Page 487 - Week 02 - Wednesday, 23 March 2022
These provisions and the provisions in the previous legislation do have human rights and liberty considerations. However, these are addressed in the explanatory statement and are, in the view of the opposition and as detailed in the explanatory statement, justifiable, due to the nature of the offences. The fact is that it only applies to those who are convicted, and there are positive obligations to protect children under the Convention on the Rights of the Child. Article 3 of that convention states:
In all actions concerning children … the best interests of the child shall be a primary consideration.
Article 34 states that the parties shall “undertake to protect children from all forms of sexual exploitation and sexual abuse”. As the ES to the bill puts it, the scheme and the amendments proposed in the bill are directly linked to the purpose of reducing the likelihood that registrable offenders will reoffend. It seeks to support the capacity of ACT Policing to protect the lives and sexual safety of children.
It is worth noting that the proposed bill also contains protections that a person can argue—a reasonable excuse defence, for example; that they are ill; and that they were not reckless. It thus argues that this places the right emphasis on tracking and prevention of serious crimes while balancing that with safeguards for appropriate circumstances. In light of all of this, as I have said, the Canberra Liberals will support these changes.
With regard to the firearms provisions, the bill introduces a permanent amnesty on the surrender of unlicensed firearms, and that is a move that the Canberra Liberals strongly support. The ACT has had temporary amnesties in the past, which have removed substantial numbers of unregistered firearms from the community. According to the government report, 699 firearms and 60 firearm parts were surrendered in the 2017 amnesty; while 443 firearms, 55 firearm parts and 146 kilos of ammo were surrendered in the 2021 amnesty.
For registered firearm owners, the bill also introduces new, stricter safe storage requirements, and this applies to licensed security companies and their employees who may lawfully possess firearms, including handguns, in the course of their work. The minister, in stating the motivation for this change, said:
Security companies are highly visible in the community, and their firearms could potentially be more susceptible to attempted theft than other guns possessed by private citizens.
He went on:
Applying stricter storage standards for handguns held by security companies will minimise risks of these firearms falling into the hands of unlicensed people with criminal intent.
We should all be aware of the issues of firearm safety and support those in this place.
In conclusion, the major changes are those we agree with: to support the intent and improved safety that the national firearms amnesty has brought about, and for all of us