Page 2769 - Week 07 - Thursday, 3 July 2008

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MR CORBELL (Molonglo—Attorney-General, Minister for Police and Emergency Services) (6.37): This is one of those interesting moments when Mr Stefaniak is at odds with ACT Policing, because it is the very clear view of the ACT firearms registrar that the existing cooling-off period is a very important part of the work of the registrar. For those reasons, the government will not be supporting this amendment.

As Mr Stefaniak has highlighted, the New South Wales parliament has recently considered a similar amendment and done away with the 28-day waiting period for permits to acquire second or subsequent firearms. And as Mr Stefaniak notes, some other jurisdictions have as well.

But I think it is important to remind members that, following the Port Arthur massacre, the Australasian Police Ministers Council convened a special meeting and agreed to a national plan for the regulation of firearms, which was the nationwide agreement on firearms, and this cooling-off period was one of those provisions that were agreed after the Port Arthur massacre. As well as banning automatic rifles and shotguns, the agreement also provided for mandatory waiting periods for permits to acquire firearms. The rationale for this requirement was to enable appropriate checks to be made on licensees in order to ascertain whether circumstances had occurred since the issuing of the original licence which would render the licensee unsuitable to posses the firearm or which would render the licensee ineligible for that type of a firearm.

As I have said earlier, the ACT firearms registrar has found the existing cooling-off period critically important for the cross-referencing of local and interstate records of criminal convictions. And the registrar cites instances where a permit to acquire checks revealed either criminal convictions or protection orders in the period since the last check was performed. I believe the onus needs to be on those who argue for this change to outline why 28 days is such an enormous inconvenience. Yes, it is an inconvenience imposed on individuals purchasing second or subsequent firearms but the regular screening of firearms licensees is a critical component of a robust and integrated scheme whose principal aim is to ensure that firearms do not fall into the wrong hands.

As I have indicated, there are no compelling arguments for this change and, in light of the advice I have received from the ACT firearms registrar about the appropriateness and importance of the existing period of 28 days, the government will not support moving away from the current provisions or indeed, and importantly, from the 1996 firearms agreement following the Port Arthur massacre.

DR FOSKEY (Molonglo) (6.40): I do take the point that a person applying for a permit to acquire a firearm must already hold an appropriate category of firearms licence and, therefore, will already have gone through the background check and cooling-off period and I note that a number of other jurisdictions have done away with any waiting period whatsoever for a permit to acquire a gun.

It is in this light, I suppose, that the opposition’s amendment is relatively conservative in that it retains a 14-day waiting period in which a registrar can consult with the police to ensure they are not aware of any change in the applicant’s circumstances that would indicate a potential problem. If this amendment was directed solely at reducing

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