Senate debates

Monday, 21 November 2016

Regulations and Determinations

Customs (Prohibited Imports) Amendment (Shotguns and Shotgun Magazines) Regulation 2016; Disallowance

6:10 pm

Photo of David LeyonhjelmDavid Leyonhjelm (NSW, Liberal Democratic Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I move:

That the Customs (Prohibited Imports) Amendment (Shotguns and Shotgun Magazines) Regulation 2016, made under the Customs Act 1901, be disallowed.

I am moving to disallow this regulation which reimposes an import ban on the Adler seven-shot lever-action shotgun. I am bound to do this to highlight the government's treachery in dealing with me and to honour my commitment to Australia's 800,000 licensed firearm owners.

On 6 August 2015, the government banned the importation of seven-shot lever-action shotguns. I immediately voiced my opposition, and, on 12 August 2015, the government agreed in writing to sunset the import ban in exchange for my vote on another matter. The sunset was due to take effect on 7 August 2016. The details of the agreement are contained in an exchange of emails which are now in the public domain. I honoured my part of the agreement: I voted with the government to oppose a Labor amendment to a bill. It was not a matter of high principle, but I would not have voted that way but for the deal.

At first, the government kept its side of the bargain, making a regulation on 4 September 2015 that would have lifted the import ban on 7 August 2016. However, on 28 July 2016, little more than a week before the sunset was due to take effect, the government made a new regulation reimposing the import ban. That is the subject of this disallowance motion.

The Minister for Justice, Mr Keenan, called me on the day he announced the reimposition of the import ban. When I pointed out that he was breaking our agreement, he told me that he had never had any intention of allowing the shotgun to be imported. In other words, the government did a deal with me, in writing, in order to get my vote, in full knowledge that it would never abide by the deal. There is a technical term for that; it is what is known as dirty dealing.

In the 45th Parliament, the government will require the support of all but two crossbench senators to achieve a majority when opposed by Labor and the Greens. Securing that support is obviously more likely if it is honourable and negotiates in good faith. But, before I go further on that, let me first consider the merits of the import ban itself.

The ban applies to lever-action shotguns with magazines of more than five rounds. It also prohibits the importation of magazines for lever-action shotguns that hold more than five rounds. The best known brand of lever-action shotgun is the Adler, which is made in Turkey, but there are several other brands from China and Italy. Lever-action shotguns and rifles have been around for well over a century. Some say they were first sold by Winchester—lever-action rifles from 1867 and lever-action shotguns from 1887. There is some disagreement on the details around that but no disagreement about their longevity. They are not new technology. In fact, they have barely changed in over a century.

The benefit of a lever- action shotgun is that it does not have to be reloaded from shell s in your pocket, like one with a single shot or a double barrel. It is reloaded by cranking the lever. For those hunting rabbits, foxes and pigs, the ability to get repeat shots away relatively easily can mean the difference between eliminating pests and watching them escape. It is nowhere near as fast as a semiautomatic and still quite a bit slower than a pump action, but it is better than fumbling around with shells in your pocket. Lever actions also have a sporting use. There is a discipline called '3-gun practical', involving pistols, rifles and shotguns, which is not very practical if the shotgun can only fire two shots. So lever-action shotguns are used in this discipline, at least in Australia.

The idea that lever-action shotguns can be fired rapidly and that this makes them dangerous is sometimes mentioned as a reason for prohibiting them. Yes, if you crank the lever fairly quickly it is possible to fire off shots in somewhat quick succession, although not as fast as a semiautomatic or a pump action, but you cannot do that and hit what you are aiming at. There is no way of cranking a lever action while maintaining a point of aim. Shotguns have substantial recoil, which makes keeping them on target difficult at the same time as firing rapidly. In other words, if you fire quickly you will miss. If you want to hit what you are aiming at, slow fire is best. Anyone who knows about guns knows that and also knows full well that those who say otherwise are ignorant and foolish. It does not matter whether they are law enforcement, politicians or media: ignorance is ignorance. You can have your own opinions, but you cannot have your own facts.

A desperate gun control advocate might say that, 'A criminal may still choose a lever-action shotgun, because they do not care if they fail to hit what they aim at.' But lever action shotguns have never been the firearm of choice for criminals. If you saw off the barrel, you also saw off the magazine. It becomes a single shot. Not only that, but the Adler seven-shot shotgun has a barrel length of 28 inches—hardly something that you could hide down your shorts.

As I mentioned, the import ban in question covers lever-action shotguns with magazines of more than five rounds. It does not affect five-shot lever-action shotguns, which can be imported and legally owned. Like other shotguns, they are in category A, consistent with the National Firearms Agreement. The import ban also does not prevent anyone from converting a five-shot Adler into a seven- or eight-shot simply by fitting a longer tube magazine. There is nothing illegal about it, and plenty of people are doing it. The only restriction is that the longer magazine has to be made in Australia, because the import ban means they cannot be imported. Thus, the import ban achieves nothing. It is certainly not preventing the ownership and use of seven-shot lever-action shotguns. Not that there is anything special about the presence of two extra rounds in the magazine. They do not transform it from a safe firearm to a dangerous firearm. Neither a mass murder nor a terrorist attack is more likely because of those two extra rounds. Being a shotgun, its range is very limited. Whereas a lever-action rifle might have a danger range of 500 metres, a lever-action shotgun is not much of a threat beyond 60 or 70 metres. It is worth remembering that the permitted magazine capacity of the lever-action rifle, as with any other rifle, is 10 rounds. Ten rounds is also the magazine limit on pistols—many of which are semiautomatic.

Of the more than 800,000 firearm owners in Australia, relatively few want to own a lever-action shotgun, and very few care whether their lever-action shotgun holds five rounds or seven. However, every one of them knows the implications of creeping regulation on their sport. They know if it is lever-action shotguns today, it will be something else tomorrow. The firearms section in the Attorney-General's Department has had an agenda of incremental restrictions on firearms for over a decade. Semiautomatic pistols, pump action rifles, lever-action shotguns and lever-action rifles are on the list. The 800,000 firearm owners in Australia will not take this lying down. Indeed, I am making it my business to ensure that they all know what is being done to them. For the government, there are a lot of votes to be lost and not one to be gained on this issue.

This disallowance is about much more than the fact that the government has failed to stick to an agreement. It is about what is being done to sporting shooters—taking yet another slice off the salami, yet another step in the process of disarming law-abiding Australians, preventing them from enjoying their sport, hunting and collecting activities. It is about another step towards a disarmed society, where only the police, military, security guards and criminals have guns.

