WEAPONS AND FIREARMS LEGISLATION AMENDMENT BILL 2010
The Hon. PENNY SHARPE
(Parliamentary Secretary) [8.16 p.m.], on behalf of the Hon. Eric Roozendaal: I move
That this bill be now a read a second time.
The Weapons and Firearms Legislation Amendment Bill formalises the recommendations arising out of a substantive review of the Weapons Prohibition Act 1998. A report on this review was tabled in June 2009. The bill strengthens the Weapons Prohibition Act 1998 by providing a more comprehensive range of appropriate offences and penalties to ensure effective control of prohibited weapons. This is of particular importance because, unlike firearms, prohibited weapons are not registrable items. The offences and penalties have been designed to reflect this and to provide for greater alignment with equivalent offences and penalties in the Firearms Act 1996.
As members may be aware, the Weapons Prohibition Act serves to outline those weapons that can be lawfully owned only with a permit and the conditions for a prohibited weapons permit to be issued, and also provides offences applicable to the misuse or unlawful possession of prohibited weapons. The items currently classed as prohibited weapons range from certain types of specialist knives to tasers and knuckledusters. The list is dynamic and additions are made in response to operational feedback from police. For example, over the past few years, items such as road spikes and laser pointers have been included as prohibited. Through this bill, improvised explosive devices and taser-proof clothing are proposed as additions to the Schedule of Prohibited Weapons. As well as providing clear guidelines for the NSW Police Force, the Schedule of Prohibited Weapons serves as a guideline for the Australian Customs and Border Protection Service. In order to import any item on the schedule, the Customs and Border Protection Service requires proof of police authorisation.
The bill amends the definition of a number of items already on the Schedule of Prohibited Weapons to enhance the effectiveness of existing definitions. For example, handcuffs designed as children's toys or theatrical props have been specifically excluded from the definition contained in the schedule. Another important initiative in this bill is the introduction of a separate schedule of military-style prohibited weapons. Items such as bombs, rocket launchers and flamethrowers will be included in the new schedule. The bill introduces a high level of control of these items by prescribing more stringent safe storage requirements. The bill also includes offences related to military-style prohibited weapons both as offences for which there is an assumption against bail in the Bail Act and offences that are to be prosecuted on indictment only. This is appropriate considering the potential risk to public safety represented by these items.
The bill also changes the regulatory model governing the lawful possession and use of imitation firearms. Currently the terms "firearm" and "replica firearm" are used interchangeably in New South Wales legislation. The bill amends the use of these terms and in doing so brings New South Wales legislation into line with legislation in the other States and Territories. The bill adds a new section 4D to the Firearms Act 1996 relating to imitation firearms. This provision includes a definition of "imitation firearm", which essentially means something that would reasonably be taken to be a firearm but is incapable of firing a projectile and therefore does not meet the definition of "firearm". Objects that are produced and identified as children's toys are specifically excluded from the definition of imitation firearm. As is the case today, a permit will be required for lawful possession and use of imitation firearms and these items must be stored according to prescribed safe storage guidelines.
The bill is silent on the definition of "replica firearm". However, as agreed through the Ministerial Council
Emergency Management—Police, this will be taken to refer to firearms that are exact replicas of recognised brands of firearm that are capable of firing a projectile. As replica firearms meet the threshold for the definition of a firearm, they are controlled under the Firearms Act 1996 and require no additional regulatory controls. The bill also removes existing references to imitation and replica firearms from the Weapons Prohibition Act because these items will be regulated only through the Firearms Act.
Criminal intelligence is a vital tool for police, not only in the investigation and prosecution of criminal activity but also in decision-making processes for the issuing of licences and permits. To this end, the bill inserts sections 10 (3A) and 10 (3B) into the Weapons Prohibition Act to provide the Commissioner of Police with the authority to rely on criminal intelligence in determining applications for prohibited weapons permits. The commissioner may refuse a weapons permit on the basis of criminal intelligence held about an applicant for a permit when that person is considered to be a risk to public safety.
