themselves through lax regulation.

He would back the ban, he said, if he felt the significant reforms made in recent months weren't working.

"I just think the industry needs more time to show the reforms it has undertaken have improved animal welfare standards; that they are meeting community expectations and that there are compliance and testing regimes in place to ensure it continues to operate in an ethical way in the future,” he said.

"The Government's decision was based on the fact it did not clean its act up when it had a chance, and the community at large and Government have lost faith in the industry being able to do that.

"I can understand the rationale behind the decision but I think it's too drastic and too hard. I think the industry was on the (right) path before the announcement was made.”

No crossing the floor yet

When asked if his stance would translate to movement on the floor, Mr Gulaptis said he would stick to his guns when the division was called, but was still part of a team.

"I don't want to say if I'll be crossing the floor... but I can't support the bill in that form at all,” he said. "It's unforgiving to those people who haven't done anything wrong, and in good conscience I can't look at (them) and say I supported something that would deprive you of your livelihood and income.”

The Government refused to amend the bill to include a clause guaranteeing compensation to industry participants left out of pocket.

Christian Democrats leader Fred Nile was voted down yesterday when he called for an inquiry into the McHugh Report whose revelations of animal cruelty prompted the ban.

Inquiry into ad campaign

The Governmentbut did agree to allow an inquiry into its advertising campaign calling for the greyhound industry's end, which included ads tagged as coming from the Department of Justice.

If the bill passes through the Lower House, which now seems inevitable, anyone conducting a greyhound race after July next year will face up to a year in jail and an $11,000 fine.

Keeping greyhounds for racing interstate will be outlawed, but a yet-to-be-determined grace period will be put in place for registered racing dogs.

The Government may also authorise a temporary "trial track” to be kept open so existing greyhounds can still be trained during the interstate racing transition period.

Greyhound breeding will be illegal except for companion animals.

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