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Monday, 13 February 2017
Page: 614


Senator WILLIAMS (New South WalesNationals Whip in the Senate) (13:24): I welcome this legislation, the Criminal Code Amendment (Firearms Trafficking) Bill 2016, and let me explain why. I supported the gun buyback by the Howard government. At the time I had eight guns and rifles and I had to hand one in, a semiautomatic .22. It did not worry me one bit to get paid to hand it back, because I saw it as a dangerous weapon—a semiautomatic—the reason being that if it holds 10 shots in a magazine then you might shoot off four shots for some vermin or whatever you are trying to kill and then the weapon is left loaded, ready to go—dangerous. I have never been a big fan of semiautomatics.

But I discussed this with one of my state National Party friends some years back. The taxpayer spent over $300 million buying the guns back, the rifles back, from innocent people, who were innocent enough to hand them in. We set up a register of the rifles' and guns' ownership. It did not worry me, when I was a young fella living in South Australia—you had to register your guns back in the seventies. If you bought an air rifle, you took it down to the police station and registered it. They had the name of who owned that air rifle. So, registration never worried me one bit. It was part of my life. And you, Acting Deputy President Gallacher, coming from South Australia: if you ever bought any weapons you would be in the same situation.

What I found frustrating was that the innocent people did the right thing: handed their weapons in. The taxpayers of Australia forked out the $304 million to buy the weapons back when they were destroyed or whatever back then. And we have a situation in which a black market exists in firearms. Now, I think it would be the scariest experience of your life if you were working at a service station at two o'clock in the morning and someone walked in and put a pistol to your face. That would be scary, and, sadly, it does happen. Where does the weapon come from? It is probably stolen or brought in on the black market. So, I think this is good legislation because it has a mandatory minimum sentence of five years for anyone trafficking in weapons or weapon parts.

The reason we have to have this is because of what John Laws calls jelly judges. How often do we see people charged with serious crime and the punishment does not fit the crime? It simply does not. A minimum sentence is a strong message to those out there who are contemplating trafficking weapons and the black marketing of them—bring them in from China somehow in containers stashed away, hidden, and it is up to Customs to keep doing their fine job to keep a close eye on what actually comes into our country as far as the black market goes, and what is stashed, hiding in containers and various packages. But seeing this sends a strong message that if you get involved in the black marketing of weapons and you sell them on the streets—Mr Acting Deputy President, I would say it would be a fair guess that if you gave me $1,000 in cash and I went to some parts of Sydney then within a day I would have a black market pistol. I say that with confidence.

Senator Fierravanti-Wells: A day? A couple of hours!

Senator WILLIAMS: It would not take that long, Senator Fierravanti-Wells? No, it would not take that long. Give me $1,000 cash; I will put on a wig, a beard, an earring, some jeans and thongs and go underground to see if I could buy a weapon in Sydney. I think at the end of the day I would have a black market weapon, for sure.

But the point I make, again, is that the Howard government led the debate with the states to bring in the laws, a register—tougher gun laws. We handed our guns in. Senator Wong was saying that I support slackening the laws. No. With the Adler, under class A—shotguns are in class A—I wanted the Adler seven shot to go into class B. As a farmer, I can have a class B rifle; I can get a 44 Magnum 10 shot repeater under class B. Why wouldn't you put a seven shot shotgun in class B? I see it as a tool of trade for the farmers, especially helicopter shooting of wild pigs. I had one senator say to me, 'You can't shoot wild pigs with shotguns!' I said, 'Of course you do.' In fact, Mark Coulton, the member for Parkes, was telling me that in a helicopter day out over the Gwydir wetlands last year 900 pigs were shot. They use No. 4 cartridges and No. 5, used for shooting much smaller birds or whatever—pests. They use SGs or SSGs—large lead shells. That was a tool of the trade. I would like to have seen that go into category B, as Minister Troy Grant, the police minister in New South Wales, suggested. I think he was right. It was not easing the gun laws. It was in class A and it had been there for many years. Class A is too lenient for a seven-shot repeat shotgun. There is no problem at all for the slow-moving projectile from a double-barrel or single-barrel gun.

Back to this debate, all my life I have heard of people committing various criminal activities—terrible crimes. Then you hear their punishment and you think, 'What is the judge doing? Oh, they were brought up in a single family. They had a bad upbringing; they were neglected; they were beaten or whatever.' The punishment does not fit the crime—we hear of that situation so often. It must be terribly frustrating for the police who get out there and catch the criminals and DPP prosecutors put them through the court. They are found guilty but when it comes to sentencing, it is just a smack on the hand with a feather.

I support this legislation and I have wanted it for many years. I am glad to see it coming through at a federal level. I thought we would have to go through the states, and so it is good it is coming through the federal parliament so that it sends a clear message right across Australia, which says: 'You break the law, you traffic in illegal weapons. You try to bring our society down, you try to make money out of this by putting weapons in the hands of people who should not have hold of them—people who would rob banks or service stations or commit murder and serious harm to fellow Australians.' They should be punished severely, and this legislation does exactly that.

In winding up, I have explained why the gun buyback was there and why the Adler seven shot should have gone into category B. That is the case for the National Firearms Agreement between the states to work through that issue. I am very pleased to see these minimum laws come in, because, as I say for a third time, we see so many judges and magistrates hand out punishments that simply do not fit the crime. If that is going to be the case, we will see more of this legislation come through state and federal parliaments over the years ahead. When we see judges handing out a punishment that is too lenient, too soft, there is no deterrent for the general public to commit that crime. There has to be a deterrent, and then people know that if they go in for trafficking guns or weapons and pistols and if they get caught—and it is highly likely that they will—it is five years in the pen minimum. It is a very good thing to send a strong message to the minority of Australian people who wish to get involved in this industry and do the wrong thing that this is what you are going to face under the legislation. I support the legislation.