'I Got It Wrong': Baird On Dogs Backflip
NSW Premier Mike Baird has performed an extraordinary backflip on his greyhound racing ban, saying he and his government "got it wrong".
Mr Baird confirmed plans to reverse the controversial ban following cabinet and party room meetings on Tuesday, instead promising to introduce stronger regulations for the industry, including harsher penalties for animal cruelty.
"In hindsight as we reflect on this we got it wrong," Mr Baird told reporters in Sydney. "I got it wrong. Cabinet got it wrong. The government got it wrong," .
Mr Baird and his deputy Troy Grant have faced an unrelenting campaign waged by opponents since announcing the divisive ban three months ago.
In August, Mr 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," Mr 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.
Mr Baird added his personal thoughts on animal cruelty had not changed.
"The greyhound industry will be given that one last chance," he said. "The barbaric practices we have seen have to end."
The premier acknowledged his decision would disappoint a lot of people.
The ban, announced in July, 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.
Tuesday's extraordinary policy backflip has spared Mr Grant from an expected leadership challenge from disgruntled Nationals MPs.
Mr Grant side-stepped questions over his role as NSW Nationals leader during the past three months.
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.
"I did my job according to the information and evidence before us. I did that in good faith and honestly the entirety of the way," Mr Grant told reporters in Sydney.
He denied the backflip was to save his political skin. The premier was grilled by reporters on whether his falling popularity had played a part in the decision.
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.
"I'm not guided by the polls, I'm guided by the feedback I have received, our MPs have received directly and indirectly but they also say 'Do you think the industry should be given one last chance?' ... and there is a majority view on that."
Earlier in the day NSW Greens upper house MP Mehreen Faruqi accused the premier of political cowardice. "We should have known better than to trust that he would put animal welfare above his own political interests," she said.
Mr Baird said he was prepared for that reaction. "The people will call me all types of names. They will criticise me for getting it wrong. That's human. I'm human."
RSPCA NSW CEO Steve Coleman said his organisation was "absolutely gutted" by the about face.
"The premier and I met this morning. We were asked if we would be prepared to be part a future panel. I'm not convinced at this point that RSPCA should or could be part of that," he said.
"I think after 140 years of enforcing the prevention of cruelty to animals act, I think we're entitled to be cynical about the ability of this industry to reform."
A report by Greyhounds Transition Taskforce head John Keniry was due to be presented to the government at Tuesday's cabinet meeting.
"Dr Keniry has made it very explicit to us - indeed, has made a plea as part of his report to us - that he now strongly believes that the industry is desperate to change," Mr Baird said on Tuesday.
"They understand this is their last chance."
In July greyhound racers slammed Commissioner Michael McHugh's report that triggered the decision to ban the sport in NSW as biased and seriously flawed.
NSW Greyhound Racing Industry Alliance said McHugh's report relied on terms of reference that were outdated, inappropriately narrow and biased.
Mr Baird defended the government's decisive response to the animal cruelty outlined in that report - "but we misjudged the community's response".