So that the contents of police criminal intelligence reports are protected, the commissioner is not required to give reasons for decisions based on the contents of these reports. The bill also makes it clear that any such grounds for not issuing a permit may also be grounds for suspending or revoking the permit. With respect to weapons clubs, the bill ensures the regulation may make provision for the approval of clubs, societies or organisations in relation to the possession or use of prohibited weapons.
I can also advise that the Government plans to move amendments to the bill aimed at strengthening changes proposed in the bill. The need for this has arisen subsequent to the bill being introduced. The bill provides that if a person's firearm or prohibited weapons permit or firearm licence is suspended, revoked or otherwise ceases to be in force they must surrender any firearms or prohibited weapons as well as their licence or permit to a police officer. The proposed amendments seek to clarify that this will not be required in cases where a licensee or permit holder is still covered by the authority of their previous licence or permit—that is, where their re-application is in the post or still being determined by the New South Wales Firearms Registry. This is already provided for in both the Firearms Regulation and the prohibited weapons regulation. The amendment merely seeks to provide greater clarity. I commend the bill to the House.
The Hon. MICHAEL GALLACHER
(Leader of the Opposition) [8.23 p.m.]: The Weapons and Firearms Legislation Amendment Bill 2010 amends the Weapons Prohibition Act 1998 to modernise legislative and regulatory controls governing the possession and use of prohibited weapons, and makes minor administrative changes to the Firearms Act 1996. The New South Wales Liberal Party and The Nationals support these measures, which continue to enact proposed changes recommended by the review of the Weapons Prohibition Act 1998 and Weapons Prohibition Regulation 1999 and which, I am told, have the full support of the New South Wales police responsible for enforcing the firearms licensing regime and making sure that prohibited weapons stay out of the hands of criminals.
My Liberal and Nationals colleagues and I are satisfied with the consultatory measures undertaken by the Government, including the taking of submissions and a review process that continues to keep this legislation up to date in the face of changing technology. It is important that weapons definitions are kept updated so that new weapons technology does not slip through the cracks. For example, in the United States it is customary for weapons manufacturers to tweak designs and specifications of military-style weapons to keep them on store shelves. We are lucky to an extent that we do not have the same firearms culture in Australia and that firearms commonly used in Australia, particularly in New South Wales, are for sporting and recreational purposes or for professionals such as contract shooters, primary producers and the security industry—for whom we maintain strident checks and licensing systems.
I thank the Minister's office and particularly his staff for keeping my office and me briefed on the progress of this legislation. The New South Wales Liberals and The Nationals are committed to keeping our police resourced with the legislative measures they need to keep the most dangerous weapons out of the reach of crooks, while ensuring legitimate sportsmen and recreational shooters are still able to participate in approved firearms-related activities. This bill makes minor amendments to weapons definitions to ensure that children's toys are excluded from those definitions while adding improvised explosive devices, which, I am sure we all agree, no law-abiding citizen of our State has any business possessing for any reason. We remain satisfied that the new schedule for military-style prohibited weapons will keep those weapons exclusively in the hands of those licensed and approved to possess them while toughening penalties and storage provisions.
Having consulted with police, I support measures to allow the police commissioner to rely on criminal intelligence to determine applications for prohibited weapons permits. Again, I stress it must be a priority that prohibited weapons are kept out of the hands of criminals. It is also worth noting that as we march through the years, the definition of an antique weapon continues to change. But while an antique World War I era rifle is just a curiosity to a collector, it can still be used in the commission of a crime, and for this reason we must remain vigilant with our application of the Act. The regulation of imitation firearms will be streamlined through this bill, with clear definitions and the provision for those firearms to be administered exclusively under the Firearms Act.
It is worth noting that an imitation firearm, for all intents and purposes, should be treated as a real firearm and it is important the Act continues to treat them as such. A firearm is a weapon not just because it delivers ordinance but because it is intimidating, and we have an obligation to protect the community from threats and intimidation just as much as we have an obligation to defend people from physical violence or the threat thereof. I note with interest and approval that the Government intends this Act to commence on assent. It has been a frequent criticism by the Legislation Review Committee that too many bills rushed through this place are to commence by regulation, and I hope we see a shift away from that as we move forward.
