A review of Tasracing and the Office of Racing Integrity must investigate past and present animal welfare issues and governance failures in order to restore public confidence in the industry, independent Clark MHR Andrew Wilkie says.
And trainers say resourcing issues at the ORI - including the loss of 20 staff since 2018 - have flowed into problems at race meets including regular race draw mistakes and little communication with trainers.
Racing Minister Jane Howlett announced an independent review of the Racing Regulation Act in August that would include Tasracing and the ORI. The terms of reference, discussion paper and expert to conduct the review are yet to be announced almost a month later.
Issue within the ORI started to emerge publicly in 2016 with stewards taking stress leave and a workplace bullying complaint filed. Since then, staffing problems appear to have worsened with multiple general managers leaving the organisation.
Tasmanian Greyhound Hall of Fame inductee and Penguin trainer, Butch Deverell, said the ORI's problems were clear to see at race meets.
"As far as greyhound racing goes, we don't know where we're at really. The field are drawn, mistakes are made, there's no recourse on it at all," he said.
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"It got to the stage where people weren't talking to one another. Stewards with no feedback. You've got to have working relationships, you've got to be able to talk to each other.
"They need to get back to the nitty-gritty, actually correspond with people. It's not good enough at all at the moment."
Animal welfare could suffer with weakened ORI
Eight greyhounds have died on Tasmanian tracks in 2021 - four in Hobart, three in Devonport and one in Launceston - and at least 200 have suffered injuries while racing.
Mr Wilkie was concerned the government's review would be "forward-looking" and seek to make minor governance changes, rather than investigate past and present animal welfare issues.
"We need an inquiry with teeth that looks backwards, and looks at those issues like the number of dogs that are tragically dying, and the hundreds that are being injured, to look at why 20 staff have left the ORI in just three years," he said.
"The community is calling for the state government to put animal welfare at the top of its priority list and to do everything in its power to ensure that animal welfare is achieved and maintained.
"And that will only occur with the most effective independent regulator when it comes to animal welfare, that's why we need a really good inquiry into the ORI."
In 2020, Tasracing introduced new rules requiring owners to "make all reasonable efforts to avoid euthanasia" by rehoming retired greyhounds, following a 2016 parliamentary inquiry that found 76 per cent of retiring greyhounds in Tasmania were dying prematurely.
Let Greyhounds Run Free co-ordinator Fran Chambers said the ORI needed to be ensuring such standards were met, but she doubted it had the power or resources.
"They don't have enough staff to go to the kennels at any regular intervals," she said.
"It's in a small office in Launceston. It doesn't have the resources to be fully independent."
Tasracing - funded from the government's racing budget - and the ORI - funded through the Department of Primary Industries, Parks, Water and Environment - operate independently of each other.
Review, new track at Latrobe in government's plans
The Community and Public Sector Union and ORI staff have repeatedly raised concerns about the office's culture, Ms Howlett confirmed in Parliament this month.
Labor racing spokesperson Dean Winter said the loss of confidence in the ORI and the governance structure generally was causing a mass-exodus of people from the racing industry in Tasmania.
"That is a huge issue when the participants do not have confidence not only in the Office of Racing Integrity, but in the integrity of the industry, and of the ability for the industry to function correctly and for it to grow," he said.
"It is not a particularly big secret in the racing industry.
"I want to see the terms of reference and I want to see this done properly and independently."
The Racing Regulation Act has not been substantially reviewed since its inception in 2004.
The government is also hoping to build a new greyhound and harness racing track near Latrobe to replace the Devonport Showground, which was sold for housing development.
Animal welfare groups are pushing for a straight greyhound track, rather than curved, to minimise trauma injuries but this was believed to be difficult to achieve given land constraints and it being co-located with harness racing.
Ms Howlett said further details of the independent review into the Act were being finalised.
"The review will be undertaken by an independent expert, to be announced in due course, along with a discussion paper to encourage broad engagement, including extensive consultation with the industry and the community," she said.
"I would also point out that racing greyhound euthanasia rates have been steadily decreasing over a number of years which displays a commitment to animal welfare practices within the industry."
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