Dr WOODRUFF question to PREMIER, Mr HODGMAN
You and your former Police minister made a secret deal with the shooting lobby to weaken Tasmania's gun laws in February this year which would violate the National Firearms Agreement. This included doubling the period of licences to 10 years, widening access to the restrictive category C and creating a whole new prohibited category. You did not release these commitments to the Tasmanian community and they only came to light days before the election when the Greens revealed them.
It was the twenty-second anniversary of the Port Arthur massacre shooting last Saturday. Everyone was touched by that terrible event and knows the importance of tough gun laws. Since the news broke of your perfidious secret deal, Tasmanians of all political persuasions have loudly voiced their outrage. Former Liberals premier, Tony Rundle, and former prime minister, John Howard, have voiced their total opposition to your plan. Instead of cooking up an upper House inquiry to diffuse the stench of this dangerous policy, will you instead commit to walking away from it today?
Madam Speaker, I thank the member for the question. I will say again, as I have repeatedly in relation to this matter, we will not do anything to compromise the safety of Tasmanians, nor will we do anything to breach the National Firearms Agreement. We are all aware of the sensitivities around these matters. We are also well aware of the significant public interest, which is why we believe that a Legislative Council inquiry is to be supported because it will allow all interested parties to make a contribution to provide perspective and to advance what is a sensitive area of public policy through a robust and transparent process through our parliament.
We are normally criticised by the Greens for not doing things to involve the parliament to inquire into matters of public interest and now we are doing it they complain about that as well. We believe there is an important opportunity here for stakeholders.
It is not true to say that we did not release our policies. In fact they were released and circulated more than three weeks before the election day, not three days or whatever you assert. It was certainly a lot longer than the Labor Party, so I would not be chirping up if I were them.
We did engage, of course, as you should, extensively with key stakeholders in a range of public policy areas and we criticised for that now? It is appropriate and indeed, the Leader of the Opposition in their statement on this matter, acknowledged the very real concerns of a particular sector who lawfully use firearms. There is nothing wrong with that. That is what we were doing, yet there were proposals contained within that letter that we are prepared to have tested through a parliamentary inquiry which represent the interests of a sector.
It is certainly our intention to allow a parliamentary process to be pursued as per the proposed legislative inquiry will do, without in any way leading to us doing anything other than ensuring that our laws with respect to firearms use remain the best, strongest and safest they can be for Tasmanian communities. Those lawful firearms users have to abide by the law, quite rightly and properly, and do so respectfully, but they are also to be entrusted with assisting the community, government and the Parliament to understand the practical issues that confront them. That is exactly what has happened here.
It is not true to even suggest that our laws have remained untouched since the Port Arthur tragedy. They have been changed several times. There have been 14 amendment acts since 1996. In fact it was this Government that strengthened Tasmania's gun laws during the last term of government. That is our track record. It demonstrates how seriously we take this matter. We will not do anything to breach the agreement and certainly nothing to endanger Tasmanians.