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Tuesday, 3 December 2002
Page: 6995

Senator SCULLION (2:41 PM) —My question is to the Minister for Justice and Customs. Will the minister update the Senate on the Commonwealth proposal for comprehensive hand gun reforms? Are there any impediments to the Commonwealth's hand gun reform plan?

Senator ELLISON (Minister for Justice and Customs) —I thank Senator Scullion, who has taken a keen interest in what is a very important subject to all Australians. It is good to have a question in this question time which does touch on something which Australians are concerned about. What we are talking about is a once in a lifetime opportunity for this country to reform its hand gun laws. This Friday will see a meeting between the Prime Minister, premiers and chief ministers in relation to that very subject. In October the Prime Minister took to the leaders of this country a comprehensive plan for hand gun law reform. We all saw the tragedy at Monash, and people across Australia felt great sympathy for the victims and the families of the victims of that tragedy. What the Prime Minister took forward to COAG was a balanced plan. It was a plan which accommodated the legitimate interests of sporting shooters but also public safety and concern. We have had two meetings of the Australian Police Ministers Council—one in Darwin and one in Sydney—and we have made great progress in relation to comprehensive points of reform. These included areas such as graduated access, a probationary period for someone who is just becoming a sporting shooter, things like licensing requirements and minimum participation rates so that you have a requirement for those people who say they are a sporting shooter to participate in that sport, and the giving of authority to sporting shooting clubs to expel those members who are undesirable and show a lack of interest in the sport.

It is very unfortunate that just recently we saw some grandstanding by the ministers from the states of New South Wales, Queensland and South Australia. In this plan, we have to look at what sorts of hand guns will be outlawed as a result of these reforms and how we determine that. We agreed that we would do it by reference to the calibre, length of the barrel and shot capacity of the hand gun. What you have to do is look at the size of the barrel and how many shots would be in the magazine. What the ministers from New South Wales, Queensland and South Australia still wanted to consider, after all the work and progress we had achieved, was an option of doing nothing. That option was that there would be no limit to the size of the hand gun and no limit to the velocity of the hand gun, no limit to the size or number of shot that the hand gun would have. The ministers from New South Wales, Queensland and South Australia, led by Michael Costa, the police minister from New South Wales, were wanting to still leave on the table a situation where there would be no limit to the sort of hand gun that you could register—so that you could have a pocket pistol, a snub-nosed revolver or a hand gun with a magazine with a 30-shot capacity. Not even sporting shooters want that. What we had from them was pure politics.

The opposition spokesman, the member for Werriwa, Mark Latham, attacked the Commonwealth and said that not enough is being done. But there was deafening silence from him in relation to his state colleagues, especially his state mate from New South Wales, Michael Costa. Why didn't he attack him for the plan of leaving on the table a plan of doing nothing? We have a comprehensive package to take to the leaders of Australia. It is a fair balance between public safety on the one hand and the legitimate concerns of sporting shooters on the other. Let us see some responsibility from the premiers of New South Wales, Queensland and South Australia in agreeing to this plan and addressing the concerns of all Australians.