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Tuesday, 23 August 1994
Page: 128

(Question No. 1415)


Senator Jones asked the Minister representing the Minister for Justice, upon notice, on 31 May 1994:

  (1) What steps has the Australian Government taken to implement a national firearms policy as proposed by the Australasian Police Ministers Council.

  (2) What are the main points of the national firearms policy and how do they differ from state laws.

  (3) Have the individual state and territory governments changed their laws in the past 2 years to move towards national uniformity in gun control laws.

  (4) What are the statistics for the past 4 years on the involvement of firearms in crimes of violence on a state-by-state, and territory, basis.


Senator Bolkus —The Minister for Justice has provided the following answer to the honourable senator's question:

  It is the Australasian Police Ministers' Council (APMC), as the relevant Ministerial body, which establishes the components of firearms policy nationally. The Australian Government has taken a lead role in APMC deliberations on firearms matters.

  The Government strongly supports the continuing development of a national firearms policy. It recognises that controls can only be fully effective if there is substantial commonality between jurisdictions, because controls introduced by one or more jurisdictions are substantially weakened if they can be circumvented by traffic across borders from States and Territories with less stringent provisions.

  Through the APMC, the Government has actively encouraged the State and Territory governments to adopt a national approach. Firearms policy is, however, ultimately the prerogative of the States and Territories. Therefore, it is up to them to implement the components of the policy.

  The APMC has agreed on a national firearms policy which includes the following elements:

  Automatic Firearms

  A nation-wide prohibition on the importation and possession of fully automatic firearms, other than for official purposes.

  Handguns

  A nation-wide restriction on the importation and possession of handguns.

  Military Style Semi-Automatics

  The enactment of legislation in all jurisdictions, to supplement the provisions of the Customs (Prohibited Imports) Regulations, to prohibit the sale of any firearm that is fitted with a folding or detachable stock, or that is a self-loading centre-fire rifle or carbine of a kind that is designed or adapted for military purposes, or which substantially duplicates those firearms; and that exceptions to the prohibition on imports for government or government authorised purposes be made on the basis of a Commissioner's certificate.

  Self-Loading Centre-Fire Rifles and Self-Loading Shotguns

  That the existing provisions of the Customs (Prohibited Imports) Regulations be adopted in all jurisdictions to prohibit the sale of all self-loading centre-fire rifles and self-loading shotguns which have a detachable magazine capable of holding more than 5 rounds;

  that exceptions to the import prohibition for government or government authorised purposes be made on the basis of a Minister's certificate; and

  that exceptions to the prohibition on sale be made on the basis of a Commissioner's permit, issued against strict criteria.

  Licensing

  That firearms licences:

  (a) be issued only to residents of proven identity;

  (b) be issued on the basis of appropriate qualification and training and a character check with the assistance of all jurisdictions;

  (c) be endorsed with a description of the category of firearm(s) for which the holder is licensed;

  (d) be issued for a period of no more than six years;

  (e) preferably bear a photograph of the holder;

  (f) be issued on the basis of a genuine reason for requiring a firearm, including a particularly stringent test of need for the possession of handguns and centre-fire self-loading rifles and self-loading shotguns. Also, the provision of evidence sufficient to substantiate the claim of belonging to a certain group (e.g. sporting shooter, bona fide collector), and that prospective licensees be required to demonstrate that a firearm of the type applied for is, in all the circumstances, reasonably required for the purpose stated.

  (g) be issued after a 28 day cooling-off period.

  Ammunition Sales, Magazines and Security Requirements

  To limit sales of ammunition and its components to collectors and licence holders, for the category of firearms endorsed on the licence;

  to ban, other than in the case of government or government authorised users, the possession and use of detachable magazines of more than 5 rounds magazine capacity for centre-fire self-loading rifles and self-loading shotguns; and

  to require the separate secure storage of firearms and ammunition and that minimum Australian standards be established.

  Recording of Sales

  The imposition, Australia-wide, of an obligation on business and private sellers and purchasers of firearms to ensure that purchasers are appropriately licensed.

  Categories of Firearms

  The adoption of an Australia-wide, minimum standard categorisation of firearms.

  Police Reference System

  A recent extension to the Police Reference System, to record adverse firearms histories and current domestic violence orders. Where a person obtains an adverse firearms history or a domestic violence order in a particular jurisdiction, that jurisdiction is to advise every other jurisdiction of that record. Each jurisdiction may then match that record against its record of firearms licence holders to enable a review of the continuation of any licence.

  Sale of Defence Surplus Weapons

  At its meeting in May, 1993, the APMC requested the Department of Defence to review the appropriateness of the disposal of semi and fully automatic weapons to the civilian population generally, as well as the adequacy of present deactivation procedures to render weapons irreversibly incapable of firing before a deactivation certificate is issued. The Commonwealth has recently placed a total ban on the sale of surplus weapons from the Department of Defence to members of the public.

  Mail Order Sales of Firearms

  At its most recent meeting in May 1994, the APMC resolved that all jurisdictions seek to legislate to ensure that mail order sales of firearms are not permitted without the granting of permission by the firearms authority for the jurisdiction of residence of the prospective purchaser.

  In response to Parts 2 and 3 of the Honourable Senator's question, a compilation of responses from the States and Territories on their implementation of the firearms policy has been forwarded to Senator Jones. This information can be obtained by Honourable Senators from the Commonwealth Law Enforcement Board.

  In relation to Part 4 of the Honourable Senator's question, information has been supplied by the Australian Institute of Criminology on statistics for the past 6 years regarding the use of firearms in crimes of violence on a state-by-state and territory basis. Further information is contained in National Crime Statistics January to December 1993, published by the Australian Bureau of Statistics and released 31 May 1994. This information has been supplied to Senator Jones, and is available from the Commonwealth Law Enforcement Board and the Senate Tabling Office.