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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1996 Week 5 Hansard (14 May) . . Page.. 1228 ..

MR HUMPHRIES (continuing):

I understand is supported by the Federal Opposition. Obviously, no Commonwealth amnesty will commence until the buyback scheme is finalised, but the ACT will be encouraging owners of weapons to be banned to start surrendering them immediately. In all cases, police will issue receipts and process compensation claims when the scheme is finalised.

That leads to a question about the effect of the proposed new Territory laws banning the weapons. I will make a further statement upon commencement of the new laws, when passed by this Assembly and gazetted by the Chief Minister. It is my intention to effectively commence an amnesty quickly by enabling those firearms now legal but about to be banned to be turned in to the police with immediate effect. Police will issue receipts for the weapons and process compensation payments when the buyback scheme is finalised. I see no reason to delay the commencement of a ban simply on the basis of waiting for details to be finalised on the buyback scheme, and I hope that all members will join me in that sentiment.

In conclusion, the meeting of Police Ministers last Friday was one of the most significant gatherings of States and Territories since Federation. It was certainly the most significant ministerial meeting I have ever attended. It developed, in about eight hours, what had been unsuccessfully attempted for at least four years previously. It is a matter of great sadness to me, and I am sure to all Assembly members, that it took an event of the magnitude of Port Arthur to achieve that outcome.

In most respects, the ACT laws comply already with the Commonwealth's proposals which were adopted by the meeting. However, I have foreshadowed the need to make some amendments to the Weapons Act to bring our package of laws into complete agreement with this announcement. I have already indicated to members, in discussions I had with the parties prior to the meeting, that we would not water down our own ACT laws. Where our provisions already exceed the Commonwealth's proposals, we see no reason to change. Where our laws do not meet the minimum standard set on Friday, we will move expeditiously to bring those laws up to the standard required of us. I hope to be able to bring forward legislation to this effect next month. It is possible, therefore, Mr Speaker, that in the coming year the Government will bring before this Assembly several amendments to the Weapons Act. In all cases, we will move as quickly as the national interest requires, even if it means bringing forward several Bills rather than one big one at the conclusion of the process of developing uniformity.

Mr Speaker, I would like to indicate my heartfelt congratulations to several States, including Western Australia, Queensland and the Northern Territory, for moving so quickly and so far, and despite enormous pressure from their very powerful gun lobbies, to achieve the objectives that the people of Australia demanded of us. I would also like to thank members of this Assembly for giving me guidance on what measures the ACT Assembly would support on this question. In a minority government, the views of others in this place are as important as the Government's own position. I have attempted on this occasion, and on all occasions, to make this issue as bipartisan, or multipartisan, as possible, and I thank members for their support on the crucial elements of this package. By moving quickly, we will continue to set a benchmark for the rest of the nation on gun control.

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