House debates

Tuesday, 18 October 2016

Motions

Gun Control

12:01 pm

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

I seek leave to move the following motion:

That:

(1) the House notes that:

(a) this morning, there are reports the Prime Minister will do a deal on gun laws to pass the Abbott Government's industrial relations bills; and

(b) the Prime Minister has on at least five occasions just this morning refused to rule out trading away John Howard's gun laws to pass the Abbott Government's industrial relations bills; and

(2) therefore, the House resolves that it will never put the safety of Australians at risk by trading away John Howard's gun laws to pursue an Abbott Government attack on workers.

Leave not granted.

I move:

That so much of the standing orders be suspended as would prevent the Member for Maribyrnong from moving the following motion forthwith—That:

(1) the House notes that:

(a) this morning, there are reports the Prime Minister will do a deal on gun laws to pass the Abbott Government's industrial relations bills; and

(b) the Prime Minister has on at least five occasions just this morning refused to rule out trading away John Howard's gun laws to pass the Abbott Government's industrial relations bills; and

(2) therefore, the House resolves that it will never put the safety of Australians at risk by trading away John Howard's gun laws to pursue an Abbott Government attack on workers.

Just how weak is Malcolm Turnbull? Malcolm Turnbull, the member for Wentworth—

Photo of Tony SmithTony Smith (Speaker) Share this | | Hansard source

The Leader of the Opposition will refer to people by their correct titles.

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)

Photo of Tony SmithTony Smith (Speaker) Share this | | Hansard source

Is the motion seconded?

Photo of Tanya PlibersekTanya Plibersek (Sydney, Australian Labor Party, Deputy Leader of the Opposition) Share this | | Hansard source

Mr Speaker, I second the motion and reserve my right to speak.

Photo of Tony SmithTony Smith (Speaker) Share this | | Hansard source

The question is that the motion be agreed to.

12:12 pm

Photo of Christopher PyneChristopher Pyne (Sturt, Liberal Party, Leader of the House) Share this | | Hansard source

Mr Speaker, the leader of the opposition will do absolutely anything to distract people from his twin problems right now. The first of the twin problems that he has right now is: the civil war in the Labor Party in Victoria that he is dealing with over the appointment of Kimberley Kitching and the split in the national left, led by Gavin Marshall, against that member for Scullin over there in the House. I am very pleased to see this debate.

Photo of Jim ChalmersJim Chalmers (Rankin, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Parliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Opposition) Share this | | Hansard source

Tell us about gun laws! Talk about gun laws!

Photo of Tony SmithTony Smith (Speaker) Share this | | Hansard source

The member for Rankin!

Photo of Christopher PyneChristopher Pyne (Sturt, Liberal Party, Leader of the House) Share this | | Hansard source

The first problem that Mr Shorten, the Leader of the Opposition, is trying to deal with is the civil war in the Labor Party. His second problem that he is trying to distract his caucus from is that he has shackled them to the CFMEU in the great debate in this country over industrial relations reform to change the building and construction industry. So, in the oldest trick in the book, the Leader of the Opposition has come into the House and moved the suspension of standing orders. He has given a ripsnorting speech, in his mind—all of it read, by the way, about the apparent perfidiousness of this government to do with trying to get our legislation through.

But we know, the media knows and the public knows this is all a smokescreen for the twin problems the Leader of the Opposition faces—the disintegration of the national left and the fact that he has shackled the Labor Party to the CFMEU over what every mum and dad, and small businessman in the country knows is a vital reform for building and construction in this country—that is, to bring back the Australian Building and Construction Commission.

I will turn to the first problem that the Leader of the Opposition has. In the Senate, he has Gavin Marshall, a Victorian left senator. He is openly attacking, taking a political hatchet to, his own colleagues, whether it is Catherine King, the member for Ballarat; whether it is the member for Scullin; or whether it is in fact the very well respected member for Jagajaga, whom I have not always agreed with over the many years we have been in parliament together. But to attack the member for Jagajaga is a bizarre step. What it indicates is that the Leader of the Opposition has completely lost control of the Victorian Labor Party.

Today we have seen, in the last few hours, that the member for Grayndler has attacked Gavin Marshall. At least the member is standing up for his mates; he usually does that. The member for Grayndler has attacked Gavin Marshall and said that Gavin Marshall's comments 'speak for themselves; they say more about Senator Marshall than they do about the colleagues he is disparaging'. At least the member is standing by his colleagues. But he has also failed to endorse Kimberley Kitching, the Labor Party nominee from Victoria for the Senate.

