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Possums used as live bait, Tasmania’s parliament told

Possums with “cut off” paws are being used as live bait in Tasmania’s greyhound industry, an independent politician has claimed in state parliament.

The island state’s racing industry is in the spotlight after allegations of race fixing, unusual betting activity and horse cruelty in harness competitions were raised in an ABC report.

The state government on Monday announced an independent review into the harness racing industry, but is yet to release the terms of reference.

Independent MP Kristie Johnston said she has been “bombarded” with people asking her to speak on their behalf because they are too scared to go public.

“I have had participants come forward to me to say that live baiting is continuing to occur in greyhound racing,” she told state parliament on Thursday.

“One has detailed to me their personal involvement where they were tasked with purchasing live guinea pigs and rabbits from pet shops for bait.

“They also told me of how possums are trapped, their paws cut off and placed in hessian bags to be chased and killed.”

Live baiting is illegal in all Australian states and territories.

Racing Minister Madeleine Ogilvie described the allegations as very serious and quite distressing.

“The way forward … is to make sure they are of course reported. I take it on face value that (the allegations) are coming to you now,” she said.

Ms Ogilvie urged people to provide any details to the head of the independent review, former NSW chief steward Ray Murrihy, or the RSPCA.

Ms Johnston said the whistleblower had also raised concerns about the use of a bull-ring at a property, something she said was corroborated by another industry participant.

An upper house committee this week announced it would hold a separate short inquiry to review the functions of the state’s Office of Racing Integrity (ORI).

It will probe how racing rules are enforced and investigated, how the conduct of meetings is monitored and the progress of reforms following a 2022 review of the racing regulation act.

ORI issued a statement on Thursday warning industry participants to be careful about how they raise issues.

“This communication serves to notify all participants that ORI has a responsibility to enforce the rules of racing,” ORI director of racing Justin Helmich said.

“Any participant found to be in breach of AHRR 248 and/or 249 may be subject to penalty under the rules.

“Conduct considered unacceptable includes saying or publishing anything malicious, intimidatory, offensive, defamatory, threatening, harassing, discriminatory, abusive, or otherwise improper, about the controlling body, its employees, the stewards, or other participants.”

Mr Helmich said to avoid doubt, nothing prevented people from communicating grievances to the independent investigation, the Department of Natural Resources and Environment, himself or the Integrity Commission.

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