Well played Mike Baird, that is leadership.
I am no particular supporter or detractor of Mike Baird’s in general, but once in a while he draws my attention. I have made the mistake of underestimating his political resolve and courage once or twice before, but even having made that mistake in the past, I was still pretty shocked by his announcement yesterday that NSW would legislate to ban greyhound racing.
Considering the appalling findings of the McHugh report, I personally applaud the decision, but I realise it will not be without cost. Politically, this will be controversial, with many outraged by the decision. While some of this may be ameliorated by increased support from those who feel strongly about animal rights, it is a high-risk strategy that departs significantly from the standard politician’s playbook of trying not to make too firm a position on divisive issues. Baird will no doubt draw personal criticism from those who think he is authoritarian, drawing a link with his changes to lock-out laws for licensed establishments.
Economically, this is a policy that will cause real pain to many and you have to feel for those in the industry who have been behaving ethically. There is no way of shielding people fully from the impact so Mr Baird and his government will have their work cut out for them find ways to transition people into other forms of employment. They will probably have to buy back a number of training and racing venues too.
From a logistical perspective, what to do with the thousands of greyhounds will be another tricky set of problems. Breeders won’t want to continue spending money on dogs they may not be able to sell or race. As NSW is the first state to try this, there should be some capacity to sell dogs to interstate stables, but the laws of supply and demand suggest this will not be lucrative.
Even knowing about all of these problems, I still think Baird is making a good decision. The McHugh report has made clear the NSW greyhound racing industry is rife with appalling practices and casts doubt that it can be effectively reformed. The howls of rage that accompany it will subside over time and NSW will be better for it. It is just unusual seeing a political leader make a decision that has short term cost, politically and economically, because it is the right thing to do.
Imagine if our federal politicians could make decisions like that in relation to climate or refugees.