Some might see what happened to me as part of the cut and thrust of politics. I do not. There was cut and thrust in the negotiation of the agreement. The government could have chosen, at any time, to withdraw. Instead, they gave their word, which they have now broken. It is about trust. In the interests of all the negotiations to come, I call on government senators to support the disallowance of this regulation. In the interests of fairness to 800,000 decent, law-abiding Australians, I call on all senators to support the disallowance.

6:21 pm

Photo of Kim CarrKim Carr (Victoria, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Minister Assisting the Leader for Science) Share this | | Hansard source

I thank the government for their indulgence in allowing the opposition to speak first on this disallowance. Owing to private circumstances, I will not be able to speak on it later on. However, in my remarks I will pass on to Senator Moore, who I trust will be able to assist in that regard.

I will indicate that, fundamentally, the opposition reject Senator Leyonhjelm's position on gun control. We take the view that these are issues that go beyond, as he said, his concern about the way in which he has been treated by the government in negotiations on other matters. This is fundamentally an issue which we believe ought be the subject of a bipartisan approach, and that is the approach that we have taken on this question. I am particularly disturbed by Senator Leyonhjelm's statement that, on a matter that he said was not of great principle to him, he was prepared to trade his vote in return for government action in lifting the ban on the importation of the Adler shotgun.

It strikes me as extraordinary that a senator would stand in this place and quite openly announce that he was prepared to trade his vote on a matter which he said was not one of principle to get the government to support him on such a controversial question. Of course, he feels that this is not just about the regulations concerning the use of this particular weapon but about much more substantial questions about the disarming of people in this country. He said to us that it was a question of trust. I find this an extraordinary proposition to put in the open chamber. I have not quite heard anything like it in the many, many years I have been here now. I find it an amazing situation that this is a matter of libertarian principle from my colleague here, and it is a principle in whose pursuit the senator is prepared to trade his vote.

What is even more disturbing, though, is that the government was prepared to entertain this and was prepared to accommodate Senator Leyonhjelm on these questions. Whether or not the government has now reneged on the deal, the fact that the proposition was actually entered into as a serious one is one that should be of great concern to this chamber and, I would suggest, more broadly within our community.

In the aftermath of the Port Arthur shootings in 1996, there was a cross-party understanding that we should restrict the ownership of firearms in Australia. This is not America. We in this country do understand the importance of not privatising personal security. We take the view—and I think there is widespread public support on this matter—that there ought not be a proposition that the individual is responsible for arming themselves as a means of providing security, that it is a legitimate function of the state to regulate the use of firearms. While recognising that licensed firearm dealers, by and large, are very law-abiding people, the need for us to individually arm ourselves comes from a philosophy which I think is an anathema to the political culture in this country. Community protection and individual personal security—I want to emphasise this—should never be a matter that requires privatised action. It should be the responsibility of the state to ensure that people have that personal security.

What strikes me is that Australians have come to accept that principle. In the United States we see a completely different attitude. In fact, what we see is enlightened people in the United States pointing to Australia to show what can be done by government to enhance opportunities for ordinary people to live safely. We only have to look at the statistics of the number of people killed in this country with the use of firearms and compare it to the number of people killed with firearms in the United States. It is 10 times more likely to be the case that a person will be killed in the United States than in Australia. What is the fundamental difference? The fundamental difference is one of philosophy—that the public accepts it is necessary for the state to regulate the use of firearms. This is one measure that John Howard got right. This is a measure that ought to be supported by this parliament. It is a measure I trust the parliament this evening will follow through on and that it will reject this particular measure that Senator Leyonhjelm is proposing for a disallowance. I will leave it at that point. Thank you very much.

6:26 pm

Photo of Brian BurstonBrian Burston (NSW, Pauline Hanson's One Nation Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I rise to speak in support of the motion moved by Senator Leyonhjelm in relation to the Adler shotgun. When people complain about politicians who are more concerned with appearance than reality, who are disconnected from normal people and who are more interested in scoring points than fixing problems you would struggle to find a better example than the way this debate has been handled and the lies and misrepresentations that have been spread about.

The weapon itself at the heart of this debate should be entirely uncontroversial. If any firearm has a legitimate purpose this one does. Aside from the entirely safe and responsible practice of recreational target shooting, many farmers rely on firearms to deal with pests and feral animals that endanger both stock and the natural environment. Shotguns are in many cases the best weapon for dealing with these predators. Against a moving target at close range, they are far superior to rivals and handguns. There is a legitimate need for shotguns in rural Australia if we are to protect both our farmers' livelihoods and our national wildlife.

There is also a legitimate purpose for medium-capacity shotguns. It is common for some feral animals—pigs, in particular—to move in and about in medium-sized groups. It is not at all uncommon to see a group of five or six feral pigs running around together. If you have a shotgun that holds just two shells, the most you can hope for is to get two of those pigs. A pig that gets away is a pig that will likely inflict some very painful and very gruesome deaths on other animals. So let's have no silly talk about animal cruelty here. The cruellest thing we can do is to let these vicious predators roam unchecked. There is a legitimate reason for this gun to be sold in Australia. Not everyone will be in a situation where this gun is necessary or useful for them but some will be, and they should have the right to access it.

On the other hand, is there a compelling reason to block it? Could allowing this gun lead to massacres such as the tragic event at Port Arthur? Could it be used by underworld figures as part of their criminal activity? The simple answer to that, of course, is no. Long arms such as rifles and shotguns are tremendously impractical for committing crimes. Looking at FBI statistics from the United States on gun violence—and I think we would all agree that the US has a much bigger sample size in this regard than we do—there were 12,000 murders in 2014, the last year for which we have data. Of those murders, 262 were committed by shotgun. That is about two per cent. More people were killed with blunt objects. By comparison, there were 1,500 murders with knives in that time—about six times as many. But surely no-one is silly enough to suggest we should ban kitchen knives?

Sitting suspended from 18:30 to 19 : 30

The simple fact of the matter is that long arms are very unsuitable weapons for criminal activity. They are big, cumbersome and difficult to conceal. But even these statistics overstate the danger of the Adler seven-round shotgun. While handguns are far and away the weapon of choice for gun murderers, it is true that a small number will use sawn-off shotguns. By cutting off the barrel of the gun, a shotgun can be made more concealable and more suited to crime. It is uncommon, but it does happen. And this is where a significant proportion of the 262 shotgun murders come from. However, the Adler seven-shot shotgun cannot possibly be used in this way. This particular weapon has the magazine built into the barrel of the gun. If you were to attempt to saw off the barrel of one of these guns, you would ruin the weapon and make it unusable for anything.

