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Good afternoon, welcome to the program. I am David Speers. President Barack Obama today stood in front of a crowd, a community devastated in the town of Newtown, Connecticut. He wasn't there just as the nation's mourning chief, in the wake of Friday's mass shooting, he was there to deliver a sharp political message as well. The President took apart the argument that the right to bear high-powered weapons is somehow equal to the right of children to live safely. At in making this case today, the President has raised the bar for himself. He now has to deliver in the coming weeks and months on the issue of gun law reform and it is arguably a much tougher task for an American president than it was for John Howard and Tim Fischer in the wake of the Port Arthur massacre in Australia. Their task was not easy. It was perhaps one of the toughest things John Howard ever did politically. But for an American president to take on gun law reform seriously, President Obama will be heading down a dangerous political past. Coming up, we look at the politics of gun law reform in the United States. We will also be looking at the politics of asylum seekers in Australia. Always a difficult issue for this government. This week, Foreign Minister Bob Carr has been in Sri Lanka trying to deal with the source of the problem. We have seen recently a big surge in asylum seekers from Sri Lanka trying to get to Australia. Many are being turned back, but clearly the government believes more can be done at the source to deal with the problem. Also today in Canberra, we saw the three members of the expert panel on asylum seekers fronting a Parliamentary committee to take some questions on how the plan the government has put in place is working and how it can work better. First, the top stories this hour. Thank you, David. US President Barack Obama, as David said, made an impassioned speech at an Interfaith vigil for the victims of the massacre. The President put gun control firmly on the agenda, saying action needed to be taken to protect America's young. More than 2000 people packed the high school to hear the President offering condolences on behalf of the country. Prayers.The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.26 candles for the 26 lives lost. 2000 people gathered on Sunday night to grieve and mourn. After meeting with the families of those gunned down at Sandy Hook Elementary School, President Obama tried to offer comfort in the aftermath of an unthinkable crime. I am very mindful that mere words cannot match the depth of your sorrow, nor can they heal your wounded hearts. I can only hope it helps for you to know that you are not alone in your grief.Outside the high school and around Newtown, there are memorials, candles, teddy bears and mementos, left by people who travelled many miles to pay their respects.To let everyone know we are thinking of them.20 children, 12 girls and eight boys, six and seven years old were killed inside the school along with six adult women. Authorities say Adam Lanza lasted his way into the building with a high-powered assault rifle and fired hundreds of bullets in a rampage that claimed the lives of students, teachers and the principal. He killed himself. His mother was found dead in their home. Investigators continue to comb through both crime scenes for answers. While Newtown continues to struggle Tamou forward, the President issued a call to action. -- struggled to move forward.No set of laws can eliminate every senseless act of violence in our society. But that cannot be an excuse for in action.This town still has a lot of morning to do. Funeral arrangements are being made and the services begin as early as Monday.The massacre has also sparked debate at home here about gun laws. The Greens are calling for semiautomatic handguns to be banned in Australia. Adam Bandt says there is no reason why a private citizen should own such weapons.I think most people would be shocked to know that a couple of the handguns that were apparently found in the shooters possession in the United States are not banned and outlawed in Australia.Gun control Australia is backing the calls for a ban on semiautomatic handguns.Most massacres are committed by someone without a correct -- criminal record, no mental illness, and they have obtained their guns legally or through someone who has obtained their gun legally, such as what happened in the US.In other news, Fiji is being battered by Cyclone Evan, a category four storm, which claimed at least four lives. So far there have been no reports of death in Fiji, but the worst is yet to come for the main tourist island of Viti Levu. Power has been cut to the north and more than 3000 people have been evacuated from low-lying areas. Any major town of Nadi, shops have been cleared of stock and windows boarded up as they wait for the worst.Cyclone Evan closing in.We have got gale force winds, trees down, there has been structural damage up in the North Island. They have lost power up there. We have lost power in Suva, they turn the power off for safety reasons because of live wires.The wind is proving too much for this carrier, which ran aground on the reef in the harbour. 