Alister Henskens portrait
Alister Henskens portrait

Gun Control

Gun Control


Mr ALISTER HENSKENS ( Ku-ring-gai ) ( 15:23 :30 ): My motion should be accorded priority because the highest responsibility of government is to protect the physical safety of its citizens. Without a safe community, all other freedoms become meaningless. When Australia suffered the Port Arthur massacre, John Howard and Tim Fischer showed some of the greatest political leadership in modern times anywhere in the world. They stared down their critics to put in place probably the most effective national gun laws in the world. If any of the many American political leaders since the Port Arthur massacre had shown anything like the leadership of that Federal Liberal-Nationals Government, many more citizens of the United States would be alive today.

It is obscene and grotesque that only a week after the massacre in Las Vegas the Labor Party would do a preference deal with the Shooters, Fishers and Farmers Party, which wants to repeal the Howard national gun controls and weaken the gun laws in this country by legalising the same weapons used in the recent Las Vegas attack. Any weakening of our current laws would mean that innocent people like those in Las Vegas, Port Arthur and the numerous mass shootings that have occurred in the United States could be killed in New South Wales.

The Premier and the Deputy Premier are not shirking their leadership on proper gun controls. They want safe and sensible gun laws. But where is the Leader of the Opposition? In 2011 the member for Auburn described the Shooters, Fishers and Famers Party as "book burners", "elephant shooters" and an "extreme right" party. In March 2013 the member for Auburn said, "No animal is safe in New South Wales under the Shooters Party". In April 2013 he described the views of the Shooters, Fishers and Farmers Party as "revealing a disturbing extremism". Since then the policies of the Shooters, Fishers and Farmers Party have not improved but have become even worse.

To use the words of the Leader of the Opposition, the Shooters, Fishers and Farmers Party is an extreme right-wing party of elephant hunters and book burners, so why is his Labor Party giving it preferences at the two by‑elections in Cootamundra and Murray this weekend? The Leader of the Opposition wants to put political opportunity ahead of public safety. But what does it say about members of the Shooters, Fishers and Farmers Party that they would take preferences from somebody who thinks so little of them? Have they any dignity? The voters of Murray and Cootamundra should not be fooled by either party. This matter should be given priority because Labor will always sell the people of New South Wales down the river as a matter of political expediency—and the Shooters, Fishers and Farmers Party is just the same.



Mr ALISTER HENSKENS ( Ku-ring-gai ) ( 15:35 :35 ): I move:

That this House:

(1)Supports the Howard-Fischer national gun laws.

(2)Notes the Shooters, Fishers and Farmers Party wants to weaken gun controls.

(3)Condemns the Labor Party for putting political opportunism over public safety by doing a preference deal with the Shooters, Fishers and Famers Party.

As I said when I asked for this motion to be accorded priority, a fundamental responsibility of government is to protect its citizens. It is a hallmark of civil society. All modern philosophers, whether it be Locke, Hobbes, Jean‑Jacques Rousseau or Sir Thomas More, spoke about the importance of physical safety to the integrity of any legal system. Yet the Shooters, Fishers and Farmers Party, in conjunction with the Labor Party, wants to erode physical safety in our community. The action plan—the official policy of the Shooters, Fishers and Farmers Party—is to repeal the 1996 National Firearms Agreement.

The agreement achieved by the Howard Liberal Coalition Government was complex and detailed in its measures. It included a ban on the importation, ownership, sale, resale, transfer, possession, manufacture or use of all self-loading centre-fire rifles, all self-loading and pump action shotguns and all self-loading rim-fire rifles. The agreement included a comprehensive buyback scheme, the registration of all firearms as part of an integrated shooters licensing system and shooter licensing based on the requirement to prove a genuine need. It was detailed in its measures and since 1996 when those laws were introduced Australia has not had one massacre, such as Port Arthur, involving the use of firearms. By contrast, the United States, which has always squibbed the requirement to have proper gun controls, has been plagued by constant mass shootings in its communities.

It cannot be doubted that this country's firearms legislation has been an overwhelming success. If the Shooters, Fishers and Farmers Party were a responsible party, why would it want to repeal that legislation? Why would the Labor Party support a party that had such a policy? The undeniable conclusion is that it is political expediency of the worst kind. This is straight out of the Graham Richardson "whatever it takes" playbook.

It is alarming that the Shooters, Fishers and Farmers Party's policies include the reintroduction of semiautomatic weapons, the deregistering of silencers, and gun permits being issued to schoolchildren as young as 10 years of age. There is no doubt that more guns in the community equals more people being killed or maimed by them. I note the derogatory statements made by the Leader of the Opposition in the past about the Shooters, Fishers and Farmers Party. He has described its members as "book burners", "elephant shooters" and "extreme right wing". Given that, one is left with the conclusion that it is only political expediency rather than principle that has caused preference deals to be done for next weekend's Cootamundra and Murray by-elections.

