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Wednesday, 21 March 2018
Page: 1829

Senator McKENZIE (VictoriaMinister for Rural Health, Minister for Sport, Minister for Regional Communications and Deputy Leader of The Nationals) (16:29): I am a proud licensed firearm owner and also a senator. Senator Rhiannon, I agree that the tragedy of Port Arthur was exactly that and should never be allowed to happen again in this country. But to assume that licensed firearm owners are running around 20 years after the NFA was put in place, looking for schools, looking for opportunities to wreak crime and havoc on Australians, is an absolute joke. You stand up in this place and try to pretend that Australia is America and pretend that the NRA exists. The reality is that over a million Australians are law-abiding firearm owners who proudly protect their homes and property, hunt for food and are sporting shooters.

We've got the Commonwealth Games coming up. We are some of the best shooters in the world, and as a nation we're very proud when we see that. Senator Rhiannon, you only grow Olympian athletes, including sporting shooters, if you allow them to develop the skill over time. You don't get to 25, pick up a shotgun and become a gold medallist. You have to have a junior firearm licence, an incredibly appropriate thing to do.

Right now in Victoria it's duck season. It is a lovely cultural experience for many families. They go away for the weekend. They set up their tents. They go camping with friends and family. They get up early in the morning and they go shooting their ducks, and many of those get their bagful. And I thank the state Labor government in Victoria for the work they've done to ensure duck season continues to be the strong tradition it is for so many in my home state. But you can't go out and camp as a family if your kids aren't allowed to come and if you can't train them in how to be safe and appropriate with firearms.

Our firearm laws are amongst the strongest in the world, and I can tell you, because I hold one, that obtaining a firearm licence is a very long and expensive process involving character checks and criminal history checks. You have to do safety training. There are restrictions on how the firearm can be used. You've got to have a recognised need to purchase the firearm. Then you have to open up the door to the police to let them come into your home and make sure you're storing your firearm and your ammunition appropriately. There are waiting periods not just to get your licence but if you want to purchase a firearm. Indeed, law-abiding gun owners would never risk their licence by owning an illegal gun.

The tragedy of gun violence on the streets of Melbourne and Sydney and throughout Australia is not as a result of law-abiding firearm owners, and I absolutely guarantee that any changes that the state government in Tasmania are planning to make around how they register and regulate firearms in their state, as is their constitutional right, will not result in greater gun violence. I will tell you what will. What will result in greater gun violence is illicit and illegal firearms in the hands of criminals. And, Senator Rhiannon, that's why I suggest that, if you're really concerned about gun violence, instead of moving your meaningless MPI to make Batman voters feel a little better that you're standing up for them after the havoc that your particular factor wreaked in that by-election—I don't think it worked out too well for the Greens!—and instead of attacking the million law-abiding firearm owners in this country, you actually support the government legislation around cracking down on illicit firearms and on the trafficking of firearms. That's something tangible that you can actually do.

Indeed, Labor Party senators, if you care about reducing gun violence, don't start attacking mums and dads who take their kids out to go hunting on the weekend, don't start attacking our Olympians and our Commonwealth Games athletes. Start supporting the government's legislation around illicit gun trafficking, because getting illegal guns in the hands of criminals is where the problem is. I can tell you that it's not the gun that actually kills people; it's the person behind it. I know there are some opposite who may not think that is a fact, but the Australian Institute of Criminology, in its National Homicide Monitoring Program annual report, indicated that 1.3 per 100,000 Australians remains the lowest-ever rate since records began in 1989-90. Knives and sharp objects remain the most common weapons used in homicides.

Contrary to the rhetoric and claims of the Greens, who are trying to make this an NRA style conversation here, we have strong firearm laws. They are appropriate. They are stringent. We don't want to see gun crime. We do not want to see people being hurt by guns. That is why we have to support legislative measures that will actually crack down on gun trafficking. So get on board with measures that will make a tangible difference to this issue rather than continuing with your critique of law-abiding firearm owners, who are absolute champions. I am looking forward to handing out the shooting medals at the Commonwealth Games in a couple of weeks. (Time expired)