In the year 2015 the ABC Four Corners program broadcast secretly – and almost certainly illegally – recorded footage of a small group of greyhound industry participants present at veteran trainer Tom Noble’s training track at Churchable, south-west of Brisbane while a small number of greyhounds were trial racing chasing a lure with a small, live pig tied to it.
There was widespread and totally understandable community outrage about the broadcast images, and within days the issue of animal cruelty in the industry became a firestorm that triggered the Queensland Government’s initiation of an inquiry into the greyhound industry that many – this author included – believe was cynically used as a smokescreen to disguise the implementation of a never before announced or released restructure of the racing industry under the control of a beefed up Racing Queensland principal control body.
In the wash up the greyhound industry, whose representatives had a figurative gun at their heads, were forced to accept the abolition of the long-standing Queensland Greyhound Breeders Incentive Scheme, and agree to the not-negotiable RQ demands for short and medium term targets to reduce the size of the greyhound stock in the state by introducing closely regulated maximum breeding numbers of dogs.
The industry was wobbling at the knees and looked for all money as if its lights were about to be turned out under the rain of blows from all quarters, but thanks to a combination of excellent grassroots organising; superb, well-informed leadership by the Qld Greyound Breeders Owners and Trainers Association, and the determination of the vast majority of good, honest, animal loving participants in the industry the sport survived and would today be prospering if only it were given a fair go.
Fast forward to December 2017, and as of today 10 harness racing identities, including a number of hiugh profile current and former award and premiership winning drivers and trainers – one of them the State’s leading driver – have been arrested and bailed on criminal charges of match fixing and/or money laundering, and it is the tiny, incestuous harness racing industry that has now fallen into deep disarray.
The sport/industry has had a swathe cut right down it’s middle by the excellent detective work of the QPS Racing Squad and QRIC, and with further high-profile arrests seemingly inevitable the pressure is mounting on the newly elected State Government to constitute a ‘live baiting’ style widespread inquiry into corrupt practices, procedures, networks of influence and control and institutionalised corruption across the length, breadth and width of the harness racing code.
Things is crook in trot land Tallarook, and it’s no overstatement to say that just as happened in the live baiting affair the actions of a criminal few have imperiled the future of the whole harness racing industry and left it facing near-extinction if the arrests keep coming and nothing is done.
Now whether defrauding punters of quite literally hundreds of thousands of dollars, and quite likely millions, is a more or less serious offence than tying a live piglet to a lure and letting dogs chase, catch and perhaps even kill the pig is a matter of subjective personal opinion\, and is not one that I have any desire to engage in emotive debate about.
I can say with absolute confidence though that I for one do not regard the rumored death of a single animal whose brothers and sisters are slaughtered in their tens of thousands each day in abattoirs by having a steel bolt fired into their heads or a halal knife slit across their throats as any more or less important on the criminal scale of gravity than a wholesale organised criminal cartel defrauding tens, maybe hundreds, of thousands of hard working Australians of the large sums of money that they had collectively invested oblivious to the clear fact that many of these races were rigged.
A crime’s a crime’s a crime in my book, and both codes are plagued by criminals.
Given this self-evident truth, why is it then that while the Greyhound Breeding Scheme was shut off without notice in a snap decision that ruined folk’s reputations, careers, finance, and in some thankfully rare cases lives, while the now demonstrably diabolically crooked harness racing industry continues to receive more than a million dollars a year in breeding subsidies decided and distributed by the principal control body Racing Queensland?
Whatever happened to equity? Why is the greyhound industry being treated so differently than the harness code, even though they both presently find themselves swimming in the same viscous, turgid, polluted swamp draining poison into our rivers and sweeping it out to the sea?
Why is it exactly that greyhound trainers who have never had any knowledge of or involvement with the heartless few convicted of reprehensible animal abuse offences are required to sign statutory declarations affirming that they have not, are not, and will not be involved in live baiting their dogs.
Yet participants in the much smaller and far more insular world of the Queensland harness racing industry are being asked to sign absolutely diddly squat to swear or affirm that they were not, have not, are not, and never will be involved in the serious criminal behavior that landed so many of their colleagues with a ‘warned off for life’ letter delivered to their door by registered courier or post?
What is the actual reason for this blatantly different treatment of the two groups of law breakers home code sportsfans?
Is it the political donation largesse of certain wealthy figures in the harness racing industry? Was it part of a bigger picture plan to push the greyhound sport to the fringes and choke it down under the weight of beefed up animal welfare laws while continuing to allow Tom, Dick, Harry and anyone else rort trot races until the cows come home?
Here’s another pertinent question.
Will Racing Queensland reduce harness racing prize money proportionate to the control body or QRICs reduction in greyhound prize money just a couple of years ago, ostensibly to recoup the costs involved in that case of investigating live baiting, and in the case of harness to recover the huge costs of the surveillance and CCC operations required to root the race fixers out, and then later to fund their inevitable prosecutions?
Racing Queensland can’t have it both ways, and underpinning our great democracy is one of the economic system’ fundamental tenets , Equal Justice For All, Applied Without Fear or Favor by the uniformed yet semi-independent guardians of the old and quaint, but not quite yet obsolete belief in the fair go and roughly even shake of the Rosella bottle for and by all.
I’m raising these issues just like I do have through the many exclusive stories published here that n recent days have attracted upwards of 5 000 punters and maybe even ten thousand to read this website daily.
Not because I’m paid to (I’m not, this site is like a self-funded miniature of the ABC, and given my personal Jesus-inspired disdain for wealth and possessions, and the nature of the material I cover its always likely to remain the same); or because I’m pushing any particular barrow because I’m in most respects a nihilist, and also because I have an inkling that barrow pushing never gets a bloke very far before he’s squashed under weight of the cart’s contents or trips on a boardwalk and tumbles into the deep black sea to be devoured by sharks.
There are enough of those sharp toothed assassins of the sea to cause me to avoid them and all their ilk, don’t you worry about that, and I no more need them than I do a hot shot in the bot by Tony Abbott’s knot.
That simply proves that I have a modicum of common sense I reckon.
But where’s the proof that Racing Queensland share my logic and reasoning?
Nowhereville, Nowhere. That’s where.
In the meantime though – and maybe forever more until the head honchos of racing grow some cojones and act to even things up – the sport of Cleopatra is copping a fair dinkum kicking, while the battlers code run by some of Queensland’s richest men just keep on doing what they are doing and we keep knocking them down.
One law for you, one law for all.
Jesus died on a cross so that sinners might find it inside themselves to change, and go on to lead wholesome, healthy and productive lives.
The greyhound industry has seen the way and the light itself, and has changed; but harness racing remains still trapped on its turgid, calamitously crooked path.
Something’s gotta give.
We gotta make the sun shine again sportsfans.
Lets do it.