The dishlickers’ dilemma: the greyhound racing ban and The Castle

A scene from "The Castle" with the main character Darryl Kerrigan feeding his beloved greyhounds.
A scene from "The Castle" with the main character Darryl Kerrigan feeding his beloved greyhounds.

INEVITABLE contrasts will be drawn between the fight against draconian government bans on greyhound racing in NSW and the ACT and the battle for justice waged by an ordinary Australian family that’s central to the iconic Australian movie, “The Castle”.

NSW Labor has already described the State government’s shock move to terminate the sport of greyhound racing from July next year as an elitist over-reaction.

The ban has also been described as an attack on working class people that will cost thousands of jobs and many more dogs slaughtered in a cold-blooded industry phase-out.

Federal NSW Labor Senator Sam Dastyari says he wants to hold a Senate inquiry to investigate the ban’s economic impacts while its intrusion on the livelihoods and lifestyles of people who treat their animals like family members, especially in country areas, could also be examined.

“This whole thing reeks of inner city elitism, wowserism, where the pastimes and enjoyment of thousands of NSW residents is looked down upon by a bunch of snobs,” Senator Dastyari has said.

Such an inquiry would be also closely monitored by livestock industry representatives and other groups in the firing line, like horse racing, that would be increasingly concerned about their futures due to the political precedent set by banning greyhound racing.

Critics say the ban also emboldens the escalating agendas of extreme animal rights groups that won’t stop until all animal-use industries are shut-down, including aborting the traditional Sunday roast and famous Aussie barbecue

Unlike the real life ban on greyhound racing, the fictional plot of “The Castle” sees a legal decision made which sets a precedent that protects vulnerable working class Australians who cherish life’s simple, unsophisticated pleasures like their daughter’s appearance on “The Price is Right” and the culinary marvels of tomato sauce.

The film’s main character Darryl Kerrigan is played by actor Michael Caton who has entered the political fray recently using his ocker, on-screen persona to influence issues like coal seam gas mining, including backing independent MP Tony Windsor’s 2016 election campaign to protect farming on the Liverpool Plains.

In “The Castle”, Darryl is the proud owner of four greyhounds - Banshee, Star-flash, Trailblazer and Coco - all fed from bowls, or dishes, made out of tractor-hub caps.

The dogs descended from his first greyhound Red Rocket and have placed modestly at race meetings in the country and the city.

The humble family man “never stops marvelling at the beauty of the greyhound,” says one of his sons who intermittently narrates the on-screen action.

“In fact he doesn’t even race them for the money – he reckons they are noble animals, skinny and sleek and have a beautiful snout,” the loyal son says.

Darryl’s legal fight to protect his family is ignited when their neighbourhood is threatened by the compulsory acquisition of local homes, to expand an adjacent airport.

“I’m not interested in compensation – I don’t want to go,” he says early on in the grass roots resistance campaign, after rejecting a $70,000 offer to buy-out the family home.

“All right Mr Kerrigan, I’ll state this simply. There is an ironclad agreement between federal, state and local governments and the Airports Commission,” is the bureaucrat’s blunt response.

Showing his contempt for the government’s arrogant threat towards his humble suburban lifestyle, Darryl says, “Yeah, well where’s the agreement with Darryl Kerrigan, 3 High View Crescent, Coolaroo – where’s that agreement?”

Now, just imagine the language this family patriarch may well use if he was offered the $500 per greyhound compensation that the NSW government has lined up for the industry they just knifed; especially given, like many other trainers, he’d be the last Australian alive to inflict cruelty on his dogs.

After exhausting other avenues of protest, the Kerrigan’s case escalates to the High Court where the family’s pro bono Queens’ Counsel tests the core legal argument.

“How can the forcible removal of the family (insert greyhound trainers), a good family (insert trainers who treat their animals humanely), from their home (insert business and lifestyle), have the blessing of our constitution (insert the NSW and ACT governments)? How can that be just terms?” he argues.

After the government lawyers hit back with an insult, degrading the perceived quality of the Kerrigan’s family residence, Darryl overrides court etiquette and conventions to vent his inner anger and disgust.

“What are you calling an eye sore - it’s called a home you dickhead - and it’s a bloody fine home,” he asserts.

After winning the legal case, to complete the gallant David and Goliath battle of an Aussie underdog, Darryl thanks the three judges presiding over the matter, in the only way he knows how.

“You little ripper; thanks lads,” he says, giving the decision a big thumbs up.

But imagine an ending where Darryl’s compassion for animals is bluntly trampled upon by a government decision which punishes the majority of good industry participants, due to the criminal actions of a few others.

It may include a new scene where he’s being baited to comment about his true feelings on the issue during a live, emotion-charged interview with a citycentric radio shock-jock denouncing the ban’s injustice, like Alan Jones in Sydney.

One classic line from the famous Aussie movie that’s certain to be directed at NSW Premier Mike Baird by his growing number of critics will no doubt be: “Tell him he’s dreaming”.

Another classic Darryl Kerrigan saying is spoken after receiving a gift or trinket that may seem worthless to others but he wants to preserve, to remind him of a rare and priceless moment of family pride and joy.

“This is going straight to the pool room,” he says.

Well, Mr Baird won’t be taking any satisfaction out of his government’s decision to ban greyhounds, especially given the infighting it has now sparked, with angry Nationals highlighting the lack of proper consultation and threatening to cross the floor.

They’ve also attacked the executive’s failure to first pursue tougher measures to clean up the industry’s failings, instead of outright termination due to an apparent loss of “social license” amid animal cruelty concerns.

Another of Darryl’s common catch-cries that’s entered mainstream vernacular is made when he’s holidaying at Bonnie Doon, staying in the family kit-home, purchased from the Trading Post.

“How’s the serenity?” he says, reflecting on his true blue patch of working class divinity.

But Australia’s farmers and those involved in other animal based industries can forget all about living with any form of serenity or certainty in future, due to the escalating use of the trendy term “social licence” in political and government circles.

Quite simply, it means they’ll face even more turbulence caused by ideologically driven city-centric judgements driven by sensationalist acts of public shaming, fuelled by half-truths and misinformation, underpinned by a political agenda that wants to cull the Kerrigans and replace them with the Kardashians or the Food Babe, in a culturally cleansed version of modern Australia.