This is a man who knows every intricate detail of the Labor Party across the country. This is a man who stood for the leadership of the Labor Party and was the people's choice. Not a leaf falls in the Labor Party forest without the member for Grayndler knowing that it has happened. Instead, the member for Grayndler has said:

'I didn't have a vote, I'm not familiar with all of the candidates …

…   …   …

'I don't know all of the candidates, therefore I wasn't in a position to make a judgment.'

The member for Grayndler, so prepared to speak for the Leader of the Opposition on this problem that the Leader of the Opposition has, is pretending he has never heard of Kimberley Kitching—never heard of her. She has only run for several preselections over the last 10 years in Victoria and been blocked! She was blocked by Julia Gillard, blocked by then senator Stephen Conroy and stopped from getting into the parliament. Anthony Albanese, the member for Grayndler, missed all of that! He never saw any of that happening! He has never heard of Kimberley Kitching! He is not familiar with the candidates! She is only married to Andrew Landeryou, who everybody in this political firmament knows because of his mischievous past. The member for Grayndler, on the other hand, has never heard of them!

So the reason that the motion for the suspension of standing orders should not be supported is that we on this side of the House want to get on with the business of government. We want to reform the building and construction industry. We want to bring back the Australian Building and Construction Commission. Mr Speaker, I am happy to curtail my remarks because, after we hear from the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, I have great pleasure in knowing that the Prime Minister intends to contribute to this debate.

12:17 pm

Photo of Tanya PlibersekTanya Plibersek (Sydney, Australian Labor Party, Deputy Leader of the Opposition) Share this | | Hansard source

I think, both on this side and the other side, we would have been happy to allow the Leader of the House to continue, indeed to extend, the time available for this debate, because we did not hear one single word about guns from the Leader of the House—not a single word about gun control and the risk to this nation if the strong gun-control laws introduced by John Howard as Prime Minister are watered down. And watered down why? For a nasty deal to introduce an unnecessary Building and Construction Commission. The Leader of the House does not even have the courage to say what the member for Warringah has said:

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

If those opposite want to make a case for it, of course they have every right to make a case for it. But we should never, ever water down gun laws in this country, particularly not for a grubby deal like this.

Every single Australian adult who was of an age two decades ago to remember the Port Arthur massacre would remember exactly where they were that evening as the news came through of those 35 Australians who lost their lives and the 18 who were injured—and there were thousands, if not millions, I would say, who were traumatised to hear of that crime in this country. There are a lot of things that I did not agree with John Howard about, but he took action. He drew something good from this tragedy, something that all Australians could be proud of. Prime Minister Howard said at the time, in 1996:

We have an opportunity in this country not to go down the American path.

I can tell members that those who are fighting for better gun control in the United States use us as an example often. They say, 'Australia had a shocking tragedy, an unthinkable tragedy, but they used that tragedy for good.'

In the United States this year, 2016, there have been 11,616 gun deaths according to the latest report. Three hundred of those have been in mass shootings. In Australia, in the decade between 1986 and 1996, this country had 10 mass shootings. How many have we had since those gun laws were amended? How many have we had since those gun laws were tightened? None. We have had no mass shootings. What is this parliament being asked to do?

Photo of Michael KeenanMichael Keenan (Stirling, Liberal Party, Minister for Justice) Share this | | Hansard source

We all agree.

Photo of Tanya PlibersekTanya Plibersek (Sydney, Australian Labor Party, Deputy Leader of the Opposition) Share this | | Hansard source

Well, rule it out! What is this parliament being asked to do? This parliament is being asked by the proponents of this change to allow into this country a gun, the Adler A110 five-shot weapon, which can be converted to a 14-shot gun with a do-it-yourself magazine. These do-it-yourself magazines are already for sale in Australia. In fact, Curtin University's Professor Charles Watson called for this shotgun to be banned, saying:

… in reality the Adler is a modern firearm that looks and operates like a semiautomatic weapon …

Do we want to put these weapons into the hands of more Australians? We do not.

We have already seen gun laws watered down in this country. We have already seen it happening. We have seen it happening in exchange for Senator Leyonhjelm's vote on border control legislation, with the government putting an automatic expiry date on the 7 August ban on the Adler. We have seen the fate of the banned lever-action shotguns— (Time expired)

12:22 pm

Photo of Malcolm TurnbullMalcolm Turnbull (Wentworth, Liberal Party, Prime Minister) Share this | | Hansard source

The opposition is endeavouring to create a distraction from the real agenda of this parliament, which is to end the lawlessness on the construction and building sites of Australia. Let me be very clear: we stand by John Howard's national firearms agreement; we are proud of it. As I said on the radio this morning, every day Australians watch the news they are reminded of what a coalition government did, what John Howard did, what our side of politics did. It was the Liberal and the National parties that put in place that agreement.

