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RACING AMENDMENT BILL 2021

I am always disappointed to rise to my feet in this place to speak on a racing bill that reinforces the special treatment this industry receives from the Labor government. Every racing bill this house debates that fails to start winding up racing is a wasted opportunity. Every time we are debating a bill with no new animal welfare standards or new restrictions on horse or greyhound racing we are allowing more horses to be killed and more money to flow into the coffers of the gambling industry. And this bill is not just failing to take any action on the racing industry, it is actually expanding it by allowing all three racing codes in Victoria—thoroughbred, harness and greyhound racing—to hold race events on Good Friday and allowing thoroughbred racing on Anzac Day without ministerial approval. It is disappointing that on the first day back in this final year of this term of government this is where the government’s priorities lie. We have major pieces of reform to get through in the next seven months, including the long-awaited rewrite of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act 1986, and we have been waiting since October to debate really important child protection legislation, which has now been consigned to the graveyard shift late on Thursday this week—yet here we are debating whether horseracing should be allowed on Good Friday.

But I suppose in an election year this government also has to keep its donor mates in the gambling industry happy. Just last week the AEC released its most recent donations disclosure data. The gambling industry has donated $1.08 million across the major parties in the last financial year. I expect we will see even more money flowing to the major parties over 2022. We know historically Labor has taken more donations from the gambling industry than any other party—over half of the $81 million donated in the last 22 years—not to mention the $760 000 that the Australian Hotels Association donated to the Victorian Labor Party in the lead-up to the 2018 election because they were scared about our strong harm reduction policies and because the Greens are the only ones who will stand up to this insidious lobby. This close relationship with the gambling lobby reinforces the government’s special treatment of racing in our state, and they are all too willing to look the other way on the cruelty of horse and greyhound racing, instead handing out preferential treatment like trying to hold major racing events when the rest of the state was under COVID restrictions.

But the tide of popular opinion is changing. Polling shows that the majority of Australians support a ban on greyhound racing, and people are increasingly agreeing that racing animals like horses and greyhounds for gambling and entertainment is cruel. To put it simply, racing kills. Seven horses have died at the last eight Melbourne Cups. Thirty-two horses died in races in Victoria in 2020 to 2021. We have the most dangerous greyhound racing tracks in the country. Last year there were 44 deaths and 3572 injuries on greyhound racing tracks in this state. And we are still allowing whipping as a routine part of horseracing—a painful and completely unnecessary practice which most Victorians no longer support.

My federal colleagues recently announced a plan to shut down horseracing completely—a four-year transition period with a national task force to design and implement a national ban on horse racing, transition racing facilities to open green spaces and develop a transition plan for workers. This is the kind of vision I would like to see our governments embrace, but instead we have bills like this where the government is reiterating its commitment to the cruel racing industry in Victoria and locking the state into years and years of racing.

We should be using every opportunity in this place to stop the harm and cruelty fuelled by these industries. The Greens will not support this bill, and given this government will not take the initiative to act on the harmful racing industry, we will ourselves. I am moving a reasoned amendment to prevent this bill from being second read until the government actually begins the process to ban whipping in Victorian horseracing. I move:

That all the words after ‘That’ be omitted and replaced with the words ‘this house refuses to read this bill a second time until the government introduces legislation to ban the use of the whip in Victorian racing.’.

I know this place passed a motion last year to call on state racing authorities to work with Racing Australia to develop a national approach to address community concern around the use of the whip. Let us just get on with it.

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