Firearms Amendment Bill 2017

Mr J. BULL (Sunbury) (16:12:33) — I am greatly pleased to have the opportunity to speak on the Firearms Amendment Bill 2017. We on this side of the house are committed to giving Victoria Police the powers and the resources they need to fight crime. Unlike those on the other side of the house we know crime is a complex problem that requires complex solutions. If you listen to those over there, you would think that the crime rate simply increased overnight on 29 November 2014, when the Andrews Labor government took office. Of course nothing could be further from the truth. We do know in fact, and we have heard this afternoon from a number of speakers on this side of the house, that the crime rate was steadily increasing in the term of the previous government. Rather than tackle it head-on, they did nothing. Well, that is not entirely accurate. We do know that there were significant cuts in a number of sectors, particularly in TAFE, which of course denied young people the opportunity they desperately deserved and the opportunities to upskill and then get a job and do those things that we know contribute to a better and stronger Victoria.

I wanted to briefly take this opportunity to have a look at the Barry Kennedy article published on 28 June 2017 in the Sunbury Leader which refers to Sunbury bucking the rise in crime and ‘Crime Statistics Agency figures revealing a 12.8 per cent drop for the year to March’. The article states:

Sunbury will welcome two new police trainees, while two more and an extra sergeant are due in September.

I certainly know that the work done by Victoria Police is greatly appreciated in my community and appreciated by the communities right throughout my electorate. I take this opportunity to thank the hardworking men and women of Victoria Police, a couple of whom I bumped into this morning whilst getting a coffee. I thank them for their support and their hard work within the community.

Of course, by example they need to be supported by the government, and I am incredibly pleased that this legislation is before the house, enabling Victoria Police to have the opportunity to curb the —

Mr McCurdy — Acting Speaker, I draw your attention to the state of the house.

Quorum formed.

Mr J. BULL — It is wonderful to see so many members have come to my contribution. As I was saying previously, the investment that has been made by the Andrews Labor government is a significant one. The government’s record $2 billion through the Community Safety Statement in 2017 made major commitments, those being 2729 additional police over four years on top of attrition, including 415 specialist family violence officers, of course the 100 new protective services officers to boost mobile patrols and safety at train stations and transport hubs, a dedicated 24-hour police assistance line for non-emergency calls and a reporting website so Victorians can contact police when and where they need to — a very important service.

On top of that there is the $63.2 million to modernise and expand the Victoria Police air wing with three new helicopters and one fixed-wing aircraft, the replacement of ten police stations right across the state, and 42 additional youth resource officers and Aboriginal community liaison officers. We always know, though, that the work of government never ends, and this bill is a fine example of the Community Safety Statement, which has seen significant reform and, most importantly, significant investment — real money for police and an investment in community safety.

What we were told was that there could be more done to reduce the harm caused by illegal firearm use, and this of course brings about the bill that is before the house this afternoon. I wanted to very briefly refer to an article by John Silvester in the Saturday Age of 30 September 2017, in which he writes:

Just the other day, Victorian police minister Lisa Neville dropped a press release headed ‘New laws to target illegal guns, organised crime and drive-by shootings’.

In the release the minister channelled Clint Eastwood … ‘Let this be a warning to organised crime figures and those that associate with organised crime figures — we are coming for you.’

The article goes on:

… make no mistake, the Firearms Amendment Bill 2017 is a game changer.

We know that this bill will make a real difference to the safety of Victorians.

I am very pleased to note that specifically the bill introduces a firearms prohibition order (FPO) scheme into the Firearms Act 1996 for police to protectively address the risk to public safety from the possession and use of firearms by organised crime groups and persons rated a terrorist risk by police. This is a scheme that has been successful in New South Wales and a scheme that I think will be just as successful in Victoria.

The bill inserts a new indictable offence into the Firearms Act to tackle drive-by shootings, and updates an offence for possession, carriage and use of firearms in public places. I do not need to go into detail around the danger that is caused by drive-by shootings and the risks associated with those practices. I am very pleased to see this provision in this act, and it is something that I fully support.

The bill goes on to amend the illicit firearm manufacturing offence to better capture preparatory steps in the manufacturing process, reducing the definition of trafficable quantities in unregistered firearms from four firearms to two or more. We know that the bill also makes a number of amendments to improve the operation of the firearms licensing and regulation system. There are a range of provisions contained in this bill.

I note deputy commissioner Shane Patton has said this legislation is groundbreaking and perhaps the most important piece of legislation introduced for a number of years to improve community safety. This of course comes on top of those significant investments that I spoke about earlier. They are investments that are making a genuine difference to community safety right across the state, community safety in my area of Sunbury and community safety in the areas of each and every member of this house.

We know that the police will have significant search powers that can be exercised at any time. The right of review by VCAT has safeguards to protect police and of course intelligence. Those persons subject to an FPO will have a further review right at the halfway point of an order, and we know that there is a role — I will not go into detail, given the time — for the Independent Broad-based Anti-corruption Commission in oversight.

The government has been absolutely clear that it is not and never has been the intention for these orders to inhibit the lawful activities of legitimate firearm users, and that has been discussed this afternoon. Those include sporting shooters, farmers and those that do the right thing with firearms. That is incredibly important and certainly something that the government is acutely aware of.

I would like to take this opportunity to commend the Minister for Police for her hard work, her dedication and her commitment to the safety of the people of Victoria. This is a minister who knows her stuff and a minister who has the leadership to make serious reform and, most importantly, to work closely with cabinet, with the Premier and with the Treasurer to make serious investment with Victoria Police. This bill, as noted by John Silvester, is entirely a game changer. It is something that I think the people of Victoria will very warmly receive, and I commend the bill to the house.