The Hon. Walt Secord said in November last year after the Orange by-election that "we have the unusual situation of the Labor Party electing Australia's first lower House Shooters, Fishers and Farmers Party member of Parliament." It is not unusual; it is calculated, deliberate and cynical. The people of Murray and Cootamundra should call out the Labor Party and the Shooters, Fishers and Farmers Party for the terrible deal they have done. It is disingenuous and they have no respect for each other. The people of those electorates should understand that if they fall into that trap our community will be less safe, and that is not in the interests of the people of New South Wales.

Mr CLAYTON BARR ( Cessnock ) ( 15:41 :46 ): I move:

That the motion be amended by leaving out paragraphs (2) and (3).

This motion is almost identical to the motion moved on 13 September. Readers of Hansard can refer to that debate as part one. I was disappointed during that debate that I did not deal with all the issues I wanted to address, but this debate gives me the opportunity to do so. Of course the Labor Party supports the firearms legislation introduced by John Howard. As the member for the electorate with the highest number of licensed firearms owners and the highest number of registered firearms in the State, I am probably well qualified to speak on this issue.

As I said, I support the legislation introduced by John Howard after the terrible massacre committed by Martin Bryant in Tasmania in 1996. Interestingly, at that time Tasmania was one of the only States in the country that had not banned automatic and semiautomatic firearms. If it had moved with the rest of the country, those deaths might have been prevented. In addition, the 1988 election campaign was all about firearms legislation. That was the one occasion on which the Liberal Party won the seat of Cessnock from the Labor Party. Barry Unsworth had introduced strict gun control legislation and the local Labor member was in a difficult position in supporting it. The Liberal Party's policy during the campaign was that it would repeal the legislation which was designed to strengthen firearms controls.

We are having this debate today, but we do not need to go back to 1988 or to 1996 to appreciate the quandary in which we find ourselves. We need go back only a few short weeks to understand the complexity of this issue. The Deputy Premier and Leader of The Nationals was in Albury last month talking to some victims of crime and was told about a man who had used an unloaded firearm as a prop to try to remove people from his home. He was ultimately charged, as he should have been. However, the Deputy Premier said that the legislation dealing with people using firearms to defend their home needed to be examined. He said, "We would hope in the privacy of our own home, in the safety of our own home, that we have the right to defend our home, our family and our children." However, last year the then Minister for Police went to a Council of Australian Governments meeting proposing that the Adler shotgun be listed as a category B firearm instead of a category D firearm, which was its ultimate classification. The past two leaders of The Nationals have used their own nuanced language to "water down" our firearms legislation. I do not want to use that term, although it has been used by others.

I have said time and again in this Chamber that the bulk of firearms in this country are owned by licensed, law‑abiding citizens. Those firearms do not cause any problems until they are stolen and put on the black market. The bulk of the problems in this country are with unlicensed and unregistered firearms. Paragraph (3) of the member for Ku‑ring‑gai's motion condemns the Labor Party for doing a preference deal with the Shooters, Fishers and Farmers Party, and I have moved an amendment to remove that paragraph. In politics we do not always agree with our own party's views, never mind those of other parties. I know that Liberals and Nationals members do not agree with every policy proposed by their parties. I do agree with some of the Shooters, Fishers and Farmers Party's policies, such as rescuing and saving TAFE, providing more police and so on. However, there are some policies with which I do not agree. The Labor Party opposes this motion— [Time expired.]

Mr ADAM CROUCH ( Terrigal ) ( 15:47 :10 ): This country experienced three dark days in December 1987, August 1991, and April 1996. On those three days, 51 people lost their lives in cowardly attacks by perpetrators who used automatic weapons. As the member for Ku-ring-gai said, the Howard-Fischer Federal Government took brave steps to introduce some of the toughest firearms legislation in the world, and since then we have experienced dramatic reductions in gun crime. As the member for Ku-ring-gai also said, if other nations had adopted similar legislation, gun-related deaths around the world might have been reduced. It is incredible that three days after a gutless attack in Las Vegas on 1 October the Shooters, Fishers and Farmers Party called for the repeal of legislation banning semiautomatic weapons. It defies belief that a political party could be so insensitive to the feelings of the rest of the country.

I am aware of 1,700 licensed firearms owners on the Central Coast, and they are all good and law‑abiding. I have no doubt they would be shocked and appalled by that proposal. The fact that the Labor Party is doing a preference deal with people the Leader of the Opposition—who is not in the Chamber—called "book burners and elephant hunters" demonstrates political expediency.

