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Tuesday, 11 August 2015
Page: 5028

Senator McKENZIE (Victoria) (20:41): I rise to briefly comment on the recent decision by the Australian government to temporarily suspend the importation of the Adler A110 lever-action shotgun. I found this action quite disappointing, not for the action in itself but for the fact that the decision was taken without any consultation with the industry that provides over $1 billion to our economy nationally and without any consultation with the 800,000-plus law-abiding recreational firearm owners here in this country—recreational shooters. We have been at pains to ensure that the rhetoric around this decision is not associated with terrorism and is not targeting law-abiding gun owners, and I am not sure if we have got that public discussion right. We need to ensure that when we are speaking in the public domain we are confidently and consistently talking about illegal guns, criminal gangs, criminal elements and the importation of handguns and firearms that are causing damage on our streets—not law-abiding firearm owners.

I have repeatedly stressed to those decision makers that our law-abiding gun owners are not terrorists. Our guns are not used by terrorists, and it would be highly unlikely, if not impossible, for terrorists to get their hands on these guns. We are very, very careful with how we store our guns in this country, because we know that if we get it wrong we do not get to keep our gun licence. And that is a real problem.

What makes the decision to suspend the importation of the Adler A110 all the more difficult to accept is that the recreational sporting shooters are formally locked out of the review process that is currently underway to look at the National Firearms Agreement. Out of the Martin Place review there was a recommendation to look at technical aspects of the National Firearms Agreement, and that has been sent off to a formal committee to examine. It is disappointing that recreational sporting shooters and, indeed, the greater industry, have been locked out of that formal process. Whilst I do commend the minister for informally consulting with those user groups, I think we could probably make better use of their expertise and experience and ensure that our policy decisions in this space take into account people's businesses, the activities they conduct with their families on a regular basis and, indeed, our heritage, if they had a seat at the table. I think they would be able to explain the impact of some of the decisions that are made: the impact they would have on their turnover as business owners, on their capacity to run sporting events—particularly in regional Australia but there are many shooting ranges within city environs—and, indeed, on their ability to train the next generation of Olympians. That requires these people to own and use firearms appropriately and safely. We have some of the most stringent gun laws in the world. We need to be proud of that, not seek to denigrate those who live by them.

The sad fact remains that the Firearms and Weapons Policy Working Group, charged with reviewing the NFA, comprises federal and state police commissioners and other bureaucrats. Not a single shooter or key industry group is represented on that working group. I think that is part of the issue. I would like that to change. I have been public about calling for that change so that the expertise of the recreational shooters and wider industry can be fed formally into the process of the NFA review. My experience within the Senate inquiry into illicit firearms, having various state police officers in front of the committee, tells me that a process that is informed by only one sector of the community or one sector of the debate does not lead to the best policy outcome. Indeed, we received direct evidence that any gun, illegal or legal, was an OH&S risk for police officers. I understand that on one level, but an illegal gun in the hands of a criminal on the streets of Western Sydney and a legal gun appropriately stored by a farmer in Leongatha involve completely different risk assessments. That is not how we are dealing with it.

We need to acknowledge the legitimate need for a firearm for, in particular, those of us who are from regional communities—from farmers using a firearm to humanely cull invasive pests or as part of animal husbandry, to those who enjoy shooting as a legitimate recreational pursuit, through to our highly skilled sporting shooters who compete every weekend right across this country. There is a legitimate need for those of us outside metropolitan areas to access firearms. We are not terrorists; we are not murderers. We have been deemed fit and proper to own a firearm and we store them correctly, and we should be treated accordingly.

Over the coming days, weeks and months I will be continuing to urge my government to start a formal consultation process with key industry stakeholders as well as sporting and recreational shooters. I will fight to ensure that our key industry bodies are given a seat at the table—direct contact into this process, which will be ongoing over the next six months, reviewing the National Firearms Agreement to be presented at a COAG meeting in early 2016. I encourage hunters and shooters to participate in the technical review through their various representative bodies to promote the environmental, economic and social benefit that participation in recreational shooting and hunting gives to this country.

A calm and rational discussion on this issue can be had. We have the most stringent firearm regulation framework in the world. But, after almost 20 years of its being in place, we still cannot carry a firearm from one state to another; we cannot seamlessly participate in our sport without a whole lot of red tape. There are so many ways in which this issue needs to be harmonised between the states to make it easier while keeping the safety requirement. We cannot collect in a meaningful way data that we can use to actually prove certain things that we know. So, I think there is a lot of work to be done around ensuring that the National Firearms Agreement is implemented in an appropriate way that decreases red tape and continues our government's commitment to small government and personal freedom.