Nationals’ Member for Clarence Chris Gulaptis has paid a financial price for crossing the floor last week, opposing the government’s and his party’s decision to ban greyhound racing in NSW.
Mr Gulaptis, who has been staunch in his opposition to the decision, has foregone his parliamentary secretary for the north coast role and the $30,000 that comes with the position.
Mr Gulaptis made an impassioned 1,700 word speech in the Legislative Assembly on August 23.
“I refer to the Greyhound Racing Prohibition Bill 2016,” he told the parliament, “a bill which will have a profound impact on the people in the greyhound industry in my electorate…
“I have thought about these people, the good people in the industry, every day since the ban was announced. I am compelled to be their voice…
“I cannot support a bill which strips them of their livelihood, of their love for their dogs…
“I cannot support a bill that shreds the very fabric that makes up the regional community that I am a part of.
“…To be true to all these good people and to myself, I have to oppose the bill.”
He demonstrated some of his concerns by pointing out that the “Richmond Valley Council has completed an economic and social assessment of the impact of the ban”.
“The Casino Greyhound Racing Club has 62 members and there are more than 120 trainers running more than 1,000 greyhounds in the local postcode area,” he told the parliament. “The council estimates that the ban will result in a total loss of $10.5 million annually to the local government area, the loss of 49 jobs, and a $2.4 million reduction in wages and salaries.
“There would be similar losses on a slightly smaller scale in Grafton.”
Mr Gulaptis was critical of the McHugh report, upon which the government has based its decision.
“I have read enough of the McHugh report, the rebuttal by the greyhound industry, the rebuttal of the rebuttal, emails supporting and emails opposing the ban, to come to the conclusion that no-one knows the exact number of people who are carrying out live baiting,” he said.
“…Quite frankly it is a case of this expert says this, another says something completely contradictory and the people getting screwed are the people in my electorate who love their dogs, love their sport, pay their bills and are an integral part of my community.”
Mr Gulaptis told the Independent that he “made the Deputy Premier [Troy Grant] aware a week before the legislation was due to be debated in the lower house, that I would more than likely cross the floor and offered my resignation as parliamentary secretary”.
“He accepted. I wasn’t going to compromise my conscience; this was a bad decision for the electorate,” he said.
“It’s not a reflection on the leadership going down the wrong road, or that the leadership was bad or failing; it was simply a bad decision that I couldn’t accept.
“I paid a small price compared to the people in the racing industry…
“They’re going to lose everything: their sport, their dogs; they’re probably going to lose their houses in some circumstances where they’re mortgaged to the hilt.”
“Other allied industries will be affected as well, like pet supplies, the pet food industry, veterinary services, and even the retailers who benefit from the spend that flows from the industry.”
Several other MPs crossed the floor, too: Nationals’ Katrina Hodgkinson, who also lost her secretary role, and Kevin Humphries.
Nationals’ Andrew Fraser and the Liberal’s Kevin Connelly and Melanie Gibbons abstained from voting.
Mr Gulaptis said: “My personal opinion was that I had to stand 100 per cent with my electorate; abstaining for me was sitting on the fence, and I couldn’t do that.
“I’m a member of a team; and that team does allow you to cross the floor.
“If you were member of the Labor Party and you crossed the flow, you would be expelled from the party.
“In this instance, I voted against the team on the basis that is was a bad decision by the Premier [Mike Baird].”