Senate debates

Wednesday, 3 April 2019


Gun Control

11:41 am

Photo of Mathias CormannMathias Cormann (WA, Liberal Party, Vice-President of the Executive Council) Share this | | Hansard source

I, and also on behalf of the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate, Senator Wong, move:

That the Senate—

(a) notes that:

  (i) following the horrific 1996 Port Arthur mass shooting, the Howard Government, with bipartisan support and with the support of Australia's state and territory Governments, implemented world-leading national gun law reform which has made Australia safer, including through:

     (A) a National Firearms Agreement that banned the sale, resale, transfer, ownership, possession, manufacture and use of those firearms, such as semi-automatic and fully automatic firearms, banned or proposed to be banned from import other than in exceptional circumstances,

     (B) establishment or enhancements to existing registration systems, effectively creating a national registration system between jurisdictions,

     (C) an amnesty and gun buyback period during which prohibited and unregistered weapons could be surrendered, and

     (D) basic licence requirements and licence categories, and

  (ii) in 2017, the Coalition Government conducted a further national firearm amnesty, which resulted in 57,324 firearms being handed in—of those, 33,044 (57.6%) were subsequently registered, 4,106 (7.2%) were sold and 20,174 (35.2%) were destroyed;

(b) acknowledges the deep sense of shock, horror and sadness felt by all Australians following the Port Arthur mass shooting and empathises with the deep hurt and sense of loss which continues to be felt by the many survivors and the families and friends of the victims of the Port Arthur massacre back in 1996; and

(c) reaffirms its unequivocal commitment to the national gun law reforms implemented in 1996, which have stood the test of time and demonstrably made Australia a safer place for all Australians.

Photo of Duncan SpenderDuncan Spender (NSW, Liberal Democratic Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I seek leave to make a short statement.

Photo of Scott RyanScott Ryan (President) Share this | | Hansard source

You don't need leave. This can be debated.

Photo of Duncan SpenderDuncan Spender (NSW, Liberal Democratic Party) Share this | | Hansard source

And I'm also seeking to have paragraph (2) treated separately from the remainder, if possible.

Photo of Scott RyanScott Ryan (President) Share this | | Hansard source

Paragraph (2)? There's (a), (b) and (c). You do mean (a)(ii)?

Photo of Duncan SpenderDuncan Spender (NSW, Liberal Democratic Party) Share this | | Hansard source

No. I mean (b).

Photo of Duncan SpenderDuncan Spender (NSW, Liberal Democratic Party) Share this | | Hansard source

This is not my first speech. This motion relates to the National Firearms Agreement. I can understand the widespread opinion that the National Firearms Agreement, known as the NFA, should be supported, but this motion goes beyond an expression of opinion. It asserts that the National Firearms Agreement has demonstrably made Australia safer. This is an empirical claim that is at odds with expert analysis.

I quote Dr Andrew Leigh, Labor's shadow Assistant Treasurer, who, before becoming a politician, was one of Australia's finest economists and statisticians. Dr Leigh wrote:

… time series analysis cannot conclusively answer the question of whether the NFA led to lower gun deaths.

Senators are not here to follow groupthink. We should not say things that are 'truthy' or things that we feel should be right. We should show some leadership, which means being willing to state the uncomfortable truth. Whilst I reiterate the widespread opinion that the NFA should be supported, this motion goes beyond that. It says that it has demonstrably made Australia safer, and that is at odds with that quote from Dr Andrew Leigh. Let's have a commitment to truth in this chamber.

11:43 am

Photo of Mehreen FaruqiMehreen Faruqi (NSW, Australian Greens) Share this | | Hansard source

I rise on behalf of the Greens to support this motion. This is an important motion on an important topic. We need to remember that currently no Australian state or territory has fully complied with the National Firearms Agreement—which is completely unacceptable. There have been more than 50 breaches of the NFA since it was first implemented. There are more than three million licensed firearms in Australia. That's a rise of almost a million guns since the gun buybacks in 1997. I'll say that again: a million guns. The Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission estimates that there are more than 260,000 firearms in the illicit firearms market. We need to rekindle the kind of political courage we saw after the Port Arthur massacre and push back against any move to weaken our gun laws. Complacency is not an option. We have to remain vigilant and actively work to make sure our gun control laws remain strong and are keeping pace with the latest changes in firearms technologies.

I'm sure most people here have seen the Al Jazeera investigation that exposed Pauline Hanson's One Nation party attempting to solicit donations from the American gun lobby, the National Rifle Association, with a promise to try to weaken our gun laws. This should be extraordinarily alarming for each and every one of us. We know the gun lobby is becoming increasingly active in Australia in its push to weaken gun laws. A recent report from the Australia Institute found that Australia's gun lobby spent more per capita on political donations in one year than America's National Rifle Association did, in 2018. Various Australian gun groups have donated $1.7 million to political parties since 2011. All political entities, I think, that have taken donations from the gun lobby should immediately return that money. The Greens will ban all political donations from gun lobbies.

Photo of Scott RyanScott Ryan (President) Share this | | Hansard source

The question is the motion moved by Senators Cormann and Wong be agreed to. I will put paragraph (b) separately in accordance with the request from Senator Spender. So the question is that paragraphs (a) and (c) of notice of motion No. 3 be agreed to.

Question agreed to.

I will now put paragraph (b) of notice of motion No. 3. The question is that that paragraph be agreed to.

Question agreed to.