We have received several amendments to the bill circulated by the Government and the Shooters Party that I will deal with briefly. We are satisfied that Government amendments Nos 1 to 3 meet the fairness test with regard to applications for permits in the mail at the time. However, I trust that this provision will be monitored closely by the relevant authorities. I do not want to see a situation where police are unable to seize prohibited weapons for prolonged periods due to applications being lost in the mail or claims of such. If someone has their licence revoked for whatever reason I want the police to be able to seize those prohibited weapons as quickly as possible so they do not pose a risk to the community. I refer the House to my earlier comments regarding antique weapons and the fact that current requirements are strengthened.
Earlier this evening I received late notice of a fourth amendment from the Shooters Party that seeks to omit the phrase "including a device known as a PVC cannon" from schedule 1 . The New South Wales Liberals and The Nationals do not support this amendment as it describes a homemade or improvised weapon that should not be available to members of the general public and that should be rightly classified as being not so much a firearm as a mortar or artillery device and prohibited as such.
Before concluding, I particularly thank John Macgowan and Suzanne Frosbery from my office for their work and input on this bill, which even Government members—particularly Government staff—would agree have improved the amendments, and therefore the bill. I commend the bill to the House.
Reverend the Hon. FRED NILE
[8.30 p.m.]: On behalf of the Christian Democratic Party I am pleased to support the Weapons and Firearms Legislation Amendment Bill 2010. The main purpose of the bill is to amend the Weapons Prohibition Act 1998 to enhance and modernise legislative and regulatory controls governing the possession and use of prohibited weapons. The bill also makes minor amendments to the Firearms Act 1996. The bill arises from a major review of the Weapons Prohibition Act 1998. A report of that review was tabled in the House in June 2009. Various stakeholders have been widely consulted on the bill, although I note that the Shooters Party, in particular, has circulated a number of amendments that it foreshadows moving in Committee.
The original Act established a permits and exemptions scheme to allow individuals, companies or groups that can demonstrate a genuine need to do so to lawfully possess and use items on the schedule of prohibited weapons. It also imposes strict controls on the possession and use of prohibited weapons, such as during the sale or transportation of such items. The review has been conducted and the bill contains a number of amendments, which the Government regards as minor—although any amendment dealing with firearms should be scrutinised closely.
Minor amendments are proposed to a number of weapons definitions in the schedule of prohibited weapons. The amendments specify that children's toys will be excluded from each definition. The bill proposes that certain items, including improvised explosive devices, be added to the schedule. That is important because a number of people have been involved in making explosive devices and, sadly, not long ago a father was killed by one such device. The bill creates a new schedule of military-style prohibited weapons and introduces more stringent penalties. It will ensure that safe storage requirements apply to items on the schedule. The bill also proposes to provide the Commissioner of Police with the authority to rely on criminal intelligence in determining applications for prohibited weapons permits. I would have thought the commissioner always had the power to use criminal intelligence and I would be surprised if he had never used that power. However, the bill makes it clear that the commissioner has that authority. Such provision already exists in the Firearms Act 1996 and the Security Industry Act 1997.
Finally, the regulation of imitation firearms will be streamlined through this bill. Currently, these items are controlled through the Weapons Prohibition Act and the Firearms Act. The bill proposes that imitation firearms be controlled only through the Firearms Act, with the same permit requirements and penalties attached. A clear definition will also be provided for imitation firearms. It is important to acknowledge that over the years strong legislation has been in place for the permit system and for the firearms licensing of individuals. That system has worked satisfactorily in this State. In the majority of cases, any problems experienced with firearms have been with people possessing illegal, unlicensed firearms—in other words, criminals usually engaged in criminal activities.
Sadly, when problems arise, there is a crackdown on licensed firearm holders, which causes some annoyance. In the majority of cases licensed firearm holders belong to clubs, they are responsible and they handle their weapons with care. However, those involved in criminal activity tarnish the reputations of legitimate licence holders. It is important to acknowledge that we have strong and effective legislation for those who obey the law. No bill will ever control those who do not obey the law, but law-abiding citizens have this legislation to protect them and I am pleased to support it.
