COMMONSENSE appears to have dawned in Macquarie Street, with the decision by state Cabinet on Tuesday to reverse the ban on Greyhound racing which would otherwise have shut down the industry in NSW from July next year.
As I write this, it appears from reports of Monday night’s meeting of NSW Nationals MPs that party leader Troy Grant will keep his job, but only because it was already a foregone conclusion that Premier Mike Baird on his return from holiday next morning would confirm his change of heart about the ill-advised ban.
One would hope, though, that Grant will learn from this chastening experience that his foremost responsibility is to his party’s regional constituents, not to a city-focused Liberal premier with an agenda often far removed from Nationals’ interests.
He should have foreseen the inevitable backlash from the regional areas where Greyhound racing has long been a part of the social fabric, and advised Baird his proposed solution was over the top and politically dumb.
Country voters look to the Nationals as a voice of commonsense and reason in Coalition policy deliberations, and they become quickly disillusioned if they notice that voice being muted, drowned out or ignored.
Every industry, and sport, and recreational activity, has its black spots, and it’s up to governments and regulators to ferret out the bad stuff where possible and bring wrongdoers to justice, but not – as in this case - to cry “Oh, how awful!” and throw the baby out with the bathwater.
Having evidently lost this round, the animal welfare lobby isn’t about to pack up and go home. Every setback will only see them step up their efforts on a different front, be it live exports, intensive industries or day-to-day animal husbandry practices.
In a country like Australia that relies heavily on its livestock industries, it’s up to the Nats in Coalition governments to offer a pragmatic counter to the often-uninformed touchy-feely instincts of their city-oriented parliamentary cousins.
The other piece of welcome news this week is the announcement of a home-grown $365 million bid for the S. Kidman and Company pastoral empire from iron ore billionaire and rapidly-emerging cattle baroness, Gina Rinehart.
If, as expected, the deal gets the nod from the Foreign Investment Review Board (and assuming the hived-off Anna Creek and The Peake stations find other buyers), it will be a win all round: the 12 Kidman stations will remain in majority (67 per cent) Australian ownership, while Hancock’s Chinese partner, Shanghai CRED, will emerge with a minority but still sizeable 33pc stake, thus demonstrating that Australia is not averse to foreign investment, but that we prefer it to be on our own terms.
You can almost hear the sighs of relief from Capital Hill, where Treasurer Scott Morrison has been fending off criticism from the big end of town and offshore investors following his earlier decision to block a Kidman sale to the Chinese.