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Thursday, 25 August 1983
Page: 349

Mr MILTON(10.31) —One of the regrettable features of the division of responsibilities between Federal and State governments is the lack of uniformity in gun laws throughout Australia. It is a great credit to the Cain Australian Labor Party Government of Victoria that it has formulated a firearms Act which requires the compulsory registration of guns. The new laws deal with firearms licensing and establish a consultative committee to advise the Government on firearms matters and assist in implementing the Act. Regrettably, the operation of the Act, whilst giving some feeling of security to householders that they will be protected from gun-toting criminals, does not give any peace to some residents in my electorate. The residents I am speaking about are those unfortunate people whose homes are adjacent to the firing range owned by the Lysterfield Gun Club. I have spoken on this matter several years previously in this House but regrettably there has been little change in the intolerable firearms noise to which the unfortunate neighbours of the Lysterfield Gun Club have been subjected.

I have inspected the areas adjacent to the range during a shooting hour period and was appalled at the close proximity of the site to the houses of the local residents. I am particularly concerned that the gun club has been permitted to continue and extend its activities in an area which is becoming increasingly urbanised. Sound reading reports which I recently received indicate the extent of the intermittent explosions of noise which disturb the leisure time of residents. Whilst I am not contesting the fact that the number of shots per minutes has decreased since 8 February the noise remains at a disturbingly high level. In some instances there are 50 to 60 shots per minute with extreme noise readings in the range of 50 to 80 decibels, sometimes as high as 97 decibels.

Whilst I must stress that I am certainly not opposed to gun clubs and the legitimate training and practice in the correct use of firearms they provide for their members, due to the expansion of housing development, many gun clubs which were originally in out of the way places are now in close proximity to residential areas. This is the situation which has occurred in my electorate. Since 1950 there has been an enormous growth in the number and size of gun clubs in Australia. While we have not as yet reached the stage at which our political and other leaders are threatened and killed and at which 200 million guns are in private hands, as in the United States of America, the Australian situation is moving in this direction. According to Professor Richard Harding in his book Firearms and Violence in Australian Life, 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. This may be so, but the eight Australian police commissioners have pointed out that, through a hole in our regulations, the Israeli Uzi machine pistols and the Russian Kalashnikov assault rifles can be imported into this country. This type of weapon is used by terrorists and armed criminals throughout the world and 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 firearms regulations will be too much. We must act to ensure that what has happened in the United States cannot happen here. Uniform and stringent federal regulations on the use and possession of firearms is a vital necessity.

This is a very real problem for the local people and it is causing them very severe stress and costing tens of thousands of dollars as well as devaluing their home investment. Whilst I appreciate the need for the Lysterfield Gun Club and its aims and objectives, it is obviously out of touch with the reality of residential life in my electorate. I suggest that an inquiry into the location and nature of all gun clubs in Australia is necessary to establish more satisfactory zoning and positioning of these ranges and to remove them from proximity to residential areas.