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Monday, 19 March 2012
Page: 3261

Customs


Mr MURPHY (Reid) (14:58): My question is to the Minister for Home Affairs, Minister for Justice and Minister for Defence Materiel. Will the minister inform the House of action being taken by the Australian Crime Commission to investigate the trafficking of illegal firearms? Why is this the best approach and, very importantly, what are the risks with other approaches?


Mr CLARE (BlaxlandMinister for Home Affairs, Minister for Justice and Minister for Defence Materiel) (14:59): I thank the member for his question. This is a very important question. Five weeks ago, I announced a national investigation into the illegal firearms market and its links to gang activity in Australia. I commissioned the most powerful law enforcement agency in the country to do this work: the Australian Crime Commission. They have the powers effectively of a standing royal commission—the power to compel witnesses to appear and give evidence and the power and ability to trace firearms. It was their work in tracing one gun that led all around the world to those arrests and the dismantling of a criminal syndicate last week—working with the New South Wales Police Force, the Customs and Border Protection Service and the AFP.

I have asked the Australian Crime Commission to do that same tracing analysis for the firearms that have been seized right across the country by police over the last 12 months. This will provide police with more intelligence and the capacity to make more arrests. By tracing more weapons you get more criminal intelligence and that gives you the potential to arrest more criminals. This investigation will provide the federal government and state governments—

Mr Morrison interjecting

The SPEAKER: The honourable member for Cook will remain silent.

Mr CLARE: as well as Territory governments—

Mr Morrison interjecting

Mr CLARE: with recommendations on what further action is needed to tackle the illegal firearms market.

The SPEAKER: The honourable member for Cook will remove himself from the chamber under the provisions of standing order 94(a). I asked him to remain silent and he continued interjecting. The minister has the call.

The member for Cook then left the chamber.

Mr CLARE: The Australian Crime Commission will do this work with other state and territory police forces as well as Customs and Border Protection, CrimTrac, AUSTRAC and the AFP. They will also harness information from the USA's online firearm-tracing system.

I am asked about alternative approaches. After five weeks the opposition have finally caught up and they are asking for their own inquiry. It begs the question: what would their investigation do? Would it have coercive powers? No, it would not. Would it have the powers of a standing royal commission? No, it would not. Would it have the power to conduct tracing analysis of illegal firearms? No, it would not. It begs the question: why have a 'toothless tiger' inquiry when you already have the most powerful law enforcement agency in the country on the job? I might remind you of this quote, Mr Speaker:

The idea that you have got to have a Customs officer searching everybody who comes into the country has never been realistic. What you do is you identify through all sorts of intelligence …

They are not my words; they are the words of John Winston Howard. He was right then and the opposition is wrong now. (Time expired)