MIL-OSI Australia: Media conference – Mitchell ACT

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Source: Australian Executive Government Ministers

E&OE

Subjects: Permanent National Firearms Amnesty; Religious Discrimination Bill; NZYQ; Donald Trump Interview; Syria.

ATTORNEY-GENERAL MARK DREYFUS KC MP: In the wake of the Port Arthur massacre Australians vowed never again, and the nation came together to adopt some of the world’s toughest and most effective gun laws. But we know that there are still many illegal weapons in the community. Every illegal weapon represents a threat of more violence, more deaths, and more tragedy. We know that every illegal or unregistered weapon that is surrendered makes our community safer and today I’ve released the second Permanent National Firearms Amnesty annual report.

The report shows that in the last year over 12,000 firearms and weapons and over 600 firearms parts and accessories have been permanently removed from the community as a result of the Permanent National Firearms Amnesty. The Permanent Amnesty enables Australians to anonymously surrender illicit and unwanted firearms to police or selected licensed firearms dealers. No questions asked, no risk of a fine or jail term in return for weapons been surrendered. In the two years the Amnesty has been in operation almost 30,000 weapons have been surrendered and prevented from ever doing anyone harm. The results show that the Amnesty continues to be a critical public safety initiative, reducing the number of firearms circulating in our community and keeping Australians safe. The Amnesty also contributes to the safety of our police officers by reducing incidences of theft and the illicit diversion of unwanted firearms to the black market.

The ongoing success of the Amnesty follows National Cabinet’s landmark agreement in December last year to implement a National Firearms Register. The National Firearms Register is the most significant improvement in Australia’s firearms management systems in almost 30 years. Along with our strong gun laws and the Permanent Amnesty, it will keep our community safer from the threat of gun violence.

I would like to thank all of those who have surrendered these weapons. You have done the right thing to keep the community safe. And for those still in possession of an unregistered or unwanted firearm I encourage you to surrender it to help protect your family and your community.

Deputy Chief Police Officer Doug Boudry from ACT Policing will now speak about firearms surrendered since July 2021.

ASSISTANT COMMISSIONER DOUG BOUDRY: Good morning. I’d just like to say thank you to the Attorney-General for his continued support of the National Firearms Amnesty and echo his sentiment that illicit and illegal weapons continued to pose a significant threat to our communities and is not something that we can tolerate.

Over 620 illegal weapons have been handed into ACT Policing since the Amnesty was first announced on the first of July 2021. Of those weapons we’ve had handguns, rifles, shotguns, gel blasters, and even flame throwers. Those being handed in have been taken away from circulation and a major improvement in terms of keeping our community safe, which is our number one priority.

Preventing unregistered non-lawful firearms falling into the wrong hands is a really important thing for us in making sure that it does not contribute to criminal activity. Obviously, having illegal firearms and weapons circulating in the community makes it extremely difficult for police to investigate serious crimes, such as aggravated burglaries, serious assaults, threats of violence and even homicides. The Permanent National Amnesty provides our community the ability to hand in firearms, parts and ammunition and other illegal weapons without the fear of prosecution. By removing these weapons from the community, once again, we stop them falling into the wrong hands and we prevent them from being involved in criminal activity.

We do know that there are people still out there with these weapons or know of people who are out there with these weapons, and we really ask and encourage these people to contact police and organise to help them hand it in. Unless you are a registered firearms owner and have a legitimate purpose for having these weapons there’s no reason to have them in our community and particularly in our homes. Thank you.

ATTORNEY-GENERAL: Thanks very much. So are there any questions?

REPORTER: How many unregistered firearms are out there?

BOUDRY: I’ve got no idea actually, we just know that they’re out there. We know that we’ve got people trying to buy them online through the black market as well. So, I can’t say exactly.

REPORTER: And just looking at the table some of those look handmade. Do people actually build working firearms?

BOUDRY: Yes, they do. Obviously, 3D printed firearms is a growing issue for us and privately manufactured firearms we’ve seen on the rise as well.

REPORTER: I know some of the ammunition doesn’t exist anymore for some of these firearms, but with the advent of things like 3D printers, is there a chance they could come back?

