Senate debates

Thursday, 3 September 2020


Intelligence and Security Joint Committee; Report

5:10 pm

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

Our country's million-strong law-abiding firearm owners know all too well the impact felt as a result of unwarranted actions from law enforcement. So I welcome the parliamentary joint committee's report Inquiry into the impact of the exercise of law enforcement and intelligence powers on the freedom of the press. I note that section 2.4 details the background and events leading up to the inquiry. The principles of Australian democracy were considered as being at the very heart of their inquiry. These democratic principles of limited government, the rule of law and the idea of a democratic social contract are fundamental to our society, yet time and again they have failed for our law-abiding firearm owners in Victoria.

The Victorian state Labor government is determined that Victorians who have diligently earned and maintained a firearms licence are to be subject to punishment for breaches of COVID-19 regulations far beyond those of the general public in Victoria. The Victorian police have threatened to 'reprimand, suspend or cancel' licences of registered firearm owners who 'blatantly and deliberately breach' the current directives of the Victorian Chief Health Officer. That a direct quote there from VicPol. This threat from law enforcement could not be further from those principles of Australian democracy, and it is the antithesis of what determines a democratic social contract. No other comparable sections of society face such obviously discriminatory supplementary punishments for COVID-19 breaches. There are no reprimands for fishing licences. There's no cancelling of your drivers licence. Only law-abiding, licensed firearm owners are the subject of this politically motivated presumption of guilt in my home state of Victoria.

What is so concerning is that it is not an isolated act. It is yet another example of law-abiding firearm owners being singled out for unfair and discriminatory action. Licenced firearm traders have had to face unlawful discrimination from our banking system, having been subject to a number of discriminatory lending practices. APRA confirmed that the banks had no lawful grounds to discriminate, but in many cases the damage had already been done, both financially and to the reputation of hardworking Australians. Many of those affected were small-business owners, of which there are an estimated 400 in the industry, translating into over 19,000 local jobs.

The state Labor government in Victoria continues to use COVID-19 as justification to enact their discriminatory agenda against lawful firearm owners. In March, Premier Daniel Andrews and the Victorian Labor government took advantage of the pandemic to unlawfully, again, suspend the sale of guns and ammunition in Victoria. This was followed by Victorian police minister Lisa Neville insinuating that firearm owners had exacerbated the threat of domestic violence, despite there being absolutely no data to support Minister Neville's claims. Our community deserves better. No other industry has been subject to such a blatant, opportunistic attempt at financial sabotage. This is not a fair democratic social contract.

The hunting, sporting and shooting industry contributed over $2.4 billion to our economy in 2018 and, as I said, generates over19,000 jobs. Law-abiding firearm owners are proactive in their community: celebrating a cultural practice, participating in sport, winning gold medals for our country and ridding our environment of feral animals and pests that do so much damage. Rather than discriminate against them, we should be thanking them, and we should be treating them like every single other citizen. It's absolutely appalling that the state Labor government in my home state has chosen to use the COVID-19 pandemic as an opportunity to continue to threaten and discriminate against law-abiding firearm owners in Victoria.

Question agreed to.