3500 people have been evacuated with no flights in or out of the island and 400 that -- 400 New Zealand people remain there.We got evacuated yesterday morning.New Zealand will be sending a Boeing 767 tomorrow. Guests at the Hilton have been told to sit tight for the next 36 hours. Remaining as safe as possible in the next few hours. The major concern is for the Fijians that don't have half the protection that we have.With the floods from March still fresh in everybody's mind, Nadi shopowners are not taking any chances, removing entire shops.. Locals are trying to keep in touch with family in New Zealand, it is difficult with phone lines down this morning.At the moment, I don't know how to feel. We have no knowledge. The information that should come out is our major drawback at the moment. We're looking forward to getting some news and then we will see what happens.Fiji Red Cross says it is fully stocked with emergency response supplies and is on standby. We hope that the government's around the world -- the governments around the world, once we know how bad it is hit, will be able to assist. I urge the people of New Zealand to do likewise.Fiji once again left counting the cost of disaster.The government has announced a four-point plan with Sri Lankan authorities, aimed at combating people smuggling. It includes greater intelligence sharing, maritime surveillance, and $700,000 for an information campaign targeting people smuggling hotspots. It comes as the government's expert panel urges politicians to push ahead with its proposed reforms.More than 150 boats and 9000 asylum seekers have arrived since the government's expert panel made its recommendations in August. Led by Angus Houston, the experts have urged politicians to push ahead with their reforms.You have to realise that this is a very comprehensive and complex package. It won't be done in a day.If you think it is going to be fixed in three months, we are delusional. There have been several cases of hunger strikes and self harm on Nauru. They are frustrated at the lack of progress, particularly about freedom of movement for those on the island.If people are locked up and not allowed up, that is detention. Our recommendation is that there should not be the tree detention.The majority of asylum seekers in the last couple of months have come from Sri Lanka. The government has now struck a deal with the Sri Lankan authorities aimed at combating the surge, including intelligence sharing and joint maritime surveillance training.We cannot accommodate economic refugees.More than 700 Sri Lankan arrivals have been returned to their homeland. The government believes these are early signs that the message is getting through.A pilot has died in a fiery light plane crash in Queensland's south-east. The Cessna was landing when it hit a power pole and took down lines when it crashed at Burrum Heads, just north of Hervey Bay this morning. The wreckage was engulfed in flames. The pilot was the only person on board. In sport, Michael Clarke has returned to the field despite injuring his hamstring in the second innings against Sri Lanka.

injuring his hamstring in the
second innings against Sri Lanka. Clarke was forced to retire hurt after making a quickfire centric -- half century. The Australians have

after making a quickfire centric --
half century. The Australians have set Sri Lanka a daunting target of 393 to win the match.Chasing quick runs, Callan and Warner got going early. -- Cowan. The partnership rocketed past 100 quickly.That is what he loves!A century beckoned, but David Warner could not convert, caught behind on 68. His partner lasting a couple more overs. Wickets all of a sudden starting to tumble, Watson again failing.The back edge of the line is what he has got to be over and he is out. Phil Hughes cleaned up. But Michael Clarke quickly stopped that trend. Oh, he is gone again. A cracker! The lead surging past 300 as the skipper belted 50 out of 43 balls. But it came to an abrupt end just minutes after raising the bat. Clarke was forced to retire hurt after injuring his right hamstring. The Aussies not lasting long after that, all out for 278.That's close, oh, yes!Having a look at tomorrow's weather now:

It is 4:11 Eastern Daylight Time, back to David Speers as PM Agenda continues. Thank you. After the break, we look at the issue of asylum seekers. We have the Parliamentary enquiry here, we have heard members of the government's expert panel did in their thoughts on how the new plan for offshore processing is going and what can be done to improve it. We will cross to Bob Carr, who is in Sri Lanka this week, trying to deal with the problem at its source. Stay with us.

