NSW government ministers agreed to ditch the ban at a meeting this morning, and will instead recommend a raft of alternative measures – including harsh animal cruelty penalties, breeding caps and fewer race tracks.
“In hindsight as we reflect on this we got it wrong,” Baird told reporters in Sydney.
“I got it wrong. Cabinet got it wrong. The government got it wrong,” .
Baird and his deputy Troy Grant have faced an unrelenting campaign waged by opponents since announcing the divisive ban three months ago.
In August, Baird said the ban, under which greyhound racing would end in NSW from next July, wasn’t about political point scoring but that he was trying to “do what is right”.
“We chose a course that we believed was right,” Baird said.
He said the decision to reverse the ban had come after listening to feedback from the industry.
“We did not give the good people in the industry the chance to respond, a chance to reform,” he said.
“On behalf of that, I am sorry. That is something we should have done.”
He said a new body will be set up to govern and regulate the industry and will be chaired by former NSW premier Morris Iemma.
Baird added his personal thoughts on animal cruelty had not changed.
“The greyhound industry will be given that one last chance,” he said.
The extraordinary policy backflip has spared Grant from an expected leadership challenge from disgruntled Nationals MPs.
The ban came after a Special Commission of Inquiry report that found up to 68,000 “uncompetitive” greyhounds were slaughtered in the past 12 years and nearly one in five trainers used live animal baits.
Labor Opposition Leader Luke Foley said the entire greyhound industry should not be punished for the sins of a few.
“We need to throw the book at those who’ve done the wrong thing, but this sport and industry should keep going – it’s part of the Australian way of life,” Foley told reporters outside parliament today.
Nationals MPs Katrina Hodgkinson, Kevin Humphries and Chris Gulaptis – who consistently argued the ban would devastate their regional electorates – crossed the floor to vote with Labor to oppose the bill but it passed following a 12-hour debate in August.
Federal Nationals Leader Barnaby Joyce is among those celebrating the imminent somersault on the greyhound racing ban.
“Greyhounds in NSW are back in the race. The NSW Government’s adoption of industry model is welcome,” Joyce tweeted.
But NSW Greens MLC Mehreen Faruqi accused the premier of political cowardice.
“Just a few months ago, Mike Baird said he had no option but to ban the cruel greyhound racing industry after the horrific revelations of animal cruelty,” Dr Faruqi said in statement.
“We should have known better than to trust that he would put animal welfare above his own political interests.”
A new oversight body – which will reportedly be chaired by former NSW premier Morris Iemma – will draw up a new governance and regulatory structure for the greyhound industry.
Baird is expected to brief the media on the ban about-face later on Tuesday.
The premier’s approval rate has plunged from 61 to 39 per cent since December due to a raft of issues, including the ban on greyhound racing and Sydney’s “lockout” laws.
Meanwhile today, a Sydney greyhound trainer accused of torturing and killing animals as part of a live-baiting regime has been denied bail.
Chad Joseph Achurch, 27, appeared at Liverpool Local Court on Tuesday charged with two counts of torturing and beating an animal to death, aggravated animal cruelty and using an animal for training.
Achurch’s lawyer told the court his client denied the police allegation that he had used a live rabbit while training his greyhounds in his Cabramatta backyard.
He said he had actually used a “lure” which made noises and smelled like a rabbit.
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