So, this is a gun that has a very valid and legitimate purpose, and which is exceptionally unsuited for carrying out violent crime. If any gun should be allowed in Australia, it is this one. Indeed, the five-shot version is perfectly legal, and it is also perfectly legal to purchase a magazine extension to increase the capacity of that version to seven. So, there are already perfectly legal seven-shot Adler shotguns in the country. Where is the murder spree? Where is the chaos and violence? But God forbid those larger magazines are built in instead of added on. That difference, we are to believe, will kill us all. The rhetoric around this issue has been hysterical. The Leader of the Opposition, among others, has claimed that allowing this weapon would be watering down John Howard's gun laws. What utter nonsense. Guns of this nature were never banned under Howard's prime ministership. This is not John Howard's legacy; it is Tony Abbott's and Malcolm Turnbull's. John Howard's laws were targeted at automatic and semi-automatic weapons. The Adler is neither of these. It is a manually reloaded, lever-action, single-shot weapon.

We are not talking about a machine gun or an assault rifle here. Yet we see responsible gun owners treated like trigger-happy psychopaths, for the crime of wanting to practise responsible pest management. It is like there is a cloud of unreality that hangs over this building, and the people in it occupy an entirely different world to people outside. They live in a world where peace-loving Australians are champing at the bit to go on murder sprees just as soon as they can get a seven-round shotgun instead of a five-round one. I know there are some among the National Party here who know exactly how crazy this whole confected controversy is. And yet they feel constrained from speaking too loudly or clearly in opposition to it, because they are beholden to their Liberal Party masters. You can hardly be surprised, then, when their voters turn to parties that are not wholly owned subsidiaries of the Liberals, as they did in Orange.

Beyond the facts of the issue, there is another principle at stake. That is the principle of standing by commitments. I speak here of my crossbench colleagues, some of whom, I recognise, may have a very different view than me on firearm regulation. The deal that was struck by Senator Leyonhjelm with the government on this issue was a concrete deal, in writing, and it has become clear that the government never had any intention of honouring it. Even worse, they have had the shamelessness to claim no deal ever existed—even though the text of their agreement is now publicly available for everyone to see. We hear claims that we now live in a post-truth society, and, watching the brazen behaviour of the Liberal Party on this issue, one can feel sympathy for that assessment.

If the government is able to break faith on this issue, for no good reason and with no consequence, one could hardly blame it if it decided it could get away with it while dealing with Senator Hinch, Senator Lambie or Senator Xenophon. Governments, both Liberal and Labor, will break their promises sometimes. We all know this. But I see no reason for we crossbenchers, or for the Senate as a whole, to assist them in doing so. Say what you mean, and do what you say—that is the standard that the Australian people demand, and that is the standard that we should hold this government to. Pauline Hanson's One Nation is proud to support the motion proposed by Senator Leyonhjelm.

7:35 pm

Photo of Deborah O'NeillDeborah O'Neill (NSW, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

From the outset, I want to say very clearly that the opposition fundamentally rejects Senator Leyonhjelm's position on gun control. Therefore, we do not support his motion to disallow Customs (Prohibited Imports) Amendment (Shotguns and Shotgun Magazines) Regulation 2016. This is in the context of the lived history of Australians. In the aftermath of the Port Arthur shootings in 1996, a cross-party understanding was reached on restricting ownership of firearms in Australia. It was not a partisan matter then, nor should it be now.

Labor accepts that the Howard government's initiative in removing rapid-fire weapons from circulation was necessary for community safety. The decline in gun related deaths in this country speaks for itself. It is idle to object, as gun advocates like to do, by saying that deaths have not fallen in each year since 1996. They have fallen overall. As Ms Lesley Podesta, the CEO of the Alannah & Madeline Foundation, has pointed out, in the decade before Port Arthur there were 11 mass shootings in Australia—more than one a year. In the decades since Port Arthur, there have been none. It is undeniable that the gun buyback scheme and the introduction of tougher gun laws have made this country a safer place in which to live. I acknowledge that there are those in the chamber who hold a very different view, but that is the view held by very many Australians, and I am glad to put it on the record this evening. The number of guns in Australia was reduced by one fifth and the number of households with guns dropped by a half. There has been a decline in homicides by gun and a dramatic drop in suicides by gun. According to data published in the American Law and Economics Review in 2010, an estimated 200 lives a year were saved by the changes in Australia's gun control regime.

The core principle of that regime was that rapid-fire weapons should be subject to the greatest restrictions. Some argue that shotguns, including the lever-action shotgun that is prohibited under the important regulations that Senator Leyonhjelm wants to disallow, should be treated differently. That is an evasive quibble. What matters is that we are talking about a rapid-fire weapon with a large magazine capacity. The international version of the Adler shotgun under discussion here this evening has a magazine capacity of seven rounds, with another in the chamber—in other words, it can fire up to eight shots in quick succession. It can easily be modified to hold up to 11 rounds.

The Adler is now listed as a category A firearm—the least restrictive category and the easiest to buy. Category A licences are held by recreational shooters and are notionally limit ownership to guns with the lowest rate of fire, such as bolt-action rifles and shotguns that can hold only two cartridges. Pump-action shotguns, because of their higher magazine capacity and relatively higher rate of fire, are normally classified as category C or D, the kinds of licences held by farmers and professional shooters. It is anomalous that the Adler is in category A. It happened because, when the Howard government toughened up the gun laws under the National Firearms Agreement in 1995, lever-action shotguns were not considered worthy of attention, unlike pump-action shotguns. The Adler shotgun was popularised by Robert Nioa, the son-in-law of the member for Kennedy. He tried to import thousands of Turkish-made seven-shot Adlers, but when a temporary ban was implemented, they were modified by regulation to become five-shot weapons.

Senator Leyonhjelm would like to overturn this restriction. For Senator Leyonhjelm this is a matter of libertarian principle, a principle whose pursuit he is prepared to trade with his vote. The tragedy is that the Liberals in government have been prepared to accommodate Senator Leyonhjelm in regard to this matter.

Labor recognises that the vast majority of firearm owners in Australia comply with the law, and we acknowledge the work that their associations have done in promoting safe storage and responsible use of firearms. But the law must also concern itself with the minority who might not act responsibly. Gun technology will evolve, and it is appropriate that firearms legislation be reviewed from time to time. When the review of the National Firearms Agreement is complete, Labor will give careful consideration to any recommendations that are made. But we see no reason why the prohibition of the import of this particular type of shotgun should be disallowed. On the contrary, prohibiting the import of this lever-action shotgun is consistent with the intent of the changes in federal and state laws since the horrific shooting at Port Arthur.

Senator Leyonhjelm may rage against what he sees as the government's refusal to honour a deal on making the import ban subject to a sunset clause. He is a libertarian; let him rage. Extending the import ban is a sensible decision in the interests of community safety. It is spurious to argue that this is a case of the nanny state overriding the rights of individuals to arm themselves. For Labor, the practical work of saving lives and preventing violence will never be sacrificed to libertarian ideological purity. Saving lives will never be sacrificed to Liberal political expediency.

