Published: 28 May 2018

Legislative Council Tuesday 22 May, 2018

Ms  FORREST  (Murchison) - Mr President, my contribution will be brief.  I will ask a number of questions of the member moving the motion. 

I start with the same questions I asked during debate on the motion previously put by the member for Launceston.  Is this an area of significant concern?  Absolutely, yes it is.  One reason there is so much concern is the way the policy was released during the recent election period.  The letter sent out by the Liberal Party was dated 9 February, in their planning for the election.  It was sent out to a number of stakeholders, but not all. 

If it had been sent to all stakeholders, it would have been sent to every Tasmanian because every Tasmanian is a stakeholder in this issue.  The letter was not even sent to every stakeholder with an interest in firearms.  A number of people contacted me who did not receive it, including firearms owners and retailers.  So the manner in which the policy was released created the most community interest and concern.  It is a significant area of concern.  Does it need review?

Many of the proposals in that letter are similarly reflected in the Labor Party policy - which I did not actually read, but the member for Windermere has read sections of it.  They are sensible and I think most people agree with that.  The government should have done it last term when the regulations were debated and the Subordinate Legislation Committee looked at that.  There were all manner of reasons why the regulations were accepted as they were, even though they were fundamentally flawed in some aspects in my mind, and in the minds of most.  The government stuffed up in that process.

A lot of the proposed changes, or proposed policy positions, reflect what should have happened last term of government. The Labor Party also apparently recognised that.  I did not look at what the Greens were saying.  They were all sensible changes.  Only a few were not perhaps sensible or definitely needed consultation broader than just the few people who were sent the letter.

The letter that fell out of the cupboard, conveniently or inconveniently, a few days before the election is what really annoyed people.  It was a really odd thing for the member for Windermere to say that it was 'unfortunate' it was released.  Unfortunate it was released?  The letter was out there on 9 February 2018.  Some people would have received it on that date, maybe a few days later.  I do not think it was unfortunate it was released; I think it was important it was released so the people knew what they were voting for, but many people had already voted by the time it hit the media.  I had a lot of people raising really serious concerns about that process.

Yes, it needs review and it needs to be looked at properly.  The changes that are perhaps more significant are not just commonsense changes, which I would argue should have happened in the last term of government.

Is this our role or is it the role of government?  The member for Windermere posed that question, and he said no doubt someone will mention it - and too right because I do not believe it is our role to be scrutinising the whole of the areas of firearms and gun laws basically in the state when the Government probably only has a number of defined areas that it actually really needs to consider and consult on.  The Government should be doing that.  It should have done it.

We do not know what the Government is actually going to bring in now in terms of the legislation.  We do not know what regulatory change it is going to propose.  There is a process for that and I believe that the Government should be doing that.

I am happy to be convinced by other members that I am wrong on this and that is fine, but this is the way I see it after the conversations I have had with members of my community.  I do not know how many are gun owners, particularly in my electorate, but I am sure the Leader would know that a lot of them are, because they are mostly farmers, shooters and hunters.  Far and away the majority of them do not live in the middle of Burnie and would have a firearm.  Some of them perhaps should not.  You meet the odd one like that now and then.

If this House should have an inquiry, I do not agree that there is a real urgency.  The Government has not put a bill on the Table.  It has not even talked about introducing a bill into the other place, so there is not the urgency in my mind.  I know that people want this sorted out and they want a light shone on it, but let us look at what we are shining the light on: what does the Government actually want to do and how does it want to do it?

Mr Dean - Is that not clear in the policy on it?

Ms  FORREST  - That was the letter sent to a number of stakeholders so we still do not know in what form they are going to bring forward some of the changes so let the Government work that out.  Let it consult and decide the changes that need to be made and how they are best reflected.  A lot of them are sensible changes, and there are only a small number of contentious ones.  If there is to be an inquiry, it should be with Government Administration Committee A.  It clearly sits within Police, Fire and Emergency Management and that is Committee A.  If the member for Windermere is not on that, he can substitute in - we have done that before - and generally chair the inquiry.

We set up these committees for a reason. I know it is not set up yet.  Hopefully it will be next time we are back because there will be many opportunities to inquire into a whole range of matters relating to these portfolio areas, but that is what those committees are for and it clearly fits within one of them.

Mr Dean - What about the previous one?

Ms  FORREST  - If you listened to my contribution in that, you would have heard that it crossed planning, tourism and housing which crossed committees A and B.  They are not all in the same committee.  I made that point at the time.  I also have concerns, not about the Leader personally, but about the Leader being on a select committee like this.  I know she was the only Liberal Party member at the time it was proposed, but I do not believe it is right.  I do not know if anyone intends to move an amendment to that.  It could be a baptism of fire for the member for Prosser perhaps.  I think it is wrong.  We had a joint House committee a number of years ago on the review of the GMO moratorium.  We then had the minister on the committee. Not only was he on the committee, he was chairing it.

Mrs Hiscutt - Was that GMOs?

Ms  FORREST  - Yes.  The minister had made his position very clear before the commencement of the inquiry and he was not going to change.  I know you are not a minister, Leader, but you have the same standing in this place.  You are the Leader of Government Business in this place.

Mr Valentine - She gets to speak on behalf of the minister.

Ms  FORREST  - That is right.  The Leader has an enormous workload, carrying all of that.  She does a really good job.  As it stands, that is also a problem and there is an option now, in my mind on that, if it is supported.  I would like to see that changed.  If the committee is to be supported, that should change.

As far as needing to expedite the process, I do not believe there needs to be a rush.  The Government has not been overly vocal about gun law reform except to say it supports an inquiry.  It should be doing it itself.  It should be undertaking the consultation.  It should be putting its policy position formally, saying 'This is what we are going to do and this is how we are going to do it.'  Some of it requires regulatory change.  Some of it would require legislation.  Some of it is just a policy decision to establish a new committee.  I do not believe you need legislation for that.

A range of things in that policy document, or letter, require a range of approaches.  Let the Government get about its business.  I am surprised the member for Windermere has been very vocal in the media saying the Government should be able to get on with its business.  What are we doing here?  Interfering and getting in their way?  You could argue that.  My view is let the Government do it.  I am happy to listen to the debate, as always, but at this stage I will not support the motion for all the reasons I have outlined.  I will listen to other members' contributions.


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