BOUDRY: I think ammunition is a something which is quite difficult to produce in some ways, specifically for very old or obsolete, weapons. What we find most of the time for those old weapons is those belong to collectors and are held by responsible firearms owners.

REPORTER: One for the Attorney-General if I can? On another topic.

ATTORNEY-GENERAL: Is that the last question about guns? Because if it is I will ask Doug to stand aside.

REPORTER: Why are you prepared to abandon an election promise on religious freedoms without bipartisan support?

ATTORNEY-GENERAL: We’ve made it really clear that, as far as we are concerned, no Australian should be discriminated against because of who they are. All Australians should be able to live free from discrimination. This is something we’ve been working on for a long time, we’ve been consulting about for a long time. And we’re very keen, as the Prime Minister said yesterday, to work with the Opposition for a bipartisan outcome on this. We’re going to work constructively with the Opposition towards a bipartisan outcome.

REPORTER: But are we jumping the gun on demanding bipartisanship on religious discrimination from the Opposition when it hasn’t presented legislation, or released the ALRC Report.

ATTORNEY-GENERAL: We think that this is a topic on which we should be working constructively. That’s why we’ve commenced discussions with the Opposition and why we’re looking to achieve a bipartisan outcome.

REPORTER: Will you make sure that there’s a committee inquiry? Why haven’t you let them see the bill? And will you create an inquiry so the bipartisanship can commence?

ATTORNEY-GENERAL: We’ve commenced discussions with the Opposition, and we are looking forward to working constructively with the Opposition on this piece of legislation.

REPORTER: So, if you don’t get bipartisan support will you shelve this bill?

ATTORNEY-GENERAL: This is something that Australians have been talking about for a very long time. There have been some ten inquiries since 2016. It’s something that we’ve been consulting with the community about, with faith leaders about, for a very long time. And we are looking forward to working constructively with the Opposition. We are aiming to reach a bipartisan outcome.

REPORTER: What happens if you don’t?

ATTORNEY-GENERAL: We’re aiming to reach a bipartisan outcome.

REPORTER: What happens if you don’t?

ATTORNEY-GENERAL: That’s what constructive work is, when you are aiming to reach a bipartisan outcome and I’m not contemplating that we won’t reach that destination. That’s something that we’ve been talking about for a very long time.

REPORTER: Just quickly on a couple of other issues before you have to run off. A number of former immigration detainees who launched High Court challenges against the Government’s use of ankle bracelets have had their bracelets removed. Do you understand why there’d be a perception that the Government is quietly trying to ward off cases by lifting the strict conditions the Government imposed on the NZYQ cohort?

ATTORNEY-GENERAL: For our Government community safety is our highest priority. And those specific questions are ones that you should be directed to the Minister of Home Affairs. In fact, as I understand it, she’s already dealt with those very questions this morning.

REPORTER: But how concerned is the Government about the prospect of further High Court challenges unravelling aspects of the Commonwealth’s immigration policies?

ATTORNEY-GENERAL: Well, those are questions that you should be directing to the Minister of Home Affairs. I’d repeat again, that for this Government, community safety is the highest priority.

REPORTER: Just quickly on Trump versus Rudd. I’m not sure if you’ve seen this story yet, but former President Donald Trump has had some choice words to say about Kevin Rudd saying he heard he was a little bit nasty, and that he’s “not the brightest bulb”. Is there a risk Mr Rudd’s previous comments about President Trump could come back to haunt him and the Government if Donald Trump comes back?

ATTORNEY-GENERAL: I’ve not seen those comments.

REPORTER: Considering you don’t need Coalition support to get these religious discrimination laws across the line, isn’t it a bit of a cop out to be hinging them, and putting them forward, on bipartisan support when you don’t actually need it?

ATTORNEY-GENERAL: This is a topic on which working constructively across the Parliament, on this topic of all topics, working constructively across the Parliament is desirable. And we are aiming to reach a bipartisan resolution of what has been, for Australia, a difficult issue.

REPORTER: The United Nations says Australia is breaching its international human rights obligations over the mass detention of Australian citizens in northeast Syria where they’re subject to gross human rights violations. As Attorney-General, what are you doing to address this serious complaint?

ATTORNEY-GENERAL: Well, again, that’s a question I think, should be directed to the Minister of Foreign Affairs. But Australia is always respectful of our human rights obligations.

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