It is staggering that Labor can sidle up to the Shooters, Fishers and Farmers Party for political expediency in Cootamundra and Murray. The Leader of the Opposition himself called these people political extremists, book burners and elephant shooters. They want to reverse the gun laws that since 1996 have kept this country safe. For Labor to sidle up to them and do a preference deal to try to dislodge two seats from the Government is shameful in the extreme.

I commend the member for Ku-ring-gai for moving this motion. Those opposite are now seeking to amend the motion by deleting paragraphs (1) and (2), which are directly related. The Shooters, Fishers and Farmers Party wants to walk away from and weaken our national gun laws and gun controls. That is why the motion of the member for Ku-ring-gai is appropriate and should stand as is. If those opposite feel so strongly about gun control, they should walk away from the dodgy preference deal they have done with the Shooters, Fishers and Farmers Party, stand up for the people of this country and keep those strong gun laws in place.

Mr RON HOENIG ( Heffron ) ( 15:50 :32 ): I note the hypocrisy of the Coalition in seeking to condemn and criticise Labor for the way in which it distributes its preferences and complaining bitterly that in Cootamundra and Murray they will be directed to the Shooters, Fishers and Farmers Party, as if doing so is a great sin. We only have to examine the Coalition's senate voting information paper for the last Federal election. Would you believe it? The Coalition's "how to vote" information for New South Wales states: vote 1 Liberal‑Nationals; vote 2 Christian Democrats; and vote 3—guess what it is—Shooters, Fishers and Farmers.

Since the last Federal election the National Party has had an epiphany and no longer supports that extreme right‑wing organisation. There is a reason Labor gives preferences to the Shooters, Fishers and Farmers, and that is that they are left of the National Party. The National Party is no longer the National Party that this State and this nation has come to expect. It is no longer the party that looks after regional and rural New South Wales. It is no longer the party of "Black Jack" McEwan, Doug Anthony or Ian Sinclair. It is no longer even the party of Adrian Piccoli, Katrina Hodgkinson, Tommy George or Andrew Fraser. It is no longer the sort of party that looks after regional New South Wales.

Mr Andrew Fraser: Point of order: I state very clearly in this House that I am a member of the National Party, a party that I am proud of. Maybe the member for Heffron should take note of our policy documents.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER: Order! There is no point of order.

Mr RON HOENIG: I endorse the remarks of the current leader of the National Party, as he flails around regional New South Wales hoping to garner support in order to avoid embarrassment. It was reported on 1 October that he said, "Trust me or boot us out". He is fighting cuts to health, police station mergers, rising power bills, water sharing issues and job losses in the forestry industry and he is expecting to cop a battering, and so he should. If those in the National Party were representing the interests of people in regional New South Wales, preferences from Labor would make no difference to what should be a blue ribbon seat. They are hypocrites.

Mr ALISTER HENSKENS ( Ku-ring-gai ) ( 15:53 :42 ): In reply: It should be noted and recorded in Hansard that the member for Orange has not participated in this debate and he has not even been in the Chamber during the debate. He apparently has no interest in the subject matter of this debate. I thank the member for Cessnock, the member for Terrigal and the member for Heffron for their contributions to the debate. The member for Heffron is a very honourable man. He is so honourable that he did not say one word in his contribution to try to defend the grubby preference deal, which is the subject of this motion. He deflected, he dissembled, he avoided. He did everything but actually deal with the issue because he knows it is a grubby preference deal. He knows it is straight out of the annals of Graham Richardson. He knows there is no principle involved.

Of all people, the member for Heffron, who has dealt in criminal law for much of his life, knows the danger and the horrible consequences of guns if they are not properly controlled in the community. He wants the safety of our community but, frankly, he is a sufficiently honourable man to be embarrassed by the deal his party has done. He knows that the words of his leader are true. He knows that the criticism of the Shooters, Fishers and Farmers Party made by the member for Auburn is true. Yet he has not used one iota of breath in his body to try to defend a scintilla of the deal. He will not defend it because he knows it is wrong.

The member for Cessnock tried a similar deflection tactic and moved an amendment to the motion. Why? He did so because he does not want to try to defend the Shooters, Fishers and Farmers Party's attempts to weaken the national gun laws, as stated in paragraph (2) of the motion. He tried to avoid the issue because he knows it is unjustifiable and indefensible. In this debate, we have seen the complete abandonment of the Labor leadership by two Labor members. They are completely unable to defend the dirty deals of Sussex Street and the pathetic leadership of the member for Auburn, because they are indefensible. Neither one of the members used one breath of their body to defend their leader because they know he is wrong on this matter.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER: The original question is that the motion as moved by the member for Ku‑ring‑gai be agreed to, upon which the member for Cessnock has moved that the question be amended by leaving out paragraphs (2) and (3). The question now is that the words stand.

Motion agreed to.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER: The question is that the motion as moved by the member for Ku-ring-gai be agreed to.

Motion agreed to.