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Wednesday, 13 May 1981
Page: 2353

Mr MILTON(10.30) —I have referred very briefly in the past to the issue of gun clubs. I wish to return to this issue tonight. The gun lobby is made up of many different gun clubs in the country and the firearms traders. I reiterate that I am in no way opposed to gun clubs or to the legitimate training and practice in the correct use of firearms. But the problem of noise cause by the gun club activities in residential areas is a serious one in my electorate. I want to refer to the Lysterfield Range which affects my constituents in the Belgrave Heights area. Because of extensive change in land use patterns in this area since 1970 when the lease was signed, the gun club now poses severe nuisance value in the area. The number of houses has increased to such an extent that the gun club is now in a residential area. Noise from this range is so bad, and occurs on both weekdays and for many hours at the weekend, that residents frequently have to leave their homes and go out for the day. Residents have taken local action themselves to try to solve this problem, but have been totally unsuccessful. In fact, with the increasing membership of the club, there is now more noise, from more shoots, and the gun club plans to extend even further.

A local residents action group committed itself to $2,000 worth of sound readings taken by one of Melbourne's most reputable firms. On four occasions in the past few months the readings showed excessive noise at seven different properties throughout the area. Some readings have been taken inside the living rooms of homes and noise levels are such that, under the Australian Standard Specification, there would be immediate community and personal reaction. An expert report to the Shire of Sherbrooke from the Environmental Protection Authority and professional sound consultants last October, stated that: 'from the results of the survey, it is clear that, at present, the Range is imposing an intolerable burden on nearby residents, and we do not believe this should continue.'

There can be no doubt that such noise levels are having a detrimental effect on land values in the area. The local Sherbrooke Shire Council has requested that the gun club take action to lower noise levels, but has found no improvement in noise levels and frequency eminating from the range. It has now resorted to supreme court action on the matter, which involves considerable time, effort and expense from a local council to be involved in. The action has been deemed essential because no relief has been possible through government channels. This is a very real problem to local residents, and is causing severe distress and costing them many thousands of dollars as their home investment is devalued. While I appreciate the need for gun clubs, this particular problem shows that there is a vital need for such organisations to keep in touch with the realities of residential life.

I suggest that an inquiry into the location and nature of gun clubs in the whole of Australia would reveal similar problems in other parts of the country. There is a need to establish a uniform set of standards for the zoning and positioning of these ranges and to remove them from proximity to residential areas. The other aspect of the use of firearms which concerns me is the increased use of such weapons for political and criminal terrorism, as illustrated in the recent assassination of John Lennon in New York and the attempted assassination of President Reagan. Whilst we have not yet reached the stage in this country where our political and other leaders are threatened and killed, and where 200 million guns are in private hands with little or any control over them, as in the United States, the Australian situation is rapidly moving in this direction.

According to Professor Richard Harding, whose book Firearms and Violence in Australian Life has just been published, we are well on the way to reaching the American situation. He describes the domestic gun scene in Australia as 'destructive, volatile, self perpetuating and intractable'. Our political leaders, when asked to comment on events such as the Reagan assassination attempt, claimed smugly that our laws are much tighter here. This may be so. However, the eight Australian police commissioners have pointed out that, through a loophole in regulations, the Israeli Uzi machine pistols and the Russian Kalashnikov assault rifles can be readily imported into this country. This type of weapon is used by terrorists and armed criminals throughout the world. It is favoured by private armies in many countries.

In the context of the increasing dangers to society from all types of firearms, no tightening of regulations would be too severe. The Federal Government must act to ensure that what has happened in the United States of America cannot happen here. Uniform and stringent federal regulations on the use and possession of firearms by individuals and organisations is vitally necessary.