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Remarks by The Honourable Neil J.Turner, Speaker of the Queensland Parliament

Gun Law Reform July 19, 2009

Remarks by The Honourable Neil J.Turner, Speaker of the Queensland Parliament, on the Bill that would implement Australia’s gun-control measures in the State of Queensland


Hon. N. J. Turner (Nicklin) (3.51 p.m.): In answer to the honourable member for Ashgrove, I put myself before the House and was quite happy not to speak in the debate if the House so chose. I would then have followed the precedent set by the honourable member, if need be, and spoken during the debate on the clauses.

I thank the Parliament for granting me leave to speak as the member for Nicklin on the legislation before the House. It gives me no great joy to take this action. However, my conscience dictates that I do so. I believe that what I have to say today will strike a chord in quite a few members in this Chamber and, were it possible to have, a secret ballot on this issue, there would be enough Liberal, Labor and National Party members to vote against the Bill and defeat its passage through the House.

The Weapons Amendment Bill is the most divisive legislation to have ever come before the Parliament since I entered this House in 1974. It contains the most un-Australian proposals this nation has ever seen. These laws were conceived out of the Port Arthur tragedy with the best of intentions, and I extend my deepest sympathy to the families, relatives and friends of everyone killed on that tragic day. If I could believe that this Bill included suitable proposals and solutions to prevent a similar tragedy occurring, it would have my utmost support. However, not even the Prime Minister, in his own words, believes this to be the case.

Governments have a responsibility to bring in practical, sensible, workable, legislation. Sadly, those criteria do not apply in this case, no matter how well meaning it may be. In fact, I venture to say that it could possibly have the opposite effect and cause even more deaths and an escalating crime wave such as this nation has never seen.

Since the loss of 35 of our fellow Australians at Port Arthur, some 25,000 people have died as a result of smoking-related illnesses and 1,500 people have died in motor vehicle accidents. That is all very tragic, but no-one is suggesting that we go to the extreme and make it almost impossible for people to own a car in the way that is proposed with guns. Everyone who steps into a car is a potential killer, butt we cannot brand Australian citizens as potential law breakers because they possess the machinery which has the capacity to do harm.

Drugs, alcohol, cars, guns, knives, petrol, bombs–all are a problem. Prohibition of all these potential dangers is not the solution. There is enough evidence to show that prohibition has never saved lives. America did not solve its alcohol-related problems during Prohibition. In fact, the opposite occurred. Prohibition encouraged an escalation in the size of the criminal element and an unprecedented crime wave which in itself killed many more people than did alcohol, and citizens were worst off.

We in this State already have extremely strict gun laws. Why drive the trade underground lining the pockets of unscrupulous people while leaving us unprotected in our homes? It is naive to believe that all Australians will happi1y hand over their guns. We can recall guns until we are blue in the face, but I venture to say that no criminals will hand over their weapons. All we will be targeting are our law abiding citizens with the insulting inference that they have the potential to be killers. This is very offensive to me and many of my fellow Australians feel the same way.

To top it off, anyone who premeditates a massacre like Port Arthur will have no problem illegally obtaining a gun to carry out his bizarre act. Surely we do not believe that the criminal dealer has any concern about the outcome of his sale? His motive is profit only. A gun kills, effectively, be it licensed or unlicensed.

A madman who wants to kill does not even need a gun. If one looks at the history of tragic events, there will always be a way to do the unspeakable: the Oklahoma bombing killed 168 people; the Lockerbie air disaster, 258 killed; the New York air disaster; the Alabama bombing; the events at Waco, Texas; the Birmingham bombing; the Hilton bombing in Sydney; three gallons of petrol thrown at the Whisky Au-Go-Go in Brisbane, a mile from this place, killed some 15 or 20 young people several years ago; the fatality at Ayers Rock when a drunk was thrown out of a bar, cranked up his Mack truck and drove it through a wall, killing six or eight people; and the Tokyo subway gassing. An empty beer bottle full of petrol and detergent creates napalm, and thrown into a bus load of old tourists going to the casino would virtually kill them all. Gang bashings of innocent people taking a stroll–just kick them to death. Smashing up their spleen or head will do the trick. There is no need for a gun. You name it–the potential to kill is with us and all around us, whether we like it or not. Banning the hard-toed boot, petrol, bullets and so on will not solve the problem.

Perhaps money spent on a punishment that fits the crime and money spent on social solutions to overcome many of the social problems confronting society would be a better alternative. Many police officers have put the proposal to me that $4m to $5m spent on police enforcement work with criminals and dealers would be money better spent and would achieve more than the estimated cost of the gun laws proposal, which is somewhere between $500m and $1,000m. In which other areas could that sort of money be spent to better effect to save Australian lives?

The possession of any heirloom firearm will be allowed through an heirloom licence which limits ownership to one firearm, a brace or a set and requires the firearms to be rendered permanently inoperable. This action then makes them totally valueless. Although I am not aware of it, I venture to say that no massacre in Australia has ever occurred as a result of the use of an heirloom firearm. All thinking persons accept that military-type weapons should not be in the hands of civilians. It should also be noted that the lunatic who committed the massacre in Tasmania was not a licensed shooter and stole the weapon that he was using.