The Hon. ROY SMITH
[8.35 p.m.]: I make a few brief comments on the Weapons and Firearms Legislation Amendment Bill 2010. The Shooters Party does not oppose the bill but we have a few concerns about anomalies in the bill. For this reason we will move several amendments in Committee. The majority of the bill simply deals with some aspects of the Weapons Prohibition Act to bring it into line with amendments made to the Firearms Act in recent years—for example, safekeeping requirements. For those reasons, we will not oppose the bill but we will address in Committee several anomalies.
Ms LEE RHIANNON
[8.36 p.m.]: The Greens do not support the Weapons and Firearms Legislation Amendment Bill 2010. We accept that it results from a lengthy review of prohibited weapons legislation and does some good things. However, we have strong objections to—
The Hon. Rick Colless:
Point of order: I bring to your attention the fact that the member appears to be on the phone while she is speaking to the Chamber.
The DEPUTY-PRESIDENT (The Hon. Shaoquett Moselmane):
Order! Ms Lee Rhiannon should not engage in a telephone conversation when she has the call to address the House.
Ms LEE RHIANNON:
Thank you for your ruling, Mr Deputy-President. The Greens do not support the bill. We accept that the bill results from a lengthy review of prohibited weapons legislation and there are some good aspects of it. However, there are many reasons to have strong objections to the provisions in the bill, particularly in regard to imitation firearms. It is always interesting to listen to debates in this Chamber when Labor and the Coalition parties push a strong law and order agenda, particularly when it is close to an election. However, when it comes to firearms they suddenly lose the fire in their belly. That is certainly the case with imitation firearms.
An imitation firearm is classified as a firearm and it should be treated as a firearm. For anyone who is held up using a firearm, whether it is an imitation firearm or a regular firearm, the trauma is the same. The person confronted with the firearm does not know the difference. In many instances imitation firearms have been used to terrible effect. Currently, imitation firearms do not have to be registered. I thank the National Coalition for Gun Control for its advice on these matters. The National Coalition for Gun Control believes that imitation firearms should be registered as they are often used in criminal activity. Again, that underlines the point being debated tonight.
We are aware of intensive negotiations in the past couple of days between the Shooters Party and the Government, with regular meetings between staff as well as members of Parliament, and what we have before us is not a good outcome. When an imitation firearm is used to threaten, the person being threatened has no idea that the gun is not able to fire. So the level of fear is the same as that caused by a real firearm. Imitation firearms do not look like toys; they look like real firearms. Imitation firearms are very sophisticated these days. I note the gestures by the Hon. Roy Smith of the Shooters Party. Unfortunately, we are not able to have his gestures recorded in Hansard
, but I hope he will enlighten us when we—
The Hon. Robert Brown: I'll elucidate them.
Ms LEE RHIANNON: I look forward to that. It should be interesting to hear the Hon. Robert Brown interpret the Hon. Roy Smith's gestures. As I said, imitation firearms are very sophisticated these days. I argue that that is why they are recognised as regular firearms. Clause 4D (2) (b) states that an imitation prohibited firearm is a firearm. That is the definition set out in the law. If imitation firearms are to be recognised as firearms, they should be regulated like firearms. I will give some recent examples of how this issue has played out in the community and how serious it is. If the Coalition and Labor were serious about their law and order agendas—which they tell us are about making our community safer—they would do something about imitation firearms being used in our communities.
There have been a number of serious incidents when replica pistols have been used. Indeed, the New South Wales Police Force felt it had to issue a warning to consumers about a replica pistol that it determined to be a prohibited weapon. New South Wales police contacted the importer, trying to establish what other stores in New South Wales—a number of the stores concerned were in northern New South Wales—might have been provided with these replica pistols. The Commander of State Crime Command's Firearms and Regulated Industries Crime Squad, Detective Superintendent John Kerlatec, said that any retailers with the item on sale or members of the public who had purchased the weapon should hand it to police immediately. That replica pistol was determined to be a prohibited weapon; that is how seriously it was treated.
