Wednesday, 28 March 2018
Senator RHIANNON (New South Wales) (15:32): I move:
That the Senate take note of the answer given by the Minister for Communications (Senator Fifield) to a question without notice asked by Senator Rhiannon today relating to firearms controls.
The minister's response on firearms was absolutely inadequate. Again, it really demonstrates how this government is increasingly attempting to walk both sides of the road when it comes to addressing the issue of firearms. On the one hand, it attempts to bask in past glory. We are going back 20 years here, when the former, Howard-Fischer government came forward with the quite remarkable achievement of the National Firearms Agreement. That is when all the states and territories came on board with a consistent approach to gun control across the states so that hopefully there would never again be a massacre on any scale involving firearms—nothing like the tragic loss of life where 35 people were killed in Tasmania in 1996. That's on the one hand—and it is a lot to be proud of. But already it's been rewound. It was being rewound before these latest developments in the last few days of the Tasmanian election.
On the issue of what the Liberal government is doing in Tasmania, we are seeing the Turnbull government effectively being silent. They've made a few comments about the issue but, in terms of really spelling out what their response is to the very serious wind-back that the Tasmanian Liberal government is proposing, it is shocking, because we're talking about human lives here. When guns are more readily available, we know people are more likely to die and to be wounded. That's where the government are shocking. They're shocking because they're working with the firearms industry, and they're also working with the firearms lobby and the firearms parties because they often get support when they are in balance-of-power stations. What is going on is deeply ugly.
Let's remember how far-reaching the changes are in Tasmania. It's worth remembering the tactics going on here with the firearms industry. If they can achieve some or all of these changes in Tasmania, it's a development that will put further pressure on other states when it comes to their own firearms laws.
The big one that's come out that's really disturbing people is the move in Tasmania to increase the period that people can have a gun licence for from five to 10 years. In 1996, when this was debated, it was identified that it should not be longer than five years, because people's lives change—their mental health might deteriorate—and five years is as long as a person should have a licence in one hit. Then they want to abolish mandatory weapons removal for minor breaches of firearms storage laws, allowing greater access to category C firearms such as self-loading rifles and pump-action shotguns.
These are enormous changes, and they come off the back of many changes in other states and territories that effectively are already breaking up the National Firearms Agreement. One of its huge achievements was that it was consistent, but now we find that in many states it's legal for children to use firearms. In New South Wales, the Shooters Party want changes for people who had firearms who were then on an AVO, so that they can get their guns back more quickly. These are very serious developments, particularly when we reflect on the shocking figures about how many women die in domestic violence incidents, often from shocking gun crimes.
We also need to bring political donations into this debate. The gun industry is on the rise and has got a seat at the table when it comes to making these laws. At the same time, it is handing over large amounts of money. In 2015-16, the gun industry donated more than $350,000 to Australian political parties. That amount of money has been going up steadily in recent years. In 2010-11 it was only a bit over $21,000. Then it was about $100,000 in following years, jumping to $350,000—to conservative parties like the Liberal Party, the National Party and the Shooters Party. This is a very ugly side of where our politics is going.
What is needed—and this is what the minister should have said in his response today—is for the government to commit to tightening the National Agreement on Firearms so we ensure that public safety is the clear responsibility of the government and that's what they will give attention to. At the moment, the Turnbull government are allowing it to unravel. (Time expired)
Question agreed to.