Chapter 1 - Introduction

Chapter 1


Referral and conduct of the inquiry

1.1On 11 May 2023, the Senate referred the Customs Legislation Amendment (Commercial Greyhound Export and Import Prohibition) Bill 2021 (the bill) to the Rural and Regional Affairs and Transport Legislation Committee (the committee) for inquiry and report by 1 September 2023.[1]

1.2On 16 June 2023, the Senate granted an extension of time to report until 18 October 2023.

1.3The committee advertised the inquiry on its website, and invited a number of organisations and individuals to provide submissions by 16 August 2023.

1.4The committee received 217 submissions, which are listed at Appendix 1 of this report and are available on the committee’s website.

1.5The committee held a public hearing in Canberra on 15 September 2023. A list of witnesses who gave evidence at the hearing is included at Appendix 2, and a full Hansard transcript of evidence is available on the committee’s website.

Form letter campaigns

1.6In addition to the submissions received, the committee also received a significant number of form letters from individuals in support of the bill.

1.7The committee considered four form letter campaigns. Notably, two of these campaigns attracted approximately 1500 and 190 form letter submissions each. Examples have been published on the committee’s website.[2]

1.8The committee also received approximately 640 short statements in support of the bill.Consistent with previous practice, the committee considered these statements; however, agreed not to publish these.


1.9The committee acknowledges and thanks those individuals and organisation who contributed to the inquiry by making written submissions and giving evidence at the public hearing.

Structure of the report

1.10This report consists of two chapters. The first chapter sets out the referral and conduct of the inquiry, background of greyhound export and import, and summarises the functions and provision of the bill.

1.11Chapter 2 canvasses the key issues raised by submitters and witnesses and concludes with the committee’s views and recommendation.

Background to the bill

History of animal welfare concerns

1.12Greyhound racing has historically attracted high levels of public scrutiny concerning animal welfare standards. In 2015, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) aired a Four Corners investigation into the greyhound racing industry that highlighted claims of animal cruelty and animal wastage.[3]

1.13In response, the NSW government requested a Special Commission of Inquiry into the Greyhound Racing Industry in New South Wales (The McHugh Report). The McHugh report concluded that greyhound racing had ‘lost its social licence’ and should no longer be permitted in New South Wales (NSW). These findings led to a ban on greyhound racing in the Australian Capital Territory, and a temporary ban in NSW.[4]

1.14The ABC report prompted further scrutiny of animal cruelty faced by greyhounds exported to countries whose animal welfare standards misalign with Australian regulations. In response, Qantas banned greyhound exports to Asia[5] and industry peak body and regulator, Greyhounds Australasia, banned the distribution of ‘passports to greyhounds travelling to countries of concern, including China and Vietnam, where greyhound racing has flourished on the back of greyhound exports from Australia’.[6]

1.15In her second reading speech of the bill in 2021, Senator Rachel Siewert asserted that the export of Australian greyhounds for commercial purposes put dogs at risk of ‘cruelty, abuse and neglect overseas’, and ‘only a full commercial ban’ could alleviate concerns.[7]

Existing greyhound regulations

1.16Currently, there are no federal regulations specifically governing the export or import of greyhounds for commercial purposes, or otherwise (e.g. companion animals).[8] The Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry (the department) provides some oversight of the export of live animals and animal reproductive materials under the Export Control Act 2020, and relevant instruments. However, this role is limited:

For the export of dogs, the role of the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and [Forestry] (the department) is to issue export permits and health certificates that assures the animal meets the importing country requirements. For greyhounds, the documents are issued in the same manner as for any other breed of dog.[9]

1.17Greyhound racing regulations are administered by jurisdiction, in accordance with broad state and territory laws that apply to racing, gambling, and animal welfare regulations. As such, the greyhound racing industry across Australia is largely self-regulated.[10]

1.18As of 2003, the industry body Greyhounds Australasia has overseen the administration of the greyhound passport for industry participants. Greyhounds Australasia stipulates that all Greyhounds Australasia members that intend to export greyhounds are subject to Greyhounds Australasia Rule 44(a), which states:

Any person bound by these Rules or those of a relevant Registration Controlling Body who is intending to export a greyhound from Australia or New Zealand to any other country must:

(a)first, obtain a greyhound passport and certified pedigree issued by Greyhounds Australasia…[11]

1.19On 1 August 2023, Greyhounds Australasia issued a policy update which stipulates that greyhound passports for registered greyhounds are only eligible for export to destinations with a central regulatory authority recognised by Greyhounds Australasia. This includes Great Britain, Ireland and the United States.[12] These details are not provided for under the Greyhounds Australasia Rules.

1.20Retired greyhounds that are exported for the purpose of companion animals or pets are eligible for export to a broader range of destinations. Under Greyhounds Australasia rules 22 and 24, members are required to demonstrate notification of retirement and mandatory sterilisation, respectively.[13]

1.21Determination and punishment of a breach of the Greyhounds Australasia Rules is the responsibility of controlling bodies, which may then administer penalties including fines, suspensions, disqualification, cancellation of a registration or licence, or warnings. In some extreme cases, breaches may be referred to an independent tribunal, however, this is subject to jurisdictional availability.[14]

Customs regulations framework

1.22The export and import of goods are subject to Australian export and import control regulations. The legislative basis for Australia’s export control framework is the Customs Act 1901, which enables the Australian Government to manage and monitor the export and import of controlled goods.[15]

1.23The prohibition of controlled exports and imports is executed under the Customs (Prohibited Exports) Regulations 1958 and the Customs (Prohibited Imports) Regulations 1956 (Customs Regulations), which the bill seeks to amend.

