Wednesday, 21 March 2018
Senator RHIANNON (New South Wales) (16:24): We should remember the Port Arthur massacre—35 people killed, 23 people wounded. Right now the National Firearms Agreement, a very significant development that came out of that absolute tragedy, is under threat. There is some good news. The three pillars that that agreement was based on are still in place. Those three pillars are that anyone seeking to own a gun must be licensed, each weapon must be registered and gun ownership remains a conditional privilege rather than a right.
But what we see happening, side by side with that, is incredible pressure being put on state and territory governments to weaken the gun laws, and this is coming from the firearms lobby. Some of the changes are really insidious. Most states now allow children to use firearms—to actually fire guns.
Senator McKenzie: Yes.
Senator RHIANNON: I acknowledge the interjection. This is really shocking. We've seen the Nationals really out there, wanting to promote their commitment to the gun lobby—largely because their vote has been eroded by the firearms parties—and here they are, doing something really disgraceful: encouraging children to use arms on a regular basis.
It's also possible in this country for people to own more than 100 guns—in fact, hundreds and hundreds of guns. That, unfortunately, is one of the loopholes in the National Firearms Agreement that needs to be tidied up.
But there's a particularly sinister aspect of the weakening of the National Firearms Agreement that came out on the eve of the Tasmanian election. Just days before that election, which returned the Liberals to power, it became known that, if elected, that party would soften the state's gun laws. The Liberals' proposed legislation would breach the National Firearms Agreement in a very extensive way. The period for gun licences is to be extended from five years to 10 years. When the National Firearms Agreement was debated extensively in 1996, they settled on five years for a very good reason—so that it could be reviewed to see if the person who held that licence should continue to hold it. Ten years is too long.
Let's remember the agreement is actually thanks to former Prime Minister Howard and the National Party former Deputy Prime Minister—which is something that the Nationals senators who sit in this place should remember—who literally put their lives on the line to go out in country areas and advocate for this agreement. And here we see the Nationals and the Liberals falling over themselves to now weaken it. From what I understand, their ideal is to actually remove it.
The Liberal plan in Tasmania is also to permit farmers to have silencers on their semiautomatic rifles and shotguns, and to bring in a new category for prohibited firearms, category E—something that is very worrying. I've heard some people speculate that the firearm that Martin Bryant used for that absolutely horrendous massacre—some of the saddest stories that you could ever read—could again be available in Tasmania under this crazy plan that they've come forward with.
As for their tactic, this isn't something isolated to Tasmania. This is a tactic that the firearms lobby has in place: if they get the changes through in Tasmania, that becomes a springboard for other states.
We also know that there was a secret firearms consultation group—with no representation from the gun control lobby—with the Liberal government working very closely with those who advocate for firearms and often who make profits out of firearms. The reach of the gun lobby has come right into this parliament, with the home affairs minister, Peter Dutton, considering establishing a committee to allow gun importers to review proposed changes to firearms regulations for 'appropriateness and intent'. There's no place, as I said, for gun control advocates in what they're bringing forward here. We also know that the firearms lobby are very generous donors to conservative parties—about half a million dollars has gone in—and that's something that my colleague Andrew Bartlett will expand on.
This Friday, 23 March, in Sydney, there will be a rally outside Martin Place under the slogan 'Never again', where students, teachers, families and survivors will stand in support of and join students across America in the March for Our Lives, demanding an end to gun violence. (Time expired)