As a result of the massacre and the media-created hysteria which followed, all true law-abiding, legitimate shooters in many and varied disciplines have been insulted. They have been insulted because they will be classed as criminals should they pursue their sport as it presently exists. Many shotgun shooters prefer a gas operated, low-recoil semiautomatic shotgun as it provides comfort and stability, especially if the shooter is aged, has arthritis, is a woman or teenager or is handicapped. Why on earth do we want to punish tens of thousands of law-abiding citizens and deprive them of the opportunity to participate in their chosen sport, simply because the Prime Minister, Mr. Howard, will not allow crimping of their shotguns? To think that any of those people would reverse the crimping is ludicrous, because they only need to fire two shots out of a five-shot shotgun. However, the criminals will not be crimping; they will still have their automatic and pump-action shotguns. The people to whom I have referred cannot use any ordinary shotgun to fire 50 or 60 rounds on a Sunday afternoon: it would destroy their shoulder.

All State Governments should have forced a referendum on this issue alone if the Prime Minister could not or would not understand their very real concerns. Turning to the bureaucrats behind the introduction of this particular legislation, I have in my hand–although it will not go into Hansard–a brochure entitled. “Gun Use. How it Affects You”. That brochure was put out by the Commonwealth Government in June 1996. When looking at the front page, I do not wonder that they would not know the difference between centre-fire and rim-fire. There is a picture of a gun on the front of the brochure, but I do not know what it is. It is a break-open, lever-action gun. I have been around a long time, and I have never seen one in my life. That shows how knowledgeable they are!

I turn to the supposed genuine reasons necessary to possess a firearm. The one paramount reason for the possession of a firearm is not included in that section and it is essential that it be included if this legislation goes through, namely, a reason allowing “appropriate self defence”. This is so vital that to leave it out implies ulterior motives by politicians and those behind the basic intention of the legislation. It is inconceivable, unbelievable, incomprehensible and downright un-Australian that self defence against criminals and hoons is not reason enough to own a gun.

The Bill suggests that every firearm requires a separate permit and has to be licensed, which means that what was once a lifetime license now becomes a licence for a maximum of five years. What a great revenue raiser for the future for all forms of Government! We will have a nationwide register of all guns. Apparently we do not learn from other jurisdictions. New Zealand tried this tactic, but it proved an administrative nightmare and was dropped.

Shooters will require a genuine reason and need to have a weapon, and the police, of all people, will decide whether we can have one. The power of the police to make that decision leads me to the issue of the regulations which do not accompany this Bill but which cannot be separated from it. The Bill is so complex, convoluted and bound up in red tape that it is a nightmare. To this legislation after it is passed will be added volumes of regulations–regulations governing how guns will be seized, stored, destroyed and the rights of entry of the police. Such regulations do not have to go before the Parliament. Many of our fellow citizens of European origin have concerns about the extent of the powers of these as yet unknown regulations which rekindle fears of past experiences in Europe, Bosnia, Cyprus and so on.

Unfortunately, we are now also faced with the stirring up of racial tensions–something compounded by Pauline Hanson’s campaign–which is instilling a sense or unease in people who have come here to avoid the very insecurities that they now perceive, rightly or wrongly. This sense of the unknown, insecurity and resentment no nation can afford. We are undermining the core of our belief system, the very foundation which allows Australia to be an example to the world of how people from many nations can work together cohesively to build a strong, vibrant nation and live in peace and harmony. Why sow the seed and potentially destroy all this?

Following Port Arthur, my belief is that all Governments had to do three particular things: firstly, ban all bazookas, cannons, mortars, hand grenades, machine guns and military-style semiautomatics and leave the law-abiding citizens alone; secondly, revoke the right of gun ownership for people with criminal records or who are the subject of domestic violence orders; and, finally, they should have strengthened the penal provisions such that anyone–and I mean anyone–who committed any gun offence had the full force of the law brought down on them, with something up to an extra five years’ penalty being given on top of the sentence imposed by the Judge, for example, if a bank or service station was robbed or any gun offence was committed in this nation.

I know that there is a limit on the speaking time. I thank the House for giving me the opportunity to have my say. In conclusion, I wish to say that we have the strictest gun laws possibly in the world pertaining to concealable firearms. There would not be one member of this Chamber who could go out tomorrow and obtain a licence to carry a concealable firearm. However, every criminal has one. If we passed legislation tomorrow recalling every concealable firearm in Australia, I will tell honourable members what would happen. Some 99.9 per cent of all law-abiding citizens would hand in their pistol reluctantly. They would feel antagonized and would not be very happy with the political parties which instigated that legislation. However, not one criminal or bank robber in Queensland would hand in his gun.

As a hypothetical example, honourable members might have a family heirloom which has been handed down from their grandfather who used it to win the Military Medal in 1918 on the Western Front. Such an heirloom would have to be handed in to be either rendered inoperable or destroyed. I think it is crazy legislation. I thank honourable members for giving me the opportunity to express my views on it

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