Summary of the Chairman’s Report (GA Annual Report 2014/15)
This is my sixth report as Greyhounds Australasia (GA) Chairman and the first presented with a significant cloud over the industry’s future.
Industry change has begun
Twelve months ago I reported that GA and its member controlling authorities were very aware of the impact of social change on our industry. Under the leadership of new CEO Scott Parker, GA developed a strategy to build its social licence to operate in order to build a broader base of tacit community support for our industry and not rely solely on our legal right to exist.
In February this year, GA was genuinely shocked to learn that some participants had engaged in the illegal and immoral practice of live baiting. The revelations were extremely disappointing and very damaging. The fall out was immediate and will remain a significant driver of the change the industry must make if it is to become truly sustainable.
GA had already been challenging traditional industry thinking about how we meet our significant industry challenges when the industry was plunged into crisis. To win tacit community support, we accepted that we should acknowledge failure to meet community expectations on key welfare dimensions, we committed to establishing a new national vision for the future and we would articulate a change agenda and performance measures that could be agreed to by some of our strongest critics.
As a sign of improved accountability and transparency, we had agreed to open ourselves to review by those same critics and to report our animal welfare improvement progress annually.
Since February’s revelations, GA has helped the industry start the long journey to winning back the public’s trust by bringing forward these principle positions and messages. All members have signed up to a new national industry vision that puts animal welfare at the centre of everything we do; where we work together to eradicate unnecessary euthanasia of greyhounds as a national priority; and we will act in a manner that engenders community trust.
GA also established national values that will drive all future decisions. GA and its members will put animal welfare first, be accountable, honest, transparent and strive for excellence at all times.
GA has also led discussion on appropriate strategy and actions designed to put the industry on a more sustainable footing. Many of these have either been adopted or are in the process of being considered for adoption by member authorities.
GA’s charter is to facilitate national agreement on matters where unity is in the industry’s best interests. Since February, while members have been cognisant of the national interest, they have been focussed on responding to, and now implementing, change required by state governments, particularly those on the eastern seaboard. There is no doubt that it is a significant challenge to unify the change program in these circumstances.
Another significant challenge for GA and its members is aligning participants with the need for, and nature of, change. The new year will offer a significant test of the willingness and capacity of members and participants to work together on an agreed path of reform.
The industry accepts that longevity and success are tied irrevocably to the treatment of our greyhounds. Industry leaders know that in order to rebuild community trust, we have to meet our moral obligations as much as our financial obligations. Quality rather than quantity will drive future greyhound racing business models.
Another solid year of service
This year GA approved 12,470 new greyhound names, registered 65 sires, registered 2530 frozen services, and registered 3928 breeding units. We also sold 1598 DNA kits.
The organisation has benefitted from prudent financial management during the year. Despite additional expenditure required to support members during a period of crisis, a small surplus in line with budget was achieved. Our cash reserves have been maintained. GA continues to remain self funded, providing these vital national services, and the consistent, quality outcomes that controlling bodies and participants rely on, without direct member funding.
During the year GA merged its Rules Sub Committee with its Integrity Committee to form the GA Rules and Integrity Committee with representation from all states. This group considered and recommended the Board approve thirty new and amended rules.
GA has responded to its changing environment and added a second implementation date for new and amended rules. This year new and amended rules were approved for implementation on the 1 July as well as 1 January. In addition, new national lure rules were implemented on 20 April. The Board will continue to be flexible with the introduction of rules to ensure we meet the demands of all stakeholders.
GA’s committees were busy this year. The GA Rules & Integrity Committee, Veterinarians & Analysts Committee (VAC) and Racing Committee all met twice and the Welfare Working Party (WWP) met on five occasions.
The VAC, under the Chairmanship of Dr Steve Karamatic, influenced a number of important Board decisions during the year including new prohibited substance rules and the funding of integrity and greyhound welfare related research projects. The industry will benefit from the introduction of a cobalt threshold and hair testing in the second half of 2015 as a result of this committee’s commitment to optimising industry integrity and animal welfare outcomes. The committee also delivered comprehensive new assessment criteria to more effectively and transparently evaluate future research projects.