Until recently, Australians had reason to believe that the government would maintain bipartisanship on this matter. Who would have expected the current lot of Liberals to trash John Howard's legacy; but that is exactly what they have done with a succession of dirty deals and backflips on this issue. In August 2015, the government banned the Adler A110. Five days later, touting for votes against Labor's amendments to a migration bill, the Minister for Justice and the Minister for Immigration and Border Protection cut a deal with Senator Leyonhjelm. I want to reflect on the language used by Senator Leyonhjelm in his opening comments today. Senator Leyonhjelm, I understand completely your sense that there has been an abuse of the trust that you have displayed in your own dealings with the government, when you said that you voted with the government in line with your agreement. You would not have voted that way, you declared. It was about a bill that you said was a matter of no consequence. I think they were your exact words—'a matter of no consequence'.

I would not call a matter entitled the Migration Amendment (Strengthening Biometrics Integrity) Bill 2015 a matter of no consequence. In fact, it is a piece of legislation that is of great consequence and has significant impact on Australians. The government practises, as you clearly said, in dirty dealing. 'Dirty dealing' is how you described it, Senator Leyonhjelm, and I think that in that regard you absolutely hit the nail on the head. It is certainly palpable that you are very, very disappointed. But that is the style of governing and the style of communication—the contemptuous style of government—which you saw firsthand in the last parliament and now seems to have been replicated by Mr Turnbull, who has traded in his leather jacket and decided to wear Tony Abbott's suit and try the same sort of technologies.

Five days after touting for votes against Labor's amendments to a migration bill, the Minister for Justice and the Minister for Immigration and Border Protection cut a deal with Senator Leyonhjelm. They agreed to restrict the Adler ban by means of a sunset clause, which would have lifted the ban in August this year. But as that date approached the government was embarrassed by the prospect of having to explain to the Australian people why they were willing to allow these weapons into the country. So they buckled, and repudiated their dirty deal with Senator Leyonhjelm. More recently, there have been rumours of yet another backflip on gun safety. The Prime Minister was said to be considering watering down Australian gun laws in the hope of persuading the crossbench in the Senate to wave through his anti-union legislation. Let's face it: if it worked once, why wouldn't he try it again? It worked for Tony Abbott; so, flattering Tony Abbott, I suppose Mr Turnbull thought that he should have a go and see if it would help him get some tricky legislation through, too.

What we have seen with this Adler shotgun saga has shown that the government cannot be trusted on gun safety. Senator McKenzie, the member for Parkes, who I note is in the chamber, and the member for Moore, are all calling for this gun to be allowed in this country. These events have also shown—

Photo of Bridget McKenzieBridget McKenzie (Victoria, National Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Point of order, Mr Acting Deputy President. My understanding of the standing orders is you need to refer to senators by their correct title. I am actually senator for the great state of Victoria not the member for the seat that Senator O'Neill was talking about.

Photo of Chris KetterChris Ketter (Queensland, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

That is a point of order. Thank you. Senator O'Neill.

Photo of Deborah O'NeillDeborah O'Neill (NSW, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Senator McKenzie, I acknowledge that you do represent the state of Victoria. I could not call it 'the great state'! Being a senator from New South Wales, myself, I will have to claim ascendancy there. We are the premier state, New South Wales!

What we see from Senator McKenzie in calling for this gun to be allowed is a very, very different view of the importance of protecting the Australian people. Labor is very proud to stand in support of gun laws that have seen improvements in the expectation to be able to move freely in our community without fear of being shot by such implements as we are discussing here this evening.

The events that we have seen also show weakness and incompetence on the part of the Prime Minister and his predecessor, the member for Warringah. They have presided over a mess in which ministers have traded guns for votes and then broken their promises when keeping them became inconvenient. The manoeuvrings over the Adler ban were even caught up in the continuing rivalry between Mr Turnbull and Mr Abbott. Australians were treated to the unedifying spectacle of the Prime Minister and the member for Warringah sparring in the other place over just what was promised to Senator Leyonhjelm in August last year. Senator Leyonhjelm was watching with great interest, I am sure, to see what happened, but the outcome was that Mr Abbott lost that round. However, you could not say that the Prime Minister has emerged unscathed, because the government has changed its position on multiple occasions and no-one in the government is willing to take responsibility for the multiple messes they have made in managing this piece of legislation and this commitment to Senator Leyonhjelm, through the many sagas that have emerged.

It is not Labor's approach to the matter. We are clear: we will not risk undermining public safety in order to chase votes in the Senate, and that is what we are talking about—trading guns for votes. We will not be complicit in the weakening of Australian gun safety laws, which have kept us safe for two decades and set a benchmark for the world.

On the 20th anniversary of the Port Arthur massacre, the Alannah & Madeline Foundation started a national petition urging states and the federal parliament not to water down gun laws. Almost 60,000 people have signed that petition, and opinion polls regularly indicate that 80 per cent of Australians want the strict controls on firearms to be maintained. That may annoy libertarians like Senator Leyonhjelm, but it should surprise no-one.

Australians know that they live in a safe country, and they value that fact. They do not want this country to imitate the United States, where gun crime is prolific and people are unsafe—the country in which gun ownership is normalised under an 18th century understanding of the need to maintain a militia. The modern consequences of that outdated statute in the US are beyond tragic. Mass shootings have become commonplace in the United States. That country has more than 300 million guns in circulation, and that is more than one per person. One in 10,000 Americans will die as a result of gun injury. That compares with one in 100,000 Australians. I think we should stick with the Australian statistics, and stick with the legislative reform and gun control that we enacted as a bipartisan national response to the tragedy of Port Arthur, which captured the public imagination and helped us crystallise the sort of society that we want to live in and the sort of society in which restrictions on the freedom of some who would seek to use particular guns for particular purposes are balanced against the freedom and safety of the many.

When we look at the statistics, Americans are 10 times more likely to be killed by someone using a gun than Australians are. That is the consequence of the sort of open slather gun regime that Senator Leyonhjelm thinks is acceptable. The mass shootings in public in the US have been well publicised. We know the tragic litany of place names—places we have never visited but where we know this great tragedy of the abuse of guns has occurred—Orlando, Charleston, San Bernardino, Sandy Hook and Virginia Tech. But, as gun control advocates like Lesley Podesta remind us, gun violence is not always in a public place. I am not referring to those Hollywood style shootouts between cops and gangsters. Every day in the US five women are murdered with guns—five every day. Many of those deaths take place in the context of domestic violence. We know that the scourge of domestic violence is still far from being ended here in Australia. Moving to American style gun laws would only make the present danger that so many women and children experience even worse than it already is.