You're watching PM Agenda. We begin this afternoon with the asylum seeker at dilemma. Another boat arrived overnight, north of Christmas Island with 54 people on board. It is the main boat in a week's and it adds to the roughly 9000 asylum seekers who have arrived in the four months since the government expert panel on asylum seekers handed down its report. The government in place at the new offshore processing regime. Three members of that expert panel today gave evidence in a Parliamentary enquiry. Angus Houston is, the strange and refugee expert Paris Aristotle. With roughly 9000 people are rising since this plant was delivered to the government on many have argued that it is not working. -- This plan. More time is needed, the experts say.It will take time. It will not be done in a day.If we think it will be fixed in a few months, we are delusional.We made it clear in the first page of the report, that there were no quick or simple solutions.They even suggested it could take years, because a key plank of this is finding a regional approach. Regional cooperation. It still seems to be a long way off. It also warns that we could see over the coming year as many as 30,000 asylum seekers arrive. Even the current rate of well over 2000 per month, that certainly seems plausible. Despite the numbers, the sheer volume of asylum seekers arriving, there was also a strong message to the government from Paris Aristotle in particular about the way asylum seekers are treated. He reminded the government of the key part of the plan that they delivered to the government was that asylum seekers sent to Nauru should have freedom of movement. Hundreds have been sent to Nauru, but they are at living is still in tentative accommodation or more permanent facilities are being built. They do not have a conditioning in summer and they do not have complete freedom of movement.People are locked up and not allowed out, and that is detention. A recommendation is that they shouldn't be arbitrary detention. My understanding is that there is still a commitment to changing that. I am hopeful that that will happen is in.They also, the three of them, discussed the harshest element of the government's plan, the so-called no advantage test. They said it is not a test, it should be a principal with the time limits, specifically attached to it. We had a Chris Bowen used to secure a five years in relation to how long people may have to wait to be given a permanent refugee VISA. These three experts say that the no advantage principal was really designed to go alongside original framework so that once original framework was in place, the time frame for processing claims would be a equivalent with those that came here I boat. Now, as far as where asylum seekers are coming from, the block in recent months has been coming from Sri Lanka. The government has turned around a lot of them at more than 700, in recent months. They have been quickly flown back to their home country. That is after a controversial interview process that determines whether they are an economic migrant group genuine asylum seeker fleeing persecution. Bob Carr has clearly felt more can be done in the home country. He is spending a few days there this week it has announced today that further measures to get corporation and naval cooperation to stop these boats leaving bound for Australia. There will also be an advertising campaign and more Australian aid money pumped into schools to try and deal with some of the poverty problem is that thought to be behind the flow of people trying to feature length to Australia. Coming up on the program, we will cross to Prime Minister Bob Carr in chilling For more details on what exactly he has been working on. First we will have a look at the talks that have been underway in Canberra today between the Federal and State Treasurer. The final meeting for the deer. The GST was firmly on the agenda. The fragile Treasurer Wayne Swan made it clear that he is not interested in increasing the GST above 10% of broadening what it applies to. We have heard a number of states suggest that should be reconsideration of this. They have a dwindling revenue base and the GST is seen as the one sure way to fix that. They have been given short shrift not just by Federal Labor but federal Coalition as well. Joe Hockey and Tony Abbott have made it clear they are not interested in touching the GST either. Wayne Swan want to keep this issue alive. Here he was this morning.The one thing the Commonwealth won't be doing today is that we will not be considering any increase in the rate of the GST or any case to broaden the base of the GST. That is the lazy way to go about tax reform. Doing that would hit the lowest income earners in a community really hard.The State Treasurer is know that with this bipartisan Opposition to seriously tackling the GST, as many economists and experts urge, or without bipartisan support it is going nowhere. They didn't push hard on this today, is that great increase in the rate of the GST, but there is one element of the GST that they are more hopeful of seeing some movement from the Federal Government. That is in relation to how the GST applies to imported goods, particularly a boom in online retail in recent years. More and more goods coming in from overseas. At the moment, the GST only applies if products are valued at more than $1000. Retailers in Australia have said this puts them at an unfair disadvantage. Customers have to pay the GST on all items they purchase here in Australia. The states are seeking a lowering of this threshold. In particular, they have suggested $500 is the figure. It was recommended by recent review. How far do they get? There was agreement to further examine this issue. The argument of the Federal Government has always been that if you lower the threshold, and charge the GST on more items, this will cost more to administer. Checking packages and polluting the system. This implementation cost could outweigh the extra revenue raised by putting the GST on more imported goods. How satisfied are the states with the business working group agreed on today? Spoke earlier to the New South Wales Treasurer.The discussion today was about the threshold for online