Photo of Malcolm TurnbullMalcolm Turnbull (Wentworth, Liberal Party, Prime Minister) Share this | | Hansard source

Honourable members opposite want to know about the Adler lever action gun. If they stop shouting, I will tell them.

Ms Butler interjecting

Photo of Tony SmithTony Smith (Speaker) Share this | | Hansard source

The member for Griffith is warned!

Photo of Malcolm TurnbullMalcolm Turnbull (Wentworth, Liberal Party, Prime Minister) Share this | | Hansard source

Under the current national firearms agreement, lever action shotguns are category A. There has been a move on the COAG committee of justice ministers to have those guns reclassified, which we have supported. Because agreement has not been reached, we put in place an import ban, which expired in August this year, so we have renewed it and we have renewed it indefinitely. What that means, of course, is that—

Photo of Tanya PlibersekTanya Plibersek (Sydney, Australian Labor Party, Deputy Leader of the Opposition) Share this | | Hansard source

A temporary ban!

Photo of Tony SmithTony Smith (Speaker) Share this | | Hansard source

The member for Sydney is warned!

Photo of Malcolm TurnbullMalcolm Turnbull (Wentworth, Liberal Party, Prime Minister) Share this | | Hansard source

It is not a temporary ban. It is permanent. It is set in stone. It can be amended, but it is there—like any import ban. If the honourable member is seriously interested in the safety of Australians, as I trust we all are, let me explain. Firearms are classified under the national firearms agreement as category A, B, C or D. Category A guns are relatively readily able to be acquired. For category B you need to nominate a specific purpose, like primary production. Firearms in categories C and D are very, very difficult to obtain, and appropriately so. So the debate that is being conducted and has not yet been agreed between the state jurisdictions, who of course have the regulation of firearms, is whether and how the Adler seven-shot lever action gun should be classified. What my government has done is to ensure that no Adler lever action guns with more than five rounds can be imported in any category. They cannot be imported at all.

Honourable members interjecting

What we have done is put a stop on it. The fact is that we stand by the national firearms agreement. We want to see it stronger. We are supporting that with an import ban. We are proud of the achievements of John Howard. The action of the opposition in trying to use this as a distraction is a disgrace.

Mr Brendan O'Connor interjecting

Photo of Tony SmithTony Smith (Speaker) Share this | | Hansard source

The member for Gorton is warned!

Photo of Malcolm TurnbullMalcolm Turnbull (Wentworth, Liberal Party, Prime Minister) Share this | | Hansard source

I tell you that ban will remain in place until such time as there is a satisfactory reclassification of these guns by the COAG committee. That was the purpose of the ban when we first put it in place; that was the purpose when we renewed it. We stand by our commitment for the public safety of Australians.

The national firearms agreement is our achievement. It is John Howard's achievement. It is not Labor's achievement. We get this mock sympathy from the Labor Party. The Labor Party would be better off cleaning up its own house rather than creating distractions.

Honourable members interjecting

Photo of Tony SmithTony Smith (Speaker) Share this | | Hansard source

The member for Griffith will leave under 94(a).

The member for Griffith then left the chamber.

Photo of Malcolm TurnbullMalcolm Turnbull (Wentworth, Liberal Party, Prime Minister) Share this | | Hansard source

The national firearms agreement is defended. It stands here and so does the ban.

12:26 pm

Photo of Mr Tony BurkeMr Tony Burke (Watson, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Minister for Finance) Share this | | Hansard source

If it is the position of the government that they will never water down Australia's gun laws, then they will vote for this motion. If it is the position of the government that they will not trade the gun laws to win a vote on the ABCC, they will vote for this motion. If they will not vote for this motion, then you can see why. The member for Warringah was on Twitter only minutes ago saying:

Disturbing to see reports of horse-trading on gun laws.

If those reports are inaccurate, then every member of this House will vote for this motion. If those reports are accurate and gun laws are being traded for a vote in the Senate, then there will be a decision in this House in a few moments time.

Photo of Tony SmithTony Smith (Speaker) Share this | | Hansard source

The time allotted for this debate is expired. The question is that the motion moved by the Leader of the Opposition be agreed to. A division is required. In accordance with standing order 133, the division is deferred until after the discussion on the matter of public importance. The debate on this item is therefore adjourned until that time.