It must be hoped that the review of the National Firearms Agreement will not be subverted by those who want this country to go backyards on gun safety. Making it easier to import and own Adler A10 shotguns would undoubtedly do that. It is a disgrace that the government has resorted to vote-trading on this fundamental issue of public safety. But, if it now chooses to adhere to the original ban, it can at least redeem some of its sullied reputation.

The power of the gun lobby in the United States is legendary. The argument, 'Guns do not kill people, people do,' is bunkum. Enlighted Americans look to Australia as an example of what can be done with widespread public support to control firearms and make the country a safer place to live. Community protection and individual or personal security are not something to be privatised, as they are in the United States, by individuals arming themselves. Proper regulation of firearms is a responsibility of the state and not a case of individual freedom.

In closing, can I say that this must be one of the more underhanded, convoluted and bungled deals in recent memory: trading access to firearms to secure firearms in the Senate, guns for votes. Those are the sorts of headlines we have seen swirling around this government; it does not get much worse. From a New South Wales point of view, this has the added intrigue of the greyhounds, coalition bickering and a Deputy Premier who has fallen on his sword after abandoning his people. It all reeks of disarray, division, weakness and deceit in the coalition within both the federal and state tiers of government. It reeks of horse trading away public safety for the sake of power.

Former Prime Minister Tony Abbott introduced this ban in the context of concerns around the Lindt Cafe siege in Sydney in 2014. And he backed that view up just last month when he said:

With a heightened terror threat, there is just no way that any serious Coalition government, any government in the tradition of John Howard should be allowing rapid fire weapons on a very large scale into our country.

We have made very clear Labor's position that we fundamentally reject Senator Leyonhjelm's position on gun control. But we also reject the way in which this government interjects with the crossbench. The crossbench are duly elected by the Australian people. In the last parliament we heard the name-calling from those opposite, from those who are supposed to be leading the government, of people who sat on the crossbench. Perhaps they have learnt their lesson and are name-calling a little less; but they are dirty dealing as much as they have ever done.

Senator Leyonhjelm's comments this evening are explosive. He said there is a better chance of the government getting agreement if it negotiates to secure crossbench votes in a way that is honourable and if it negotiates in good faith. Senator Leyonhjelm is clearly indicating to anyone who is watching around Australia that this is a government that no-one trusts. Even when getting their legislation through depends on doing a deal, they cannot be trusted. Senator Leyonhjelm honoured his deal—as much as I disagree with it. He gave his word—in the way businesses and decent people around Australia operate every day. He gave his word. But the government could not keep its word; it could not lie straight in bed; it is a government that you cannot trust. Senator Leyonhjelm has spelt out very clearly that that is absolutely the case: this is a government that you cannot trust. Labor will not support this disallowance motion by Senator Leyonhjelm.

7:55 pm

Photo of Penny WongPenny Wong (SA, Australian Labor Party, Leader of the Opposition in the Senate) Share this | | Hansard source

I rise to speak on Senator Leyonhjelm's motion to disallow the Customs (Prohibited Imports) Amendment (Shotguns and Shotgun Magazines) Regulation 2016. Whilst the opposition acknowledges the rationale behind Senator Leyonhjelm's desire to disallow this regulation, and his consistency in terms of his views in this area, as has been articulated we will be opposing the motion to disallow. However, I want to briefly address the context in which this regulation has been made. We know that the regulation amends the Customs (Prohibited Imports) Regulations 1956. The effect of the amending regulation, the regulation that Senator Leyonhjelm has moved to disallow, is to prohibit the importation into Australia of lever-action shotguns with a magazine capacity of more than five rounds. In addition, it prohibits the importation of firearm magazines with a capacity of more than five rounds for lever-action shotguns whether attached to a firearm or not.

Significantly, this regulation has the effect of maintaining the relevant prohibition as introduced and implemented by the Customs (Prohibited Imports) Amendment (Firearms and Firearm Magazines) Regulation 2015 whilst a review of the National Firearms Agreement continues. A previous regulation already provided for the relevant provisions in the prohibited imports regulation. However, the sun set on that regulation on 7 August 2016 and so it was necessary to make a new regulation to continue the ban.

Labor's position on the Adler A110 lever-action shotgun has always been clear: we do not support lifting the ban on the Adler. Tonight we will be sticking with our position and voting against the disallowance motion. This is because we say what we mean and we mean what we say. This cannot be said of those opposite. It is regrettable that this government has used this issue as a political tool for more than a year. It has gone through all of the dodgy processes possible: secret deals, broken promises, botched cover-ups and incoherent attempts at further deals. The government has ended up failing completely. In doing so, this government has risked the watering down of Australia's world-leading gun laws for political expediency. Labor has made it clear that we support the ban on the Adler. Labor has made it clear that we believe in strong gun laws because they save lives. We are worried about the risk to public safety if thousands of these shotguns are let into Australia, which is why we will be voting against the disallowance motion.

On 6 August 2015, Labor supported the government's decision to impose a ban on these shotguns from entering Australia whilst a review of the National Firearms Agreement was underway. There was significant concern in the community about the Adler lever-action shotgun, and Labor's position has always been that there should be a ban on the importation of these weapons whilst the review that I referred to was being undertaken. As I said, we support this ban because we support Australia's world-leading gun laws, because we are concerned about public safety. And we had hoped that the government was of the same mind. But from its actions it appears that the government does not care about gun control. When the government was short of votes in the Senate, it quickly turned to Senator Leyonhjelm and struck a deal to water down these gun laws. This is the deal they cut. The Minister for Justice and the Minister for Immigration and Border Protection agreed that the government would amend the Customs (Prohibited Imports) Regulations 1956 to put in a sunset clause so that the Adler ban was automatically lifted in 12 months. As we know, this sunset clause was implemented.

In return, Senator Leyonhjelm was to vote against Labor's amendments to the Migration Amendment (Strengthening Biometrics Integrity) Bill 2015. Not only did the government do this deal, but they put it in writing on 12 August 2015. Whilst I disagree with Senator Leyonhjelm's position on this, he is a man of his word, and he agrees to this deal. In his email to the Minister for Justice's staff, he even states, 'I am assuming good faith here.' It is obvious from what occurred subsequently that there was no such good faith. Fast-forward to 2 July 2016, and the government realises that they were facing the consequences of their deal with Senator Leyonhjelm. They realise that their desperate attempt to get votes is about to put thousands of these weapons into our communities. Public pressure mounts, and the government buckles and they put in place a regulation extending the ban—a regulation which Senator Leyonhjelm is now seeking to disallow.

