Explosive government documents released to the public reveal that the NSW Government has been spending over a million dollars of taxpayer money advertising a falsehood in their campaign against greyhound racing.
The people of NSW have long deserved better from their government, but unfortunately we are still run by a group of shallow and inept individuals with no regard for the basic regulations and law of the land that covers their behaviour.
For a prime exhibit of the unparalleled stupidity of some of more senior members of the NSW public service, I suggest a visit to the Legislative Council procedure room where one can peruse the documents relating to the government advertising trying to convince people of the merits on Baird’s ill-thought out ban on greyhound racing.
Here you will find two senior members of the administration within the Department of Justice have trashed the government regulations on their advertising. In any reasonable administration they would face serious censure as a result of their actions bringing the government into disrepute.
What was supposed to start in October as a campaign aimed at participants and informing them of the “transition package” morphed in a political campaign to convince the public of Baird’s decision. Stung by the revelations that the McHugh Report he’d told everyone to read contained bizarre false allegations of puppy drowning as one of its main findings, they resorted to the time-honoured tactic of a million-dollar advertising campaign funded by the NSW taxpayer.
However, there was a catch. Government advertisements are a sensitive topic for the citizens of a democracy who rightly hate it when Governments use their money to deceive them. So, these advertisements are regulated by the Government Advertising Act 2011. Amongst other things, this Act stipulates that the head of the relevant Government Agency must sign a compliance certificate authenticating that the Government advertising complain contains accurate information.
The moment I saw these ads I realised that it was highly likely that they did not contain accurate information. I’m not talking about assertions in the McHugh report, these assertions are to be tested in the Supreme Court and I cannot comment on these directly.
Instead, there was one claim that stood out for its absurdity that wasn’t in the McHugh Report, the claim that the average lifespan of a racing greyhound is just 18 months. When using the data and claims in the report it is simply impossible to come up with an average lifespan of 18 months. It is absolutely wrong.
Fortunately, the opposition requested the government release all the documents relating to these advertisements and were granted this request. If I were a journalist, I’d get my butt down to the legislative council procedure room and ask to view the four boxes containing these documents.
There are two documents in particular that are especially troublesome for the Government. The first is a letter of substantiation written for the NSW Department of Justice for CAD approval of their free-to-air TV advertisements. This letter outlines that the “facts and information can be directly referenced within the released report” by Justice McHugh, and then provides the rationale and references for these “facts”.
For the claim “a racing dog’s average lifespan is just 18 months”, the document provides the following calculation to come up with a “weighted average of 0.74 years”, but instead “took a generous weighted average to determine the 1.5 years”:
All in all, 40 per cent of greyhounds live to 1.5 years, 20 per cent to 3 years, 30 per cent to 5 years and 10 per cent to 10 years.
Now, the figures that come from the McHugh Report are disputed, but let’s accept them for a fact. The average lifespan is simply an average of those numbers, and it is most certainly not 0.74 years, nor is it 1.5.
Think about it, how the hell can the average of a set of numbers be lower than the lowest number in the sequence? It can’t. The average of these numbers is 3.7, a maths puzzle I expect high school students to get right.
This is out by a factor of 5, but that’s no coincidence because the author incomprehensibly divided the number by 5, and the number then changed to a similarly implausible 1.5 years. Whatever the case, the letter of substantiation does not substantiate the accuracy of the claims made by the Government, but instead shows that they are false.
The second document is the advertising compliance certificate signed on the 29th July 2016. It is this senior public servant that has given their authority to the people of NSW that the advertisements are accurate, when they are not.
For these two public servants, I cannot see how they can escape censure. Their stupidity and sloppiness has caused great anger in the NSW greyhound racing community, justified anger that their Government has propagated falsehoods about them.
For NSW taxpayers, they have wasted their money propagating these falsehoods and open the taxpayer to potentially expensive defamation proceedings.
The question for the press, the opposition is now simple, did the Premier or Deputy Premier have any indication that the “facts” in their advertisements are incorrect and if they did, what did they do about it? The answers to these questions could well bring down the NSW Government.
*This article is an edited version of a complaint to the Independent Commission Against Corruption. The author is a member of the Greyhound Breeders Owners and Trainers Association (GBOTA) and has a family member that is a Director of the GBOTA that is taking legal action against the McHugh report. These opinions are his own.