GST. Am pleased that we've made some real progress. The fragile Treasurer today confirmed that the Commonwealth government had agreed the recommendations of the states and territories for action. We have a concrete plan that starts that. We have a positive. That is a constructive step, not just the States but the nation as a whole. Is action the Commonwealth has agreed to going to lower the threshold imported goods or just look at whether it can be lowered? The work needs to be done. I think we now have a public acknowledgement from the Commonwealth that action is required. We need to do the work to determine the final course of action. What is the amount? How is complaints? What are the requirements to put in place to affect it? We support that. The Commonwealth is driving that undertaking the appropriate business cases. The various options. The states have asked to be involved actively in that. Again, the federal Treasurer supported that. We view it as a very constructive and positive day in relation to this issue. I think we are very bullish that by 2013 they will have this in place.The argument of lowering this threshold that it might cost more to administer the strange than what you would collect in additional revenue. Can ask your perspective on this? Is it about making more money to state and federal coffers or is it about equity? That there should be fairness the local Australian retailers?I think it is both. That is one of the compelling think about this. When the GST was originally put together, nobody would have an digits -- envisaged that it would have this effect. It is less relevant back then compare today. Online retail is growing at an exponential rate. Around 20%. Physical retailing is relatively flat. With that trend will be an exponential movement towards online. Obviously, that is revenue we are missing out on at this point in time. At the same time, there is that fairness issue for our retailers. The current retailers are paying the tax, and online isn't.Which of the threshold Kurrawa what'll you see?The threshold that makes the most sense, and that is part of the work, what is the point where it is most efficient in terms of revenue and costs.It at around five dollars? 500 is what the Brumby review came out with. There is a whole range of work going into that. I have a simple view that the most efficient threshold should be the one. If you look at Canada and the United Kingdom, it is around $30. I am open what it looks like. I am very supportive of the work to determine it.To accept there will be some unhappy online shoppers? The prospect of having to pay GST on the stuff.I don't think anybody would expect be popular with this reform. It it is the right reformed though. Ultimately, Ely to make decisions with the long-term interests of the state in mind. -- You need to make decisions. Bringing in the taxes of the modern age. Nobody anticipated this boom in online retailing and Winnie to have the tax system to match that. To that end, unpopular decisions, the GST more broadly. What is good -- what is your position now about raising the GST or broadening it?I think the minister caused a bit of mischief honest earlier today. The position is unchanged on this. Until the Federal Government decides that it is something to be debated and considered, there is no point. Every State Treasurer shows that decision.You must have your and position on this. Regardless of the Federal Government's decision. -- Position.I wanted to deal with what is pragmatic and possible. At the moment, any change the GST is not.There is the principal question here is well. You must have a position on whether it GST should be increased.The position is what can be changed...That is the pragmatic position.We have taken action and I have led action on the GST online.You don't think the rate of the GST needs to be touched?I don't think there is any point in discussing that this point in time. You have a Federal Government saying they will not discuss it. You have a similar position from the Federal Opposition. You have a stalemate. So what should state treasurers do? He get on with the job. What you can do it in a constraint. I think it's Ro positive today that we have made significant progress on the online GST. Many people use to be against early on in the debate. Now increasing numbers of stakeholders have come on board. The Commonwealth government has not accepted the recommendations to take action.Wayne Swan also challenged the States to do something about stamp duties. He pointed to the ACT who is phasing out stamp duties. It can do that as a local territory governments. What about New South Wales and stamp duty. Why can't you do more on that?What we are at attacking our inefficient taxes. There are a range of proposals report for today. One of them was income taxed into the government. Proportional part of the tax and every dollar that goes back to the state we get rid of 50 cents a stamp duty. It is an opportunity. Stamp duty is inefficient. But insurance tax or so. We've taken action in relation to that. We are a mixed a detailed and widespread consultation on that. We are looking at options of taking away the insurance tax. Again, it is a fairness principle. At the moment, not everyone who pays full insurance and household in relation to property, and everyone at receives emergency services. There is an equity issue there. That is something we are looking at taking away insurance taxes and broad- based property tax. That is dealing with some of the inefficient taxes. Would you rather get rid of more of these inefficient stamp duties if you could? If you could increase the GST?What we would like to do at any opportunity to remove inefficient taxes, that is white one of the proposals that I have put forward with the state treasurers debate was income tax. If you move part of the state's

We will continue to look at our opportunities and pursue them. We are taking action on insurance taxes, we have taken action and led the online GST debate and pleasingly, I think we are seeing action on that today.Thank you. New South Wales Treasurer Mike Baird. We will take a quick break and then we will talk to the Foreign Minister Bob Carr live from Sri Lanka. Stay with us.

