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Thursday, 9 May 1996
Page: 772

Mr CAMPBELL(3.57 p.m.) —I rise to speak on this matter of public importance because this is a classic case of the parliament with a knee-jerk reaction. I believe that the people in the community, particularly those who have suffered as a result of this madman in Tasmania, and others, deserve more than a knee-jerk reaction. Both members who have spoken in this debate today know full well that automatic weapons have been banned in Australia in every state since about 1924. They also know that the Commonwealth government has the full power to stop the import of military style automatic weapons or, in fact, any automatic weapon. To say that they are going to put a ban on semi-automatic weapons and outlaw .22s and shotguns is simply an enormous overreaction.

The truth is that most of the murders committed in Australia are being committed by single-shot .22s and most are being committed in a family situation. This sort of law will do nothing to address that. The government knows this fact full well. I ask the government and the opposition what they intend to do when this sort of tragedy happens again. Of course it will happen again. What will they ban next time? After all, 78 per cent of all murders in Australia are committed by people using blunt weapons or knives. Are we going to outlaw those as well? How does the government intend to outlaw bottles, for instance?

I turn to the question of compensation. The government has said it will compensate, as indeed the constitution requires. Ted Drane from the Sporting Shooters Association says that he estimates compensation to be $500 million. I suspect Mr Drane is talking about Victoria alone, because the cost will be substantially higher. If the government is going to compensate, there are only two bases on which it can be done—either the purchase price or the replacement cost. If compensation is based on the purchase price, the total will run to far more than $500 million Australia-wide and compensation based on the replacement cost will be even more.

Let us look at some other hard facts which the government and the opposition know about. In the southern states and my own state of Western Australia, 25 per cent of guns are registered, which means that 75 per cent are not registered. Queensland has done it somewhat better because 40 per cent of guns in that state are registered. If the government brings in this legislation the only guns which can be addressed are the ones which are registered and those guns are clearly in the hands of the more responsible element in the community. What is the government going to do about the others? Those guns will simply go underground and the problem is that we will not know the dimensions of the guns and therefore cannot contend with them.

The government says that the problem is just with automatic weapons, but let us consider the position in Switzerland. I am indebted to the Swiss embassy for this information. In Switzerland almost every family has at least one fully automatic sig assault rifle in the household. Anyone who knows anything about guns will know that the sig assault rifle is infinitely better than the gun used by the Australian army. Perhaps that is something else which should be looked at. This weapon is very effective for killing people, as military rifles are. They are not good hunting weapons. Generally, they are inaccurate over distances and are ideally suited for killing people at short range. In Switzerland every family has one in the house and 24 bullets to go with it in a sealed container, yet Switzerland has one of the lowest incidents of murder in the world. In Switzerland they will tell you that most of the crimes in that country are in fact committed by foreigners. That is another great triumph for multiculturalism!

If that is the position in Switzerland, then we must look for some other reason. Any pharmacist will tell you that a lot of the mind-altering drugs, such as prozac, which are used to calm people down, in three per cent of cases have exactly the opposite effect. No-one is looking at this factor and nobody will look at it. While the government, supported by the opposition, is prepared to hammer ordinary Australians, it will not pull on the multinational drug companies.

For the benefit of the Attorney-General (Mr Williams), I wish to quote from page 399 of the book George Orwell: a life. I am taking this quote from the Evening Standard dated 8 January 1941. George Orwell said:

The totalitarian state can do great things but there is one thing they cannot do. They cannot give the factory worker a rifle and tell him to take it home and keep it in his bedroom. That rifle hanging on the wall of the working class flat or labourer's cottage is a symbol of democracy. It is our job to see that it stays there.

I put to the House that what we need in Australia—where we have a totally inadequate military system with only 3,000 infantry soldiers, which is quite clearly inadequate to defend this country from any serious attack—is a large number of people in the community who are trained to handle guns. In large parts of rural and northern Australia people have these guns and know how to use them. I suspect that very few of them will be prepared to give them up. They will simply be driven underground.

If the government had moved to outlaw military weapons it would have had my entire support, because that is the weapon which caused the trouble. Such damage could not have been inflicted with a .22 unless the person involved was an absolutely superb shot, which of course he was not. I still carry a bullet in my arm. I was shot not by an automatic, but by a repeater rifle. I make the point very strongly that this is a massive overkill.

Who in society shoots ducks? Basically working class people are the duck shooters. An automatic shotgun is commonly used for shooting ducks. Once again, the Australian Labor Party, in conjunction with the other side, will penalise workers. What is wrong with shooting ducks? If ducks are not shot, farmers will poison or net them. Duck shooting is a method of culling ducks and that sport has my wholehearted support. It has every right to exist. It is interesting that no-one ever complains about catching blue marlin. I wonder why? Obviously it is a very elitist and expensive sport. I do not want to ban that sport, but I am not a person who bans things.

It is difficult to speak against this issue because there is such large emotion in the community. I put to the House that the government would get the same support in Australia if it were to attack the French as it did when in opposition. This was an example of populism and it raised public resentment against the French. However, in a more considered move I doubt whether the Australian public would vote that way. I believe that the Australian public will vote for sensible nuclear energy because they will look at all the facts.

Whether you like it or not, this is a centralist move and the Howard centralist government is obviously being supported by the very centralist opposition. It will attack states rights and will be just another example of the erosion of the rights of the states. I believe Kennett is right. I find it very difficult to be in agreement with Kennett, but I believe he is right on this issue. I urge this House not to vote for this, although I know that is pretty hopeless because of this smug, sickening bipartisanship. People are talking about it as though they can understand the trauma suffered by the people who have experienced these grievous losses.

It is quite clear what the House is going to do, but I want it on record that this is a knee-jerk reaction and one that will not address the problem. Neither the government nor the opposition will ever look at issues which do address the problem. We have been party to letting people out of institutions because it became politically correct to release people from institutions onto the street. Many of these people are in institutions for their own protection and some are there for the protection of society. These people have been very badly used. In Victoria the solution was for the police to shoot old, deranged women, et cetera. That is not the sort of Australia that we want. We really ought to give much more thought to this issue other than the populist, knee-jerk reaction that has come from this centralist government which is showing every hallmark of going down the Keating road of arrogance.