Our say | Nothing says sorry like a cool half-a-million

DOGS' LIFE: Racing Minister Paul Toole and Greyhound Racing chief executive Tony Mestrov at Wentworth Park on Tuesday.
DOGS' LIFE: Racing Minister Paul Toole and Greyhound Racing chief executive Tony Mestrov at Wentworth Park on Tuesday.

ON the scale of government backflips, this surely rates near the top.

Just two years ago, the NSW Coalition Government was hellbent on shutting down the greyhound industry.

It was in July 2016 that former Premier Mike Baird announced the plan to end greyhound racing in NSW by July 2017.

The decision came in response to a damning report into greyhound racing by former High Court Judge Michael McHugh that found, among other atrocities, that up to 68,000 dogs had been killed in NSW in the previous 12 months because they were too slow to race; the widespread practice of “live baiting” in training sessions; and the systemic deception of the public concerning the numbers of deaths and injuries of dogs.

Mr Baird called the industry unconscionable and, while lamenting the damage the decision would have on the good people in greyhound racing, was steadfast in his determination to shut it down.

Twelve months, one disastrous by-election result and a change of leader and deputy later, the message coming out of the government changed dramatically.

The decision to drop the greyhound ban was a stunning backflip at the time, but nothing compared to what was to come this week.

On Tuesday, Racing Minister (and Bathurst MP) Paul Toole announced the state government would bankroll the world’s richest greyhound race, tipping in $500,000 towards a $1 million first prize.

The the inaugural Million Dollar Chase at Wentworth Park will be the signature event following a series of qualifying finals to be run at regional tracks around the state, including Bathurst.

Of course, if one thing says sorry more than flowers, then it must be cash.

And industry heavyweights have been quick to accept the government’s apology, with Greyhound Racing chief executive Tony Mestrov calling it “the largest announcement we’ve had as an industry for a long time”.

When it’s even bigger than Mr Baird’s announcement that the industry would cease to exist, then that’s really saying something.

What remains to be seen, though, is whether the NSW public is as forgiving – particularly those who are already tiring of what appears to have been a series of backflips on major policy decisions.

But perhaps a combination of cash and time will be enough to blur those memories.