in the new millennium
would all now be aware there are significant moves afoot to change
firearms legislation, both State and Federal, relating to handguns.
Premiers and the Australian Police Ministers met towards the end
of last year and agreed to a raft of proposals that are supposed
to bring all the States and Territories into line with new legislation
that will prevent a recurrence of the Monash University shooting.
Whether it will or not can be the subject of further analysis once
the detail is known. If the British example is any indication of
handgun legislation where a total ban is in force then all the posturing
going on is simply politics.
we should all be concerned about at present is not the detail of
the proposals but the process that led to its formulation.
sure it has not escaped your attention that whenever major policy
decisions are announced we are supposed to have been consulted and
we are in full agreement. In fact, the first time we hear about
it is when a press release featuring Warne-like spin is issued announcing
our full and happy compliance.
does this come about?
technique is a new-age ploy called claytons consultation. What happens
is the government selects a few individuals from the shooting fraternity,
slaps a veil of secrecy on them and the proceedings, tells them
that they are prohibited from making public comment, force-feeds
them with issues and eventually, months later, promulgates new legislation.
that these individuals are wise men and women to be sure and they
have the very best interests of shooting at heart but, in my humble
opinion, they are not capable of properly attending to the issues
when there is no time to consider an agenda, take appropriate advice,
confer with their colleagues and committees, reach consensus within
their own organisations and then take a fully considered view to
the meeting. It is more difficult when the issue under consideration
is outside their area of expertise.
me illustrate my point.
the Monash incident the Federal Government entered into discussions
with two individuals from the shooting fraternity with a view to
changing Commonwealth law as it applied to the sport of pistol shooting
and the availability of handguns in Australia. During a meeting
of the Australian Shooting Association I asked one of the individuals
to report on the state of negotiations and to give a general appraisal
of where the negotiations were headed. The reply was that the negotiations
were confidential and could not be discussed even in the forum of
the Australian Shooting Association.
- I know you are as flabbergasted as I was. Let me give you a minute
to catch your breath.
is it delegates of the Australian Shooting Association were prevented
from discussing a matter as fundamental as the availability of handguns
in Australia? What relevance does this peak body have if not to
advise government on matters such as this and worse still if the
government looks elsewhere for the advice it wishes to hear.
this day I remain unaware of what advice was given to the government
regarding the issue. Equally I am unsure of how the new rules will
affect the sport.
I am sure of is that the subject needed broad consultation. As it
was, a very narrow view of the matter was taken which failed to
consider the likely consequences of Commonwealth law as it applied
to, for example, blackpowder, muzzle-loading and collecting; all
of which had to be subsequently negotiated.
NSW Muzzle-loading Association and Historical Arms Collectors Association
subsequently addressed the issues with strong support from the NSW
Shooting Association. I am sure other Associations similarly addressed
the NSW Shooting Association formed an expert working group from
all disciplines and worked to produce a comprehensive submission
that could support the individual submissions from Associations.
This was not an easy process since a conclusion that suited one
particular discipline could have been disastrous to another.
point is the submissions now before government reflect the wishes
of the Associations and their membership. The membership is informed
and has had the opportunity to pass on their views to government.
If the government chooses to reject the advice then so be it but,
at least, the membership knows where it stands.
attempt by governments, State and Commonwealth, to give the impression
of consensus between stakeholders on the basis of a token effort
will no longer wash. Spokespeople who wish to participate in this
exercise need to understand that they have a fiduciary responsibility
to act in the best interests of their membership and are not appointed
by their committees to endorse government policy as a matter of
are entitled to a fair go. Their contribution to the National Firearms
Agreement of 1996 has been commendable and, in many cases, costly.
They are regulation-compliant and maintain enviable safety records.
They are not, however, responsible for rising crime rates and should
not be expected to carry the burden of policy failure in other areas.
next time you see a new policy in action ask yourself whether you
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