You are watching PM Agenda. As discussed earlier, Foreign Minister Bob Carr is in Sri Lanka this week. He is trying to deal with the asylum seeker problem at its source. He announced while he has been there today in particular, a four- point plan about better intelligence and naval cooperation with Sri Lanka, also Australian advertising that we will run trying to deter people from getting leaky boats and also aid assistance to improve education in some of the poverty stricken areas of Sri Lanka. Foreign Minister Bob Carr joins us now on the line. They do for your time. Let me first ask you what you have learned of this trap -- learned on this trip about people smuggling and why there has been a surge in the number of people coming from Sri Lanka. OK, that line has fallen out. We will come back to the Foreign Minister Bob Carr in just a moment. Apologies, but that line has dropped out. We will come back to the Foreign Minister in a moment. In the meantime, let's bring in our panel this afternoon for a look at this issue. We are joined by Bruce Hawker, Labor strategist, and also Michael Kroger, former Liberal powerbroker, for a look at how the year in politics is wrapping up. We might just start while we wait to get that callback, with the asylum seeker issue, we saw the three members of the expert panel defending their plane today and saying that more time -- their plan... Hold that thought, we are going back to Bob Carr. Minister, thank you. Apologies for the drop out. I was asking what you have learned on this visit about the problem of asylum seekers and why we are seeing such a surge from Sri Lanka, in particular.It is people smuggling. People smugglers making money by drawing people with promises of getting to Australia. We have got to break that business model. What has happened in the last few months, since August, there have been more than 800 returned to Sri Lanka. And we are going to see that photos of them getting off the plane is back in Sri Lanka are going to be screened in cinemas and on prime-time television to get the message that if you give money to is people smugglers, you are not going to succeed. You are going to be returned. That is the most powerful way that we can puncture the business model that lies behind this spike in numbers from shell anger. -- Sri Lanka.Let me ask you about the intelligence sharing you announced today. Is that just Australia providing equipment to better monitor departures from Sri Lanka or is there more to it?It is intelligence that we collect in the normal way is, I won't go into details. I can't comment on matters of intelligence. But it is a matter of material that we collect about the manoeuvring of people smugglers and we will hand it over to the Sri Lankan authorities, the Navy in particular, as well as electronic equipment.There has been concern about the number of Sri Lankans being sent back quickly to their home country, 700 so far, are you satisfied that they are OK once they are sent back? Have you been able to establish what happens to them?Yes, absolutely satisfied. They are treated in line with the legal system in Sri Lanka and they are simply returned to the community, once they return to Sri Lanka, except in cases where they have committed a crime. There was one recent case where the people paid money to a people smuggler, they engaged in piracy and took over the ship, that's in a category of its own. But we are satisfied with that and they are going to keep being returned. As I said, we have now got it up to 800. The most powerful message back here is this, you can pay money to a people smuggler, a big sum of money, you can risk your life on the high seas, but you are now going to be returned. Once that message permeates the village culture, the village life in Sri Lanka, it wrecks, as I said, it racks the business model underpinning people smuggling.I don't dig anyone disagrees that a lot of them coming from Sri Lanka thing called economic migrants. But there are many others. Have you raise any human rights concerns with the Sri Lankan government officials you have spoken to?Yes, I have. That is part of our dialogue with Sri Lanka. We have spoken about, I have spoken about the importance of accountability for events at the end of civil conflict and making that part of the reconciliation process underway in this country. Don't forget that Sri Lankans have over 30 years of the most violent civil war you can imagine and we are only three years out from the end of that conflict. The Foreign Minister only 5 minutes ago was talking about the rehabilitation, not detention, the rehabilitation of people fighting in the Tamil Tigers, but we are encouraging the government to recommend -- to implement its own recommendations in the report on lessons learnt and reconciliation. We said to the government, you will be held accountable in the human rights Council in Geneva and your record will be spoken of. You have got to be able to point to tangible progress on reaching your own targets of reconciliation and human rights recognition.Just a final question on a separate matter, gun law reform. We will be discussing this in a moment. After the awful shooting in the United States, you would think that President Obama has a strong hand to do something on gun law reform, I know you