Speech: Dogs in Politics Day


Last Friday was Dogs in Politics Day, and although I have been talking about animal rights for many years, this one is a hard speech to make. My beloved companion dog, Cosmo, passed away suddenly earlier this year, on the same day that my colleagues entrusted me to become Deputy Leader of the Greens—talk about bittersweet moments. I can never truly explain what Cosmo meant to me. He was my and my husband's lifeline during COVID, when we were locked away from my son and my daughter. He gave us so much more than can be put into words. He was my baby boy, and the hole in my heart that he has left will not be filled.

Cosmo was a rescue greyhound. As a breed, they are the most abused dogs in Australia. I adopted him soon after the gambling industry was successful in overturning the New South Wales greyhound racing ban with their allies in the Labor, Liberal and National parties. He struggled terribly with pain and arthritis. He had little patches of hair missing from one of his hind legs. His vet told us it was probably where a trainer had used pin firing as a home remedy, which is a soldering-iron-like device intended to cause tissue scarring to save having to pay for a vet. This is just one small example of the cruelty that these beautiful greyhounds are subjected to.

I will continue to grieve, but there is one thing I must do to honour Cosmo's legacy, and that is to highlight the gross hypocrisy of the greyhound racing industry and their advocates in the Labor, Liberal and National parties. On Dogs in Politics Day, our socials are flooded with photos of politicians smiling with their dogs, making out that they are friends to animals. But what they won't tell you about is their continued support of an industry that breeds, kills, injures, drugs and maims dogs—all aided and abetted by taxpayer funds. Time and again players in the industry are exposed. Time and again we are told it is another rotten apple, an isolated case.

You might ask how this cruel industry continues to attract millions upon millions of taxpayer dollars, to profit off problem gamblers while racing greyhounds get injured and die. It's a grotesque but effective business model. Big gambling companies like Tabcorp and Crown Resorts dumped $2.7 million into politicians' pockets in the decade to 2020; $1.3 million went to the Liberals, $1.1 million to Labor and the remaining $300,000 to the Nationals. That's right: the gambling companies pay the political parties to prop up racing that drives their gambling profits.

The cycle of legalised corruption repeats infinitely as more and more animals are injured and die. Anyone who has had a rescue greyhound knows the scars left by racing. Any rescuer can tell you the condition the dogs come in—poor teeth, poor skin, untreated injuries, thousands and thousands of dollars in vet bills spent by volunteer rescuers and individuals to clean up the mess of this brutal industry.

I have often wrestled with the issue of greyhound adoption. Every dog adopted is another dog the gambling industry can breed and adds to the problem of excess dogs to be rehomed. But we know there is no alternative. What has to happen is that breeding caps have to be put on. It is unconscionable that the greyhound racing industry, Australia's biggest puppy farm, continues to incentivise the breeding of dogs. The result is more and more dogs being dumped on volunteer rescuers, who are being pushed to breaking point. The Coalition for the Protection of Greyhounds digs up the information that the greyhound racing and gambling industry tries to hide. They've recorded the 120 needless track deaths and 7,152 injuries that have already happened this year. It is estimated that the national rate of greyhound breeding in 2020-21 was about six times the racing industry's capacity to rehome them via its official adoption programs.

So today I am calling for a moratorium on the breeding of greyhounds across Australia. If governments are not going to ban this vile industry just yet then they at least need to introduce breeding caps. Ultimately people in this country want to see an end to greyhound racing. This has to end.