Ms FORREST - Mr President, I will be brief for a couple of reasons. One is the lateness of the hour and I know the Leader wants to proceed with this bill and I fully support her intention to do that. It is up to us how long it takes.
The other is that much has been said that I agree with and I am only going to focus on the points I need to clarify or that I disagree with. It is not that much.
As many others have said, this is a bill about public safety, about safety of the individual, and about safety for the police force who put themselves in the line of danger when they are dealing with a lot of these incidents that involve firearms. In broad terms, I support the approach the Government has taken and predominantly it is only one area I have a significant issue with.
The member for Elwick covered very well the issue of the consultations so I am not going to go back over that except to say I agree with her that the consultation was fairly extensive but the process was lacking. Even if it had had a more robust or different process, I still believe from the research I have done, the discussions I have had, that reaching a consensus would have been next to impossible. Even if, for example, this bill had been sent to a committee, we would have gone round and round and ended up pretty much in the same place as the department has, trying to get to a landing point on this.
For that reason I am happy to proceed with it to try to deal with the issues that have been identified. The Leader has just sent round a summarised list of the amendments which clearly highlights which ones the Government support and which ones they do not. I imagine it will not take too long to deal with the ones the Government supports generally, and hopefully we can expedite this process.
I, like many others in this Chamber, grew up on a farm and I was a good farm girl. I spent more of my life outside than inside. In doing so, I spent a lot of time with my Dad and was very involved in the care of animals. I could never be there with him when he shot an animal. I could not do it. One of our favourite old cows called Patch, the matriarch of the herd, had to be put down one day and it was the most traumatic day of my life. I remember it very vividly. She was a beautiful cow and the grandmother and great-grandmother and great-great-grandmother of many of our herd. I remember going inside, putting on a Sherbet record very loudly, and staying in my bedroom until I was sure Dad had finished the job. Even though I was around guns and Dad was very responsible with his firearms, I rarely saw the firearms as a child but I knew that they were there for a purpose and they were there for very good reasons. I have always had a respect for firearms. I have shot firearms myself as a young person and again more recently on a firing range with a padded shoulder. The stock bit that goes under your arm, whatever it is, that hurt when it kicked back. The gun I was using was a bit big for me.
I have dealt with women who had been victims of domestic violence where firearms had been fired and/or used to threaten them as a means of keeping those women in a position of subservience. It is awful, it is abhorrent and we need to do whatever we can to protect people in situations of family violence, predominantly women, but it can be men as well.
I want to touch briefly on the moving of the storage of firearms and ammunition into the regulations and out of the act. The principal act sets up the intent of the legislation while the regulations set out the requirements for the rules and regulations. In my mind, it makes sense to have those in the regulations.
Much of the confusion around this for people who have been unhappy with this move is that they did not understand that currently the commissioner of the day could change anything, anytime with just a stroke of his or her pen. I do not think they realise that because the evidence we got in the briefings from people who were concerned about this was that they thought it should be a parliamentary process. It was not a parliamentary process, it is not a parliamentary process but what is being changed is a parliamentary process. I have tried to change the way our parliamentary process works around this and failed.
However, just to reassure members - and I hope the honourable member for Rosevears is listening somewhere because this is an issue he raised - when a regulation is gazetted it becomes operational immediately. That is the first problem. The Subordinate Legislation Committee can meet at any time. It can meet during prorogation of parliament. The committee can meet at very short notice, over the phone - it does not have to be in person - and can report to the President out of session to put a disallowance motion forward. The committee can act very quickly if there was deemed to be a concern with the regulations.
I would like the honourable Leader to reaffirm in her response to the debate that the regulations regarding the storage of firearms will not change in the regulations. That is what we were told quite clearly in the briefing. Some honourable members have confused this issue too in the debate. The storage of ammunition will change. We do not know exactly what it was and this was one of the issues raised. The concern was that ammunition would be forced to be put into a steel safe of some sort, which could cause a problem. I understand that there will be changes to the ammunition storage, but it is not going to be prescribed to the extent that you put it into a steel box or steel safe. That is my understanding. If I am wrong I am sure the honourable Leader will correct me on that. I understand that for firearms it will stay the same, but that for ammunition there will be stricter controls. There will be the requirement for electronic monitoring of some sort for some situations like pistols, single pistols or firearms of more than 10.
I do not have an issue with that. It is incumbent on the Government, the minister and the department to fully inform people of that. It is also incumbent on us to explain to people who are concerned about this area how the regulations work in terms of the parliamentary process.
Some of the amendments I agree with and some of them I do not, and we will get to those shortly. I support the paintball amendments. I have a constituent who came to see me not long ago who was very keen to understand how this is going to happen and when. I told him he still has a while to wait because we will require the regulations to come in before he can start to operate.
Mr Armstrong - Will it?
Ms FORREST - Yes. Parts of the act will be enacted when they can be, but anything that needs to be prescribed in terms of paintball will need the regulations before they can operate. It will still be a while and I assured him it will not be quick, but I will keep him informed. That is the reality.
I do not agree with mandatory sentences. I have stated a firm position on this a number of times. I have not changed my position on this. I fully support the honourable member for Western Tiers' proposal that has been circulated on this. I will not make any further comment about that until the Committee stage. I believe that mandatory sentencing undermines the judiciary; it can result in unjust and unfair sentences. I have read many experts' opinions on this in previous debates, so I am not going to do it again now. Those arguments are the same, they stand, and I will not be supporting mandatory sentencing. However, I do support the overall intent of the bill.