happen sceptical about his chances. Why?I wanted to succeed. Let me be in no doubt about that. I want tougher coast-to-coast gun laws across America. I think the carnage of children is the starkest reminder that America is lacking in this respect. It is a reflection of how America is fundamentally different from other countries, Australia and Canada, let alone Europe. But America has divided government and the President can make a commitment to more specific gun controls, but the hunting lobby, the shooting lobby in America has huge influence over the Congress. And it is Congress that has got to give effect to those. There wouldn't be too many congressmen from the south of the United States or senators who are going to readily sign up even to the things we take for granted in Australia, which is restrictions on semiautomatics.Yes, we will see whether the political pressure does now out on them or not. Foreign Minister Bob Carr, thank you for joining us from Sri Lanka. We appreciate your time. Let's bring in our panel, as I mentioned earlier, Bruce Hawker and Michael Kroger. We are going to look at this US gun control issue in a moment. But regarding the asylum seeker issue, Michael Kroger, the three experts said today, more time is needed for their plan to work. Do you buy that he Mac or is it -- to you by that -- do you buy that?Not really. The only plan that work was John Howard's plan. Bob Carr is saying 100 people have -- 800 people have returned, temporary protection visas are also working. These parts of the policy they do work, Labor is slowly moving towards it. But the more time that elapses, the more people die at sea. That is the great tragedy of labour's failure in this regard. That is why they need to move immediately back to John Howard's policy, which everyone knows worked.Bruce Hawker, we have seen 9000 people coming in since this plan was put in place. Do you think it is working?I think it has got a long way to go, David. And I think it will probably succeed if we can get some bipartisanship between the Labor and Liberal parties. That means a regional solution, establishing proper protocols with Malaysia, which is essentially what the Houston panel has asked for and that hasn't happened. So we continue to see boats coming. Although, it must be noted that much fewer boats are coming from Sri Lanka than previously. But I think it is going to be very difficult to stem this tide without a level of bipartisanship. That is what we had back in the 1970s when Malcolm Fraser was Prime Minister and Hayden and before him, Gough Whitlam, were opposition leaders. That is what we need now. Sadly, I don't think we are going to see it because there is a lot of political opportunity and short-term benefit for the Opposition in this.Now, stay with us, but I do want to look at the polls out today. We saw the near sit -- Nielsen poll's this morning which had encouraging news for Labor. First of all, the primary vote for Labor picked up one point. After preferences, they narrowed the gap to a 48 /52 split. Sorry, can we put up the Nielsen poll? Will get the essential poll in a moment. The other interesting thing out of the Nielsen poll was the issue of the AWU slush fund that the Opposition focused so heavily on in the final week of Parliament. It didn't do Tony Abbott much good. We saw his disapproval rating increase and large the Maroc people saying -- a large number of people saying they weren't impressed by his handling of it. This afternoon, however, the essential polls to show more troubling news for Labor. Let's go to Peter Lewis to talk through it. Peter, your final poll of the year, in fact. The primary vote doesn't seem to have changed at all. But the two party result has.Because we work on a rolling to week average of our sample of 1000, it means that sometimes it takes a week flag to get movement on the aggregation of the two-party preferred. But you are right, the primary vote remains steady. But the shift we picked up one week ago has stuck with the Coalition at 48 primary, Labor at 36 and the Greens down to eight. So that is washing out in the final poll of the year for the Coalition. That's a strong result for the Coalition.You asked about the current year in politics and in particular, I want to pick up on how people think Julia Gillard and Tony Abbott have gone over the past year.It is a common story. We asked if it had been good or bad for both.

They are basically shadowing each other. Tony Abbott's rating is slightly worse than his own party. The Liberal Party a 19% and Gillard is slightly better than Labor at 15%. But the overall mood of the electorate, you have got to say is, a pox on both your houses, as we enter into the festive season. Finally, you asked if people expect Gillard and Abbott to be in leadership come the election. Not whether they should be, but if they expect they will be, what have you found there?The Prime Minister, 39%, yes. 40%, no. So it is down the line. The one that interests me, Tony Abbott Tomic that also senses there could be a move on that. 38%, yes. 35%, no. But of coalition voters, only 54% expect him to be the lead at the next elite -- election.Thank you tree much for that. -- thank you very much for that. After the break, we get back to Michael Kroger and Bruce Hawker. Stay with us.

