Page 1895 - Week 06 - Tuesday, 6 June 2017
While I am not opposed to the intent of reasonable regulation of firearms, I am opposed to legislation not going through proper scrutiny and proper consultation in the sense that the body that has been set up to advise the government on legislation regarding firearms was given so little chance to provide a proper, considered response to this legislation. The members of the Firearms Consultative Committee are experienced in this area. They are volunteers. They give a lot of time and effort to the government and to the AFP on a regular basis. They do so willingly so that we have the best possible management of firearms in the ACT. They are people with significant experience in the field. So I am interested, minister, to know what was so sensitive about this matter that the committee was not completely consulted.
I fear a couple of other matters as well. I fear that this bill being passed today is about the minister being able to go back to COAG, to strut around and say that we are the first jurisdiction in the country to make this change. Given that, according to the government, it affects only four people, I am not sure why we need to be the first in the country to make this change, at the loss of a reasonable consultation process.
I have been reliably informed that those on the Firearms Consultative Committee are law abiding, are generous with their time and are firearms owners and practitioners in the field. They are people who have been involved in the sale and purchase of firearms, who manage clubs and the interests of others in this field, so I do not know why they have not been properly engaged. The chair has effectively been silenced, but there certainly are other sources who raise very serious concerns about their treatment. I think these concerns are valid and I seek that the matter be given some response in the minister’s comments. I think it should be stated that inviting the chair of the committee to come and sit in a departmental office and have a look at the bill is not a consultation process. It is an initial look at the bill. My understanding—and I would be glad to find that it is not correct—is that that is all that has happened.
In addition to the issues around consultation, I felt the tabling statement overstated the need for this change in the ACT. The introductory speech on the bill cited public safety as a reason for the reclassification. However, there is no direct correlation between the use of this particular firearm and public safety in Australia. The reason for this, for those who understand firearms—I think the minister does have some understanding of the use of firearms—is that the lever action shotgun, having been a category A weapon with five rounds or less, is not the most powerful or the most dangerous weapon that could be reclassified to category B.
Some of my concern around this change is that we have had a kneejerk reaction to the Martin Place siege, which was noted in the minister’s tabling statement, to make some changes to gun laws in Australia. However, this is potentially dismantling a carefully thought through set of gun restrictions in this country because it does not seem to be logical to be reclassifying one of the less lethal options out of category A into category B. I can understand that the minister, when he goes to COAG, might not want to embrace his own options for changing firearm classifications and that the ACT perhaps might not want to be a leader in this field. I can probably support that.