House debates

Tuesday, 18 October 2016

Questions without Notice

Gun Control

2:11 pm

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

My question is to the Prime Minister. This morning the Prime Minister was asked what should be the easiest question that a Liberal or Labor Prime Minister is ever expected to answer. Given the Prime Minister refused to give a direct answer, I ask again: will the Prime Minister rule out weakening John Howard's gun laws as a part of horse-trading in the Senate?

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

As I indicated on the radio this morning and as I indicated earlier today in the House, there is no prospect, no chance, of my government weakening—watering down—John Howard's gun laws. And, I might say, there is no proposal being made to do so. I want to explain to honourable members very clearly what the position is.

The National Firearms Agreement in 1996 was one of John Howard's great achievements. It is one of the great prides of the coalition. Under the National Firearms Agreement, honourable members should be aware that lever-action shotguns are listed as category A, which makes them—subject to the regulations that we have around firearms—readily able to be acquired by people who conform with the necessary regulations.

What occurred last year, as honourable members may be aware, was that there was a proposal to import a large number of lever-action shotguns, the Adler shotguns. What that meant was that, in the views of many law enforcement officials, the 1996 National Firearms Agreement, John Howard's gun laws if you like, had not kept up with technology. There was a need for the council of Australian justice ministers—the Law, Crime and Community Safety Council—to consider this matter, and the Commonwealth has sought for us all to reach a consensus and reclassify these lever-action guns.

Because there had been a failure to reach that consensus, the government imposed a ban on importing lever-action shotguns of more than five rounds. That was not designed to weaken or vary John Howard's gun laws. It was to hold the ring and prevent those lever-action guns of that capacity to be imported at all. That ban had a 12-month duration. When it came up for expiry it was renewed, and the minister is working hard to ensure that his counterparts in the states agree on a reclassification of these guns that they can reach consensus on, with the advice of their police commissioners.

So, to be very clear, there is no chance at all, no prospect whatsoever, no proposal to weaken John Howard's gun laws. What has been identified is an area in his gun laws where there needs to be strengthening, and that is what is before the relevant ministers at the moment.