1.24The Department of Home Affairs in conjunction with portfolio agency, Australian Border Force (ABF), manages the movement of goods across borders and enforces the Customs Regulations. In its submission, the Department of Home Affairs stated that the Customs Regulations serve to ‘regulate goods that pose health or safety risks to the Australian Community or environment from entering or leaving the country’.[16]

1.25The current bill seeks to amend the Customs Regulations to include greyhounds as a prohibited good for export. The bill would allow a mechanism for exemption at the discretion of the Minister responsible, or a relevant authorised person. Authorised persons would be permitted to request further information from applicants to assess and mitigate animal welfare concerns due to export or import of greyhounds (and greyhound reproductive materials) for racing, breeding and commercial activities. To maintain procedural fairness, the bill would facilitate a mechanism to request an exemption for domestic greyhound export.[17]

Functions and provisions of the bill

Part 1—Prohibition on commercial export of greyhounds

1.26The bill seeks to establish new regulations that would prohibit the export of greyhounds (and greyhound reproductive material) for the purposes of breeding, racing or any other commercial activities.[18]

1.27Subregulations (2) through (10) would establish an exemption mechanism whereby the Minister, or otherwise authorised individuals may grant an exemption to export domestic pet greyhounds. The subregulations propose that:

authorised individuals be able to request further information from the applicant;

any relevant information may be taken into consideration to inform the outcome of an application;

timely notification of the outcome and conditions of exemption must be provided; and

permission to export may be revoked at any time.[19]

1.28Subregulation (11) would require exporters to keep a record of any greyhound(s) exported which can be easily produced at the request of the Minister or an authorised person.

1.29Subregulations (12) to (14) of the bill seek to establish merits review of decisions by the Administrative Appeals Tribunal.

Part 2—Corresponding prohibition on commercial importation of greyhounds

1.30Part 2 of the bill provides corresponding amendments to the Customs (Prohibition Imports) Regulations 1956 by inserting a new regulation, 4WA, to prohibit the import of greyhounds (and greyhound reproductive material) for the purpose of breeding, racing or any other commercial purposes.[20]

1.31Part 2 also includes mechanisms to regulate the import of greyhounds as domestic pets.

1.32In her second reading speech, Senator Siewert noted the primary focus of the bill is the prohibition of commercial greyhound export. However, a corresponding import ban would ensure the scheme ‘does not risk contravening international trade rules to which Australia is a signatory’.[21]

Part 3—Further amendments affecting the greyhound prohibitions

1.33Part 3 provides that any legislative instrument that would have the effect of removing the prohibition, or otherwise circumventing, the prohibition contained in Parts 1 and 2 must be approved by resolution of each House of the Parliament to come into effect.


[1]Senate Journals, No. 5—11 May 2023, p. 1382. Note: the bill was previously introduced to the Senate on 1 September 2021. On 25 July 2022, the bill lapsed at end of Parliament, and was later restored to the Notice Paper on 27 July 2022.

[2]Senate Standing Committees on Rural and Regional Affairs and Transport, Additional Documents(accessed 10 October 2023). Note: In addition to the listed campaigns, two smaller form letter campaigns were received thatattracted 19 and 12 form letter submissions. Examples are available on the committee website.

[3]Australian Broadcasting Company (ABC), Video: Making a Killing, 16 February 2015.

[4]Greyhound Welfare Integrity Commission (GWIC), About: Greyhound Reform(accessed 10October 2023).

[6]Senator Rachel Siewert, Second Reading Speech, Senate Hansard, 1 September 2021, p. 5735.

[7]Senator Rachel Siewert, Second Reading Speech, Senate Hansard, 1 September 2021, p. 5735.

[8]Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry (DAFF), Exporting live animals(accessed 10October 2023).

[9]DAFF, Submission 43, p.3.

[10]Greyhound Australasia, About Us (accessed 10 October 2023).

[11]Greyhound Australasia, Greyhounds Australasia Rules(accessed 10 October 2023).

[12]Greyhound Australasia, Passports(accessed 29 September 2023).

[13]Greyhound Australasia, Passports(accessed 29 September 2023).

[14]Greyhound Australasia, Greyhounds Australasia Rules(accessed 10 October 2023).

[16]Department of Home Affairs, Submission 47, p. 3.

[17]Customs Legislation Amendment (Commercial Greyhound Export and Import Prohibition) Bill 2021, Explanatory Memorandum (EM), [p. 2].

[18]See subregulation (1), EM, [p. 2].

[19]See subregulations (15) and (16), EM, [p. 3].

[20]See subregulation (1).

[21]Senator Rachel Siewert, Second Reading Speech, Senate Hansard, 1 September 2021, p. 5735.