Whilst we support the reinstatement of the ban, let me make it clear that the opposition does not endorse the government's behaviour—not their slippery position on the regulation, trading guns for votes, and not their treatment of Senator Leyonhjelm. When the government backflipped on the sunset clause, Senator Leyonhjelm was played. He was, in his own words, 'dudded'. He is right. The government welshed on their deal with him and betrayed him. He reacted, if I may say so, with honesty. He was up-front with the government about his position and patiently waited two months to get a straight answer from them on this issue. It was only when the government needed the senator's support on other legislation that they bothered to try to fix the mess that they had created.

Even after all of this backflipping and these tricks, the government have still not ruled out watering down our gun laws. This whole issue has been such a disaster, and yet none of those opposite are willing to take responsibility. Certainly there has been no responsibility taken by the Prime Minister, Mr Turnbull. In fact, he has been at pains to ensure he has distanced himself from the deal. On 18 October 2016, Malcolm Farr reported that Mr Turnbull had refused to rule out doing a deal on the shotgun regulation in return for the passage of antiworker industrial relations bills. The extent to which Mr Turnbull failed the test of leadership became obvious when we saw Mr Abbott, the member for Warringah and the former Prime Minister, also desperately trying to distance himself from this failed deal. On the same day as the Malcolm Farr story appeared, Mr Abbott tweeted:

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

Obviously, Labor's position is that the ABCC bill should fail on its merits. Notwithstanding this, Mr Abbott was fundamentally right when he condemned horsetrading with gun laws for a vote on industrial legislation. Mr Turnbull's weakness of leadership became further apparent the next day when members of the coalition came out in support of Senator Leyonhjelm's position. It is not a bad effort from the Prime Minister to foster a split in his own party room and trash the Howard legacy all in the space of a day. Then Mr Abbott said:

No deals from me. No deals from my office. No deal.

That was interesting because it led Mr Turnbull to contradict his predecessor by claiming:

… the Minister for Justice acted in the full knowledge of the Prime Minister's Office at that time.

Just picture this on the floor of the House of Representatives: the duelling versions of the truth from the current coalition Prime Minister and the former coalition Prime Minister. The former Prime Minister says: 'No deals from me. No deals from my office. No deal.' Mr Turnbull contradicts his predecessor and says, 'the Minister for Justice acted in the full knowledge of the Prime Minister's office at that time.' All the divisions in the government were opened up for all to see on the floor of the House of Representatives as the Prime Minister openly contradicted the former Prime Minister, who was then forced to make a personal explanation in the House of Representatives. What an extraordinary spectacle! I cannot recall a time when we have seen that sort of open warfare, an open contesting of the truth, from one Prime Minister to a former Prime Minister on the floor of the House. I think the only thing that is certain in all of this, with all the claims and counterclaims—'It wasn't me, it was him'; 'No, it wasn't, it was him'—and all of the obfuscation, ducking and weaving that we have seen, is that the government made a deal with Senator Leyonhjelm to get his vote, and then they broke it when it suited them. I think that is absolutely clear.

This is a government that often likes to talk about the unworkable Senate. It is unsurprising they have a bit of a tough time at times in this chamber, given their poorly concealed disdain for those who disagree with them, particularly some members of the crossbench. We in the Labor Party often do not have the same policy position as senators on the crossbench, but I think we are pretty clear with them about that. We tell them what we can support and what we cannot. We try to have integrity in our dealings with them. You cannot say the same of the government, which is prepared to do a deal and then walk away from it when the political circumstances demand otherwise. Let us all remember what the Prime Minister said when the crossbench was elected to the Senate. He described their election to the Senate in 2013 as a disgrace.

We also all remember the 44th Parliament—perhaps some of us do not because some senators were not here—in which the government sought to get around the crossbenchers as much as possible. First it was by dealing exclusively with the Palmer United Party, and then they tried to do over the crossbench on the future of financial advice regulation—another disallowance where the government did not succeed. On other occasions, the government have cuddled up with the crossbench when it suited only to turn their back on them once they had secured the outcome they wanted. Some might say that, for the government, it has never been about the quality of the ongoing relationship, only the shotgun wedding!

Perhaps Mr Turnbull's crowning achievement was when he actively went about trying to get rid of the crossbenchers, passing legislation intended to dilute their chances of election. That is what the Senate voting changes were about. They were trying to dilute the chances of crossbenchers being elected. Prime Minister Turnbull thought it would clear them out, but, combined with a double dissolution election, his plan clearly did not work. In fact, the Australian people returned many crossbenchers to the Senate, plus added a few more—so much for Mr Turnbull's grand plan. Now we see the government trying to duel with Senator Xenophon and his South Australian colleagues, with the Acting Prime Minister, Senator Joyce, signalling his intent over the weekend to dishonour the Murray-Darling Basin Plan. I will talk about that more on another occasion. I just say yet again: how is it that Mr Turnbull, who once argued so strongly for this plan, can be in a position where his deputy simply up-ends it?

The most disappointing thing about this whole fiasco is that the dodgy deals that have been the focus of much of the debate could have ended up allowing dangerous weapons onto our streets. This government was prepared to contemplate watering down our gun laws in order to get totally unrelated legislation through the Senate. That is right: the coalition was prepared to contemplate watering down our gun laws in order to get totally unrelated legislation through the Senate. They have subsequently tried to cover that up, backflip and then blame each other. I think the lesson from this is clear: the government cannot be trusted to stick to its word when it comes to Australia's gun laws. Labor has made its position clear: we believe in strong gun laws because they save lives. We are worried about the effect of the Adler entering into Australia and the effect that it will have on public safety. Labor has a clear position which is clear to the Australian people. We will not do politically expedient deals to sell out their safety. It is shameful that the other party of government cannot make the same commitment. For this reason, the opposition will not be supporting this disallowance.

8:08 pm

Photo of Bridget McKenzieBridget McKenzie (Victoria, National Party) Share this | | Hansard source

My contribution will be short. I am a licenced firearm owner. I am chair of the Parliamentary Friends of Shooting group. In response to Senator Wong, we have strong gun laws in this country, and the passing and debating of this motion does not change the strong gun laws in this nation which are a result of state governments agreeing to licence and regulate firearm ownership and use in this country under the National Firearms Agreement. That does not change with this motion.

Nearly one million Australians own at least one gun. That is the reality. There are a lot of us who do not think that is necessarily a bad thing. We champion our Olympic shooters and we manage our feral pests. There are social benefits, particularly with those who came to Australia through the 1950s. Our immigration story of the 1950s has resulted in a very strong family connection to hunting through, particularly, our Italian community. There are economic benefits that hunting and shooting bring to the Australian society and a $1 billion dollar industry employing tens of thousands of Australians.