On the Gold Coast a number of crimes have been reported. As at about 18 months ago, at the end of 2008, 15 incidents had been reported around the Gold Coast and the Tweed in the past two years. Again, I argue that if imitation firearms are recognised by the law as being firearms, offences involving them should be subject to the full weight of the law and there should be no exceptions. I will cite further examples. At about 4.30 p.m. on 14 December 2008 police received a report—
We are about to weaken our gun control laws, and Reverend the Hon. Fred Nile has just signed off on it. At about 4.30 p.m. on Sunday 14 December 2008 police received a report of a man threatening security guards with a gun at Chevron Renaissance, Surfers Paradise. A 25-year-old man was later arrested, and faced Southport Magistrate's Court on 16 January 2009. In another incident at around the same time, a motorist allegedly brandished a replica handgun when he was confronted by a Biggera Waters resident after a car accident. Police wearing bulletproof vests—which shows how seriously police take such situations; they wear bulletproof vests when a weapon is being used—took no chances as they stormed a Coombabah property where they handcuffed five people and confiscated a replica pistol.
The issue of the sale of replica guns had been discussed at the Australasian Police Ministers Council. The Queensland acting police Minister at that time, Robert Schwarten, said that offences committed in Queensland with replica weapons carried the same penalties as those committed with real weapons. And that is how it should be. I emphasise the point I made earlier about the trauma that can result when these imitation weapons are used. I acknowledge that when an imitation weapon is used the victim may not be killed by a bullet, but the trauma caused to that person may be considerable. Associate Professor Rick van der Zwan from Southern Cross University's School of Psychology said that the effect of being threatened with a replica handgun was almost identical to being threatened with a proper pistol. The associate professor went on to say:
The average person can't tell at a glance the difference between a replica pistol and a real pistol.
In that case, the effect of pulling a replica pistol is exactly the same, emotionally and behaviourally, as pulling a real pistol.
When you are confronted with a gun you can't have that "fight or flight" response. You can't attack the person with the gun because they've got a gun and you can't run away because they're pointing the gun at you.
I will give the House another example—one that is much closer to home and happened more recently. I refer to a report I picked up in my local newspaper of 8 March 2010, just a few months ago. In Elizabeth Bay a teenager and, I understand, two other men were charged in relation to an alleged incident involving a replica pistol. Apparently the replica pistol was pointed at a pedestrian from a vehicle. The pedestrian thought the replica pistol was real, he dropped to the ground in fright, heard what probably sounded to him like a shot being fired and rang 000. The police pursued the vehicle because the pedestrian happened to get the registration number. The offender was arrested and was later charged with possessing a prohibited weapon. Again, that was a replica pistol. I strongly argue that this part of the law should not be watered down at all.
It is a worrying trend that a couple of times a year we have this type of legislation that weakens gun control laws. When we are about to do this—and we know that Labor, the Coalition and the Shooters Party are about to sign off on this bill—we should remember how this country has achieved our gun control laws. Our gun control laws have come about after massacres; that is what has driven stronger laws to ensure that public safety gets a look-in when it comes to managing guns. Gun control measures are needed in this country. They have come about because of the tragic loss of life through gun massacres. The big change came about after the Port Arthur massacre. It is a disturbing day when these laws are being watered down again in this House.
The Greens also have concerns about the aspects of the bill that relate to procedural fairness. I acknowledge that in framing this legislation the Government has sided with public safety, and we agree with this. However, I note concerns with the aspects of the bill that relate to denying procedural fairness to those who are refused a firearms licence. This issue was raised as a concern by the Legislation Review Committee. That committee found:
applicants or permit holders who will have their permits refused, suspended or revoked under the above proposed provisions may then be denied a right of reply or an opportunity to test the veracity of the criminal intelligence reports submitted against them.
The Greens have defended the principle of procedural fairness in other cases where a group of people are denied any advice or a right of reply when they are refused an application, such as in the case of the 2005 security industry amendment legislation cited by the Legislation Review Committee. That bill gave the Commissioner of Police the power to revoke a security licence if he or she deemed that the licensee was no longer a fit and proper person to hold a licence. The information on which the decision was based would remain confidential in any review by the Administrative Decisions Tribunal. The Greens view procedural fairness as a core right and a fundamental principle of natural justice that is worth defending.
