House debates

Tuesday, 18 October 2016


Gun Control

12:01 pm

Photo of Bill ShortenBill Shorten (Maribyrnong, Australian Labor Party, Leader of the Opposition) Share this | Hansard source

The weak member for Wentworth is prepared to trade off John Howard's gun laws to pursue the member for Warringah's attack on workers. This is a disgrace and it must be stopped now. The Prime Minister is willing to risk more guns on the streets for one vote in the Senate. What price will this Prime Minister not pay to gain one grubby vote in the Senate? Just how weak is the Prime Minister? Just how weak is the member for Wentworth? This is the story of his prime ministership—a new disappointment every day. The problem with this Prime Minister is that the world knows how weak and wounded he is. People know that, if they hold out, the Prime Minister gives in. Every time there is a hard issue, he simply gives in. Every time there is a hard issue, he gives away more of himself and the man he once was, just to keep the job he desperately craves.

Yet again, we see another group tweaking the prime ministerial tail. This man, who has traded off so many of his former views and so much of his integrity, keeps finding new ways to let Australia down. On radio and at his press conference just this morning, he had five opportunities to rule out the proposition that he is watering down the gun laws in return for grubby votes. His refusal to rule out changes to gun laws shows that, at best, he is contemplating doing this and, at worst, he has already agreed to do it. This is the sort of thing that you would see in the United States—gun laws treated as a legislative bargaining chip. Gun control should not be a political plaything; it should be the source of a unanimous view of this parliament and of this House. It marks those sitting in the government very poorly that they will not stand up and rule out watering down our gun laws. Every minute the government refuses to rule out the betrayal of our gun laws in return for its anti-worker, anti-union, anti-fairness agenda marks this government as one of the weakest governments in federation. There are some things that are simply too important for political games, and gun laws should be at the top of this list.

There are plenty of disappointments I and Labor have with this government, but it never occurred to me in my wildest dreams that the government would sell out on gun laws because they are so obsessed about destroying unions and the representatives of workers and a better deal for workers. My message is not to the Prime Minister and not to those shaking heads—those weak people sitting opposite; my message is to the people of Australia. Tell the Prime Minister that you do not want the gun laws changed. Ring him; email him; talk to your local representatives; talk to the members in all of those marginal seats who are more interested in saving their jobs. This is now a job for the people of Australia. We have a government where the Prime Minister is so wounded and so weak that he will do any deal to try to harm and destroy the representatives of working people to introduce different laws for different categories of workers in Australia. He is so desperate to pursue an anti-union agenda forced on him by the right of his party that he will sell out gun laws. Ring him up, email him—Australian people, we call upon you to just tell him, 'No; no way; no chance; not ever will we agree to watering down the gun laws.'

Look at those members of the government smiling as if they are pulling some clever trick. This is not the party of John Howard anymore. They claim the mantle. They are not fit to clean his shoes on this issue. These laws have made Australia safe, and you should think very carefully before you tamper with laws which have made Australia safer. It was a great achievement of John Howard, proudly supported by Kim Beazley. Let me remind this government of amnesia and weakness what John Howard said on the 20th anniversary of those terrible events at Port Arthur. He said this, and I quote exactly:

… I'm wholly against any watering down of the existing laws, and I would encourage sensible strengthening of the existing laws.

Let me remind those opposite of what the Prime Minister's predecessor said about the risk this poses to national security. On 12 August last year, the member for Warringah said: 'Importing so many of the high-capacity Adlers was inappropriate in a heightened threat environment.'

Yesterday, the Prime Minister, who challenged us for daring to question the competence of the Attorney-General of Australia—a common topic which, we are all know, is not possible to defend—said, 'How dare there be a question of any watering down of national security.' Well, your words come back to haunt you today, Prime Minister. Let me remind the Prime Minister of what he said in Tasmania this year. He said:

… the leadership that was shown by our Prime Minister, John Howard, ensured that we have had, and have, the toughest gun control laws in the world, and we are committed to ensuring they remain just that.

He goes on—as he does:

Our collaboration and our commitment is utterly unwavering. Australia has the toughest gun control laws in the world, and we will continue to keep them that way.

It is horrifying to think that, when the Prime Minister said that, what he actually meant was: 'We will continue to keep them that way until we need a vote in the Senate; then all bets are off.'

Why is he making this sordid deal? It is just so he can create a new industrial bureaucracy. Let us talk about the facts around this ABCC legislation that he is so keen to water down the gun laws for. Firstly, there is already a building regulator in place. They already have coercive powers. They have already—in their last report—done 130 investigations and they have used these powers on 17 occasions. Secondly, Labor is gravely concerned that workplace deaths and injuries will increase. During the ABCC's time, fatalities for construction workers nearly doubled from an average of nearly two and a half fatalities per 100,000 workers to nearly five fatalities per 100,000 workers. In 2007, when the coalition's ABCC was last in place, worker deaths on construction sites hit a 10-year high of 51 of our fellow Australians dying at work. After Labor abolished the ABCC, workplace deaths dropped by 80 per cent. The third problem we have is that the ABCC will not improve productivity. Construction industry productivity increased more in the seven years before the introduction of the ABCC than it did in the seven years after the ABCC was created. Since the ABCC has been abolished, productivity has increased every year, year on year.

The reality is that this is a government not interested in safer workplaces, better unions. They are not interested in safer streets now or better gun laws. No conservative government in history has ever believed in a better deal for workers. They hate unions. This mob is no different. It is deeply disturbing that this mob had to be dragged kicking and screaming to do anything about 7-Eleven. They are happy while workers in this country are being paid half the minimum wage. They have done nothing to deal with widespread reports of corruption and rorting in the visa system. The Prime Minister could not even work up a tweet to commiserate the Ford workers as they worked on their last day. The only time they talk about wages is when they complain that they are too high.

The double dealing of this Prime Minister on gun laws shocks even his Labor critics. We know that he has sold out nearly everything else he believes in. I want to conclude by asking the Prime Minister one thing: you will not stand up to the right-wing wolves of your party; will you, just for once, stand up for Australia? If you do not believe me, I will leave you with the words of the tweet of the member for Warringah, just recently tweeted:

Disturbing to see reports of horse-trading on gun laws. ABCC should be supported on its merits.

The member for Warringah is a strong man. Labor will stand up. People of Australia, tell Malcolm Turnbull: no deal on gun laws. (Time expired)


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