This debate is just full of so many mistruths as people conflate the tragedies of Port Arthur and Lindt Cafe. Increased gun crime—which is an absolute indictment on our law enforcement agencies at a state level and at a federal level—on the streets of our cities from illicit firearms conflates the threat of terrorism into a public conversation where law-abiding firearm owners in this nation are derided and belittled by political elites who think they know better. We need a debate that is informed by fact, not by fiction or emotional language. If you read over the Hansard of this particular debate tonight you will see a lot of emotion. There is a lot of scare campaign out there and not a lot of fact. There is a lack of understanding in our media, for instance, around how guns are used and why, and how our current National Firearms Agreement actually works.

This debate has also been focused on a false argument around categorisation that is not based on science or evidence. For example, the lever-action shotgun currently in category A under the National Firearms Agreement has five shots. To increase that to seven is not an exponential increase in risk. I would urge anybody to bring forward the science on that and also to please bring forward the evidence of a lever-action shotgun being used in crime since the late 1800s. It just is not based on fact; it is based on fear.

I am not arguing for a weakening of gun laws, and I never have. I am calling for a debate around science and evidence. We need laws that get the balance right. This particular disallowance motion does nothing to change the National Firearms Agreement or the strong gun laws which have held us in such strong stead from a safety perspective, getting that balance right for the last 20 years. I support the motion.

8:12 pm

Photo of Lee RhiannonLee Rhiannon (NSW, Australian Greens) Share this | | Hansard source

The Greens do not support the disallowance of the Customs (Prohibited Imports) Amendment (Shotguns and Shotgun Magazines) Regulation 2016. Here is another example of a member of the gun lobby, Senator Leyonhjelm, working to sacrifice public safety to expand firearm ownership and use. Senator Leyonhjelm has also provided an insight for us into how negotiations operate with the Turnbull government. What we have also seen in the course of what he has disclosed is the extent to which the Turnbull government is going to trash the very important legacy of the former Prime Minister, John Howard, when it came to making Australia a safer country by bringing in stronger gun control measures.

We have just heard from one of the members of that government, Senator McKenzie, speaking about her commitment that she is not trying to water down the laws on guns in this country. But what we know is that the Turnbull government is trying to do precisely that in the way that they are in slippery deals with prominent people who advocate weakening the gun laws. The priority right now should be stopping Adler weapons coming into this country—stopping them flooding in. Using the classic tactic that we see so often from conservatives these days, they say one thing when their intent is quite the opposite. We have seen that from Senator McKenzie tonight, making out that she is not out there trying to advocate for weaker gun control.

Photo of Bridget McKenzieBridget McKenzie (Victoria, National Party) Share this | | Hansard source

This doesn't change anything!

Photo of Lee RhiannonLee Rhiannon (NSW, Australian Greens) Share this | | Hansard source

It does, actually. It enormously does. Your misinformation tonight was extreme. Another piece of misinformation that comes from people like Senator McKenzie and others is that people who advocate gun control want to take firearms off people. It is something that Senator Leyonhjelm set out and it is frequently an argument. It is not about taking guns off people.

I have been involved in this issue of gun control since the 1990s. Back then, we were even accused—a crazy suggestion—of trying to stop firearm competitions in the Olympic Games. What absolute rubbish. Again, that misinformation to try to make out that people who advocate for gun control—

Senator McKenzie interjecting

I am happy to acknowledge the interjections of senators here. We should be working together to achieve public safety. Public safety requires stronger regulation. That means bringing the National Firearms Agreement up to date with the challenges of new technology, which is very much relevant to the whole issue with the Adler.

When we have these debates, we need to remember our history—particularly this year, which is 20 years since the tragedy of Port Arthur. It was in April this year that the 20th anniversary was commemorated, with great sadness. The positive out of it—it is obviously incredibly tragic that it had to come this way—is that we have seen a history in Australia of gun control advances because of the tragedy of massacres. Stricter gun controls have led to a huge decline in gun murders. It is worth people noting the research that came out at the time of the anniversary. Reuters did an analysis of Australian Bureau of Statistics figures. The chance of being murdered with a gun in Australia in 1996 was 0.54 per 100,000. If you come forward to 2014, the figure had plunged from 0.54 to 0.15 per 100,000. That is significant. That is what we are talking about: public safety—people's lives saved. In 1996, Australia had 311 murders, of which 98 were with guns. In 2014, with the population having increased from 18 million in 1996 to 23 million in 2014, Australia had 238 murders, of which 35 were with guns. That is putting it in real figures—figures that reflect people's lives. Families can feel confident that so many people live a life that could have been robbed from them if we did not have the gun control measures that we have achieved. The government buyback and the confiscation of about a million weapons was part of that shift to measures that contribute to public safety.

What we also need to focus on with the National Firearms Agreement—which again brings in the Adler, because that is where this debate about the Adler should go, not with the trickery going on with this disallowance—is addressing one of the problems that occurred in 1996. While the agreement was a huge advance—and I pay tribute to former Prime Minister John Howard for what was achieved then—all that was banned was semiautomatic long arms, not the semiautomatic pistols.

Photo of David LeyonhjelmDavid Leyonhjelm (NSW, Liberal Democratic Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Which is what they use in the Olympics!

Photo of Lee RhiannonLee Rhiannon (NSW, Australian Greens) Share this | | Hansard source

We are not talking about the Olympics; we are talking about what can be used generally and is generally available, and you know that, Senator Leyonhjelm.

Since the Port Arthur massacre in 1996, gun control in Australia has proved to be incredibly effective in curbing violent crime. The buyback of semiautomatic weapons in the aftermath of Port Arthur has been incredibly significant. It was one of the most comprehensive reforms of firearm laws anywhere in the world, held up as a great example of how communities can become safer. But what we see now with the Adler—and just to concentrate on the Adler issue itself—is a very stark example of the gun lobby trying to reverse, to erode, the gun control regulations that have been put in place.

Improvements in firearm technology and design have turned the old, clunky lever-action shotgun into a modern rapid-fire gun that can shoot eight rounds in eight seconds. Going back to some of Senator Leyonhjelm's contribution, you would have thought that this was nothing really special and that it is just a bit of a difference between having bullets in your pocket and having bullets in your gun so that they can fire off a bit more quickly. Well, it is actually a very advanced weapon and it is a rapid-fire weapon—what some call semiautomatics.

Currently, all lever-action shotguns—even ones with magazines—are characterised as general hunting rifles. That puts them in categories A and B, the least restrictive categories, which are available to the majority of firearm licence holders. As we have heard from other speakers tonight, there are 800,000 people in Australia who hold that licence. I understand that primary producers, military people and others who require access to these firearms for general purposes are not going to be impacted here. We are talking about recreational shooters. This is where the gun lobby is out to expand the use of guns in our society, targeting more people to bring them in as recreational shooters. They are the people who would have access to the Adlers, and they have no need to at all. How irresponsible, putting those forms of semiautomatic weapons in the hands of so many ordinary people who do not need them! They have absolutely no reason to have access to such rapid-fire firearms.

