Goulburn MP Pru Goward was there. So too was State Opposition leader Luke Foley.
Just a few tables away sat Labor nominee for the seat of Goulburn in 2015, Dr Ursula Stephens. The Goulburn Greyhounds’ meeting was a political hotbed yesterday. Politicians and many others gathered for the annual Goulburn Cup.
Nationals Burrinjuck MP Katrina Hodgkinson, who crossed the floor on the government’s greyhound racing ban, was an apology for the function.
The event came as Labor declared it would once again target the seat of Goulburn, held by the Liberals’ Ms Goward since 2007. In 2015, Dr Stephens dented her margin.
Labor’s Goulburn State Electoral Council (SEC) met in Yass on the weekend, buoyed by the Orange by-election result, its president Jason Shepherd said. It involved delegates from Yass, Boorowa, Gundaroo, Goulburn and Southern Highlands
He told The Post the Country Labor conference in Dubbo in early December would make the start of the pre-selection process.
"The citizens of Goulburn, Yass and the Southern Highlands are still waiting for the Baird government's promises,” Mr Shepherd said.
“The debacle of the Goulburn hospital privatisation and the closure of Bourke St Health Services are seen as a complete betrayal of trust. Combined with the wholesale sell off of NSW assets, privatisation of services, land clearing legislation, cuts to TAFE and prison education services, most people can't wait to vote this government out." Mr Shepherd.
Mr Foley was at pains to point out there was still no repeal legislation to reverse the greyhound racing ban. Like Ms Goward, he was invited to the function.
“People have been to hell and back and I wanted them to go to Christmas knowing the ban had been consigned to the dustbin of history...that it was dead, buried and cremated,” he said.
Mr Foley argued the government’s statement that Goulburn Base Hospital would not be privatised was “not to be trusted.” Further, Ms Goward’s commitment Bourke Street services would not be relocated ahead of the hospital’s redevelopment was “not matched by the Minister’s words.”
But Mr Foley would not commit when asked whether Labor would fully fund the total hospital redevelopment, beyond the $120 million stage one.
“There is too much uncertainty about the state of play. Will Bourke Street be open or shut, will there be funds there beyond the $120m? It is too far out to make a concrete commitment,” he said.
“...But I’d be confident that at the next election we’d make a greater (financial) commitment to Goulburn Base Hospital than our opponents because we actually believe in public hospitals that should be run as public hospitals to care for the people.”
While the decision was one for Dr Stephens and the party, the Opposition leader said he’d be very excited if she ran again for the seat.
“She is very well respected,” he said.
But Ms Goward said she was prepared for a fight. She stood by the government’s investment in the seat and said the community could be confident Bourke Street would not be relocated before the hospital’s stage one was completed.
The lack of a statement from Health Minister Jillian Skinner only came down to a “technicality” because it came under the Southern NSW Local Health District’s remit. But she said Ms Skinner was on the same page as her in this respect.
“The community can be pretty confident it will happen the way we said it would,” Ms Goward told The Post.
”My reputation is on the line.”
She also rejected Mr Foley’s claims about the greyhound ban, saying there was no legislation to repeal because it was not proclaimed in the first place.
“The original Act still prevails and the next step is to work with the industry on reforms to make it more humane. That doesn’t require legislation,” Ms Goward said.
“Quite a lot of things can be done and I think we will end up with a really great industry.”
The MP conceded her initial support for the ban could count against her at the 2019 election, but believed the intervening two years could achieve great things. The government had acknowledged it had “done the wrong thing” with the initial ban but it certainly wasn’t the first administration to make a mistake, she said.
Ms Goward did not know Mr Foley had been invited to the function. However she said the two got along “quite well.”
Goulburn Greyhound president Pat Day confirmed both invitations.
“Luke Foley has been an instrumental part of supporting Goulburn Greyhounds but the current government has admitted to making the wrong decision (in regard to the ban),” he said.
“Pru supported the initial decision but she’s always been a supporter of the club and secured a $350,000 for our kennels in 2012.”
Mr Day said the club was trying to be bipartisan.
Meantime, members met with Premiers Department officials in Sydney last Friday. Mr Day said following this, there was no uncertainty the ban would be reversed and industry reform would go ahead.
But he saved a salvo for the Coalition over Ms Hodgkinson’s treatment after she opposed the initial ban.
“If the Premier and Deputy Premier got up and said they were wrong, you’d have to assume Katrina got it right,” he said.
Taylor has two cents worth
On the federal front, Hume MP Angus Taylor also dropped in to the Goulburn Greyhound meeting last Tuesday. He had opposed the State Government’s original racing ban.
He met with trainers and officials to offer support and discuss reform ideas like the Buddy For Life Scheme which ensured the welfare and management of the greyhound's total life cycle.
"The industry will now get a chance to show just how much of a positive contribution it can make to the State’s economy (and indeed Goulburn's), people’s livelihoods, and of course animal welfare,” Mr Taylor said.
"There are thousands of constituents in Hume who participate in the industry, from vet product suppliers to owner/trainers, the vast majority of whom are smaller, hobby operators who absolutely love their animals."