The Tasmanian Government has agreed to open up controversial gun law reform to scrutiny by the state’s Upper House, as pressure is applied to the Prime Minister to stop the proposed changes.
Tasmania’s Police Minister Michael Ferguson has confirmed the State Government will support a Legislative Council inquiry into gun reform, called for this week by the Independent MLC Ivan Dean.
The Liberal policy, revealed earlier this month on the eve of the state election, would allow greater access to category C firearms such as self-loading rifles and pump-action shotguns for farm workers and sporting shooters.
Licence holders in category C would also be allowed gun silencers.
“We have made it very clear we will not do anything that puts Tasmanians at risk or is inconsistent with the National Firearms Agreement, and the inquiry will be a chance for everyone concerned to have their say on these proposals,” Mr Ferguson said.
“It will also allow Labor to explain how they managed to both oppose the proposals, while at the same time promising many of the exact same measures.”
Mr Ferguson also hit back at Federal Opposition Leader Bill Shorten over proposed changes to the state’s gun laws, saying he did not know what he was talking about.
In a letter to Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, Mr Shorten said the proposal was a direct threat to the national consensus on firearms regulation, referring to the National Firearms Agreement that was made after the 1996 Port Arthur massacre.
“As Prime Minister, you cannot stand by and allow Australia’s world-leading gun laws to be watered down,” the letter said.
“If, as appears to be the case, that proposal would breach the agreement, I ask you to publicly demand that your Liberal Party colleagues in the Tasmanian Government abandon it.”
Mr Ferguson said Mr Shorten was uninformed on the issue.
“I’m not sure Mr Shorten knows what he’s talking about, and it doesn’t look good when party leaders try to play naked party politics,” he said.
Roland Browne from Gun Control Australia said the State Government appeared increasingly confused about its own policy.
“The Premier says his advice is it doesn’t breach the National Firearms Agreement, now the Upper House wants to have an inquiry into whether it does breach the National Firearms Agreement or not, and then the current Minister says he wants to clarify whether it breaches it,” he said.
“What needs to happen is less an inquiry and more the Government being straight with the community and saying ‘This is what we were intending to do but we are abandoning those plans’, if that is what they are actually doing — it’s impossible to know.”
Deputy State Opposition Leader Michelle O’Byrne said the Government’s support for an inquiry showed how little consultation had been done.
“They’re grasping hold of the offer by Upper House member Ivan Dean for an inquiry to give some kind of legitimacy to the appalling pathway that they’ve constructed,” she said.
“The Government should take these things off the agenda.”