In 2015, the Australian Crime Commission actually issued a warning about this weapon. The people who do not like this—the conservatives on the government benches—are usually out there singing their praises. It is those very security people, the Australian Crime Commission and many of our police forces, who are deeply worried about Adlers coming into Australia.

What is very relevant to this issue is some of the comments from the federal Minister for Justice, Michael Keenan. He approved the importation of the Adler five-plus-one shot. Over 7,000 have already arrived in Australia, and the Adler A110 do-it-yourself magazine extension kit is now also available across Australia, turning the five-plus-one into an 11-shot firearm. Those figures are probably not really clear to a lot of us, and I am certainly not an expert in guns. But what I know, in terms of how this technology is being developed, is that it is sophisticated and it means there are weapons that can fire off a number of rounds in a very short time—eight rounds in eight seconds—which means they are very dangerous weapons.

The federal government should be acting now to prevent the rapid-fire shotgun from flooding into the Australian market. That should be the priority of a responsible government. I think it is also relevant to also make a few comments about the situation in the US, because the National Rifle Association of the United States is giving advice to the gun lobby here and, as we know, it was a significant issue in the recent US election. In January last year the person who is now the President-Elect of the United States, Donald Trump, wrote in a tweet:

Fact – the tighter the gun laws, the more violence. The criminals will always have guns.

There was also a bit of an infamous comment from the gun lobby advocates in this country. They are out there saying that criminals are the ones with illegal guns and that is where the problem lies. What they need to remember, and what they should be honest about, is that illegal guns were once legal guns, and the more legal guns there are in circulation the more guns that will get stolen and end up in illegal hands and be part of the shootings and the crimes that we see in this country. You cannot divorce these two issues.

But going back to how this is playing out in the states: this year Ted Cruz, one of the Republicans, blamed Australian gun laws for a rise in sexual assault—really crazy debating stuff there. Unfortunately, the unsuccessful candidate, the Democrat Hillary Clinton, ruled out an Australian-style gun buyback, and Bernie Sanders, the other hopeful, rejected the need for tougher gun controls despite a gun murder rate of 3.4 per 100,000 in the United States. Now, the fact that those comments have been made by Ms Clinton and Mr Sanders—I would say people who are very progressive on a majority of issues—shows the power of the gun lobby; they just do not want to entertain tighter gun laws. Australian gun laws brought into the United States would save lives rather than having the horrendous situation we see in that country at the moment.

So, with regard to some of the comments from Senator Leyonhjelm: he said he negotiated in good faith with the government. He set out a very interesting scenario of how it played out. How he negotiated in good faith with the government is a bit beyond belief, because he has been here long enough and surely he knows the track record of this government and how often they have broken their word on so many issues. We have seen a real sellout on public safety for the expansion of gun use. That is basically what is going on, even though I noticed a number of times that a number of the Labor senators have congratulated Senator Leyonhjelm on how he set it out. But what he was setting out was his willingness to sell our public safety so there would be Adlers flooding into this country.

Then we hear the argument about feral animals, which is a total con job. Having recreational shooters out there killing feral animals is no way to control that problem, Such animals need to be addressed in an evidence based way with professional management. The Greens do not rule out that sometimes these animals may need to be shot. But that needs to be undertaken in a professional way, not in the way that is currently proposed.

We need to remind ourselves of what happened at Port Arthur. Port Arthur was an absolute tragedy. We learned a lot of lessons, but the job was not fully done. Not all the weapons that need to be banned were banned to ensure that we can promote public safety to the degree that we have a responsibility to ensure. The ban on the semiautomatic longarms came in but not on the semiautomatic shortarms, and now we have the Adlers—a rapid-fire weapon—that should come under that ban. That is essentially what we are dealing with here now.

I do congratulate Gun Control Australia. They are advancing this issue. They are having a very important campaign around banning the Adler. It would be much wiser for the debate on this issue to occur in the context of the National Firearms Agreement rather than in the sneaky way Senator Leyonhjelm is trying to advance it here today. It does no credit to him. We need to get back to addressing gun control and the use of firearms, making public safety the priority, not expanding the number of guns in our community.

8:27 pm

Photo of James McGrathJames McGrath (Queensland, Liberal National Party, Assistant Minister to the Prime Minister) Share this | | Hansard source

The government opposes the disallowance motion of Senator Leyonhjelm. In August 2015 the Commonwealth temporarily prohibited the importation of lever-action shotguns with a magazine capacity of more than five rounds. The government took this step on the advice of Commonwealth, state and territory law enforcement agencies and officials pending the outcomes of the review of the National Firearms Agreement. Although a sunset clause was later put in place, it was envisaged that the review of the National Firearms Agreement would have concluded before the expiration of the prohibition. However, as the review is yet to be concluded, the prohibition was recently extended.

Ministers considered classification of lever-action shotguns and a National Firearms Agreement at the Law, Crime and Community Safety Council last month and agreed to further discussions to achieve consensus on classification of lever-action shotguns and finalising the National Firearms Agreement review. The importation prohibition is intended to be in place until the review of the agreement is concluded and the agreed outcomes are implemented.

8:28 pm

Photo of Jacqui LambieJacqui Lambie (Tasmania, Independent) Share this | | Hansard source

I rise to make a short contribution on this disallowance motion. If this motion is passed tonight Australia's gun laws will be weakened. I wonder how John Howard is feeling tonight, and I wonder whether he is listening to this debate. I imagine he would be feeling pretty disgusted right about now that his beloved Liberal Party was prepared to do a political deal which would allow into the country rapid-fire shotguns which can deliver nine shots in 10 seconds. The terrorist alert is at one of the highest levels in history and the Liberal-Nationals party is prepared to do a deal to allow rapid-fire shotguns into Australia.

Imagine the carnage and butchery that would have happened if the terrorist who held up the Lindt cafe was armed with an Adler shotgun, instead of a double-barrel shotgun. I know many senators have taken the time to deliver well-researched and well-written speeches on this motion, but if they really want to know what Tasmanians think, I can assure you, they should go and visit Port Arthur. If only the Nationals would put as much effort into fixing the backpacker tax crisis as they do in bringing into this country shotguns that are a terrorist's wet dream.

Photo of Chris KetterChris Ketter (Queensland, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

It being 8.30, the time for debate has expired. The question must now be put. The question is that the motion moved by Senator Leyonhjelm be agreed to.