We are joined by Bruce Hawker and Michael Kroger. I want to return to the issue of gun law reform in the United States. It was a powerful speech by President Obama in Newtown, Connecticut today. That community clearly devastated by the mass shooting on Friday. I will play you a little of what he had to say and really stepping up the case and A some reform when it comes to the right to own high-powered weapons.We really prepared to say that we are powerless in the face of such carnage? That the politics are too hard? Are we prepared to say that such violence visited on our children year after year after year at it at the price of freedom? Bruce Hawker, I don't think many in Australia doubt that there should be some gun law reform in the United States when you consider how frequent these incidents are. What you think realistically about the chances of success here are?I think the chances of real gun reform are very slim and United States. Resident Clinton introduced bans on assault weapons in 1984 -- President Clinton. The upshot was that the Democrats lost a 50 year control of the House of Representatives according to President Clinton in his autobiography. That shows the level to which this issue divides Americans is the power of the National rifle Association. Mayor Bloomberg said today that if there aren't meaningful changes to the way in which they regulate guns, then in his term as president, 48,000 Americans will die from illegal guns in America. That is roughly equivalent to the amount of Americans who died in the Vietnam War. That is the size of this problem and yet I remain pessimistic about them achieving real change it has a still do not control the House of Representatives. It would require a huge seachange.Michael, is this just breakdown party lines? The pro and anti-gun lobby in United States? Is to mistake for Obama to get serious about reform here.It breaks down between North and South. It will be a 10 to 15 year campaign to get a more sensible gun reform policy. John Howard, after the Port Arthur massacre, he started with the gun buyback. It required all the States to agree and they did, thankfully. He had a national gun buyback which had 630,000 weapons surrendered. Perhaps one of the first thing that Obama could do is have voluntary buyback of weapons. That will cost the Treasury money. Australia had a Levy is about. Rather than force people to surrender weapons. Rather than. Changing -- changes which would be very difficult in America. You start with what is politically possible. That would be a voluntary buyback I think.That is an interesting point. They have done that in various cities around the United States with remarkable success. Its paid up to $75 for each weapon that has put in hand is back in and the number that they get back is massive. It does require that gradual process, I suspect.The time to do it is when the electorate centre of the devastation wreaked by misuse of firearms is at its greater. -- Agrotis. In Australia, it was after Port Arthur. And now is the time. You think the timing is now. Absolutely. We only have a few minutes left, but I want to get your thoughts on the highs and lows of this year and what you expect and predict the election in 2013. Bruce, first you, it has been quite a remarkable year it has had some highs and lows in the early part of it without leadership challenge as well. (LAUGHS) Indeed.I think the year ended the way it started with a pretty unhappy electorate. The way in which politics has been conducted in moment, probably from both sides. I think it is really being reflected in the sorts of numbers we are seeing at the moment as I have said and written about recently. I actually think that Julia Gillard and Tony Abbott are quite codependent in this regard. There are too much more popular figures in their own parties who are standing on the sidelines and that is one of the weird things that has happened this year. Having said that...You think they. Be there come election time?I suspect so. But I am probably not the best person to make predictions about these things. (LAUGHS) I do think the government has engaged in some useful initiatives. There are some good ministers in the government and the National Disability Insurance Scheme is a good example of that. It has tended to have been overshadowed by what I think has been a pretty unedifying year in politics. Woodley brought on largely by the hung Parliament. Michael, your thoughts on 2012?The government is moving towards coming to a policy on legal -- illegal boat arrivals. That is positives up. Tentative steps Judy and AAS has been positive. -- To the NDIS has been positive. In retrospect, the negative of the year is those people killed at sea. Told through paying people smugglers to come here. The entire AWU and Craig Thomson ongoing scandal is a free about one the government.I am sure there will be plenty more discussion about all of those things in 2013. Not forgetting the surplus and the government's effort to keep the budget in the black. One of the first challenges it will face in the new year. Thank you both that and all of your contributions throughout the year. I wish you both America's as they look forward to getting stuck into it with a 2013 election year.Thank you, David.We are to time. Back then came tomorrow. After the break, at the latest Sky News.

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