The WWP continues to work diligently to implement the National Greyhound Welfare Strategy, in particular the priorities of participant education and licence categorisation, and greyhound lifecycle tracking – a vitally important contributor to professionalising our industry. I was pleased that GA was able to introduce new rules designed to encourage all breeders to better consider their breeding intentions, national breeding female registration, and improved vaccination requirements on 1 July this year as a result of many months hard work from this group.
The national picture
Our industry now contributes over $1 billion in benefit to the economies of GA’s nine jurisdictions. It employs over 10,000 people and attracts close to $3.5 billion in wagering on TAB/pari-mutuel betting. The majority of our members now attract over 20 per cent tri-code market share and growing.
Recent independent reports confirm that our industry also promotes substantial social wellbeing, not just with its support of jobs and business success, but by bringing people with a common interest together and promoting volunteerism.
Around 350,000 greyhounds started in over 45,000 races again this year and of the 30,000 registered participants that belong to our member organisations, up to 95 per cent continue to enjoy our industry as hobbyists. Serving the interests of such a diverse group remains both a pleasure and a challenge.
For the first time, GA played a more significant role in the production of the AGRA Group Race Calendar this year. As prime race funders, GA members sought the right to approve calendar changes and we thank AGRA and race clubs for their support of our ongoing involvement.
Disappointingly, after finally gaining ASIC approval of syndicate self regulation in December this year, ASIC revoked our class order for relief of requirements under the Corporations Act 2001 after learning that the practice of live baiting had been practiced under the current regulatory framework. GA continues to work with ASIC and our members to have that decision reviewed.
Membership of the GA Board changed significantly this year with long serving Directors Ed Berry, Mark Bottcher, Michael Byrne, Ashley Dwyer and Brent Hogan relinquishing their duties. It was a privilege to serve with you and I thank you all for your contribution to making GA a worthy supporter of member achievement. I am pleased that Ed has continued on as an Alternate Director representing the Northern Territory.
New Directors Alan Clayton, Garry Collier, Ian Hall, Barry Hamilton and Travis TeWhata have joined at a critical time for the industry. Each has an important leadership role to play within their own jurisdictions and I look forward to their fresh perspective on GA’s challenges and deliberations in the year ahead.
My thanks also to GA Alternate Directors for their contribution to GA but in particular, to Matthew Corby and Steve Hawkins. Matt continues to provide excellent input in to Director deliberations and has played a major role in making recommendations for Board approval as a member of the Rules & Integrity Committee, Racing Committee and Welfare Working Party. As its first Chair under its revised charter of implementing the National Greyhound Welfare Strategy, Steve was instrumental in ensuring the GA Welfare Working Party was active and focussed on its significant task.
I remain particularly proud of the GA staff’s dedication this year. Faced with a sometimes aggrieved and often concerned customer base, the team has responded well. As we progress from crisis to recovery, our CEO Scott Parker continues to provide Directors and member CEOs with high quality insight and advice. Scott has transformed the Board’s thinking on reputation management strategy and process and worked extremely hard on the industry’s behalf. We are indebted to his foresight and work ethic.
Thank you to GA staff members Steven Hosking, Michelle Grima, Aiden Sellwood, Matt Schofield and Heather Villinger for their valuable contributions in another productive year while also dealing with significant fall-out from the live baiting crisis. This small office, operating with limited funding, and employing less than five full time staff at any time, continues to punch above its weight to satisfy the demands placed upon it.
Finally, my thanks again to the over 30,000 owners, trainers and breeders in Australia and New Zealand who always act in the best interests of our code. Despite its undoubted challenges, and requirement to reform, you, more than any Board member, CEO or senior administrator, will now confirm that this wonderful industry should not only survive but prosper.