House debates

Wednesday, 25 October 2017

Bills

Criminal Code Amendment (Firearms Trafficking) Bill 2017; Consideration in Detail

4:41 pm

Photo of Clare O'NeilClare O'Neil (Hotham, Australian Labor Party) Share this | Hansard source

():We were very pleased to support the Criminal Code Amendment (Firearms Trafficking) Bill 2017 on the second reading, and that's because this fundamentally was a Labor bill. The legislation that we had before us today was a bill that had actually been completely rewritten by Labor and the crossbench up in the Senate, and that's a bill that we were really proud to work on. Early in the term here, the minister sitting opposite me decided that he would try a little political exercise and try to wedge the Labor Party. So he created a bill that was not much more than something that contained mandatory minimums.

We don't support mandatory minimums, and we don't for a very good reason: we know that they won't work. We'll have plenty of opportunities during this consideration in detail to go to the evidence that supports that claim. But, because we on the Labor side of the House have such strong concern about gun violence, what we did was take that law—that foolish political exercise—and decide to try to make out of it a good bill that would improve the community safety of Australians. That's why, when it got into the Senate, Labor moved amendments to add aggravated offences to this bill. Those aggravated offences are deliberately targeted at people who are gun running guns into this country, and for the first time it would give courts in Australia the ability to lock these criminals up for life as we believe that some of them deserve.

Those reforms received bipartisan support. That is to say that reforms that Labor moved over in the other place received the support of the government. And we were very pleased with that. The Senate also made the good decision to remove the mandatory minimums from that bill. As I said, mandatory minimums do not work. The minister probably thought he was being terribly clever trying to wedge Labor. It was an utter failure and an embarrassment in the Senate because what the Senate did was take that political exercise and make it into a law that was going to make Australians safer.

If the government was not going to be bloody-minded about this, we could actually have a law that protects Australians better right now. If the government and the minister sitting opposite me had the fortitude to stand up and say that these bills would be separated so we could get a good law that appropriately protects Australians and deal with this political distraction of the mandatory minimums later, we'd be very pleased to support that. All of us could leave this House tonight knowing that we had done a good day's work creating good laws that better protect Australians.

I wrote to the minister last night on this subject because for eight months we have been waiting for this bill to return from the Senate. For eight months we could have had a tougher, stronger law against firearm traffickers, but, because of this minister's bloody-mindedness, we have not had the ability to deal with the reform in the House as we should have. Now, eight months later, when it has come back to us, it has, inserted back into it, mandatory minimums, something the government knows that we are not going to support and something the government knows the Senate will not support, because they've rejected it three times already. And so what we have here is the minister opposite me pretending to care about community safety but instead using this chamber as a political exercise. This is not a student representative council. It's not a local council. This is the federal parliament, where we're supposed to act like adults. It's no wonder so many Australians have lost faith in this chamber's ability to deal with the issues that affect their everyday lives.

I wrote to the minister last night. I laid out the case for splitting these bills so that we could have tougher, stronger laws against firearm trafficking today and we could deal with the separate political debate that he's evidently so keen on without continuing to hamper the safety of Australians. I have not received a response from the minister. So my question to the minister is: will you split the bill so we can have a better law right now?

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