We will consider a number of amendments in Committee. I understand that the Government no longer supports one of the Shooters Party amendments—which is important, if we hold our ground on that one. That Shooters Party amendment is very worrying, for it would substantially weaken New South Wales gun control levels. The amendment would remove the need to obtain a permit for a detachable firearm magazine. Some people obviously would know in great detail what a firearm magazine is, but it is worth explaining it for the record. A firearm magazine is an ammunition storage and feeding device. It is used to store multiple rounds of ammunition. It speeds up the process of loading the firearm, as several rounds can be loaded at once. A detachable magazine allows the user to quickly reload ammunition for repeat fire. As I said, the Shooters Party amendment is effectively about removing the need to obtain a permit for a detachable firearm magazine. Detachable magazines were used in the 1999 Columbine High School massacre and the 2007 Virginia Tech massacre in the United States of America. In those two tragedies 44 people were murdered.
I hope Mr Brown will put those comments on the record when it is his turn to contribute to the debate.
The Hon. Robert Brown:
Ms LEE RHIANNON:
That would be very useful. The amendment should not be supported, as it would significantly undermine gun-control measures in this State. I look forward to hearing other members speak in this debate because the issue of public safety is paramount and the management of guns in our society should be a priority for all members of this House.
The Hon. CHRISTINE ROBERTSON
[8.50 p.m.]: I speak in support of the Weapons and Firearms Legislation Amendment Bill 2010, which, amongst other things, creates a new schedule of military-style prohibited weapons, including mines, flamethrowers and rockets. Higher penalties are prescribed for their misuse, and the bill provides that offences involving such items will be included in the Bail Act 1978 as offences for which there is a presumption against bail. This will ensure that the higher risk represented by these items is reflected in legislation, and that police will have appropriate powers and penalties at their disposal should they need to prosecute for misuse of these items. In addition, the bill will ensure that specific safe storage guidelines for all prohibited weapons will be clearly outlined in the Weapons Prohibition Act, along with the applicable penalties. Until now these requirements have only been available on the New South Wales Police Force website.
There are three levels of safe storage requirements prescribed for prohibited weapons in the bill and military-style prohibited weapons must be kept under the highest level—level 3. Amongst other requirements, level 3 safe storage prescribes that any windows in the area or room in which military-style prohibited weapons are kept must be covered by a security screen, door hinges must be concealed or the hinge pins welded to prevent them from being punched out, and any such door must be fitted with a "dead latch" type lock or a hasp or barrel bolt and padlock. Sounds like an inspector's nightmare but necessary.
A permit holder may also satisfy level 3 safe storage requirements by demonstrating to the Commissioner of Police that they have in place equivalent arrangements. Anyone found to be in breach of these requirements risks a maximum penalty of up to $11,000 and two years imprisonment. This demonstrates that the Government, and particularly the New South Wales Police Force, takes the safe storage of prohibited weapons and firearms extremely seriously. Consolidating and placing the safe storage regime for prohibited weapons in the Weapons Prohibition Act will provide the clearest guidance possible to permit holders as to what is expected of them. I commend the bill to the House.
The Hon. ROBERT BROWN
[8.53 p.m.]: The Shooters Party, as previously indicated, generally supports the thrust of the Weapons and Firearms Legislation Amendment Bill 2010 but my colleague will be moving some amendments to it in Committee. One of my reasons for speaking in this debate is to assist the Hansard staff with the meaning of the hand signals that my colleague was attempting to send to Ms Lee Rhiannon in an effort to assist her. One gesture meant "You do not know what you are talking about", and another meant "What are you going on about?" Every time Ms Lee Rhiannon takes advice from the National Coalition for Gun Control she gets it wrong. She should stay away from such people. If the member wants advice, she should come to the Shooters Party and we will be happy to tell her how it works.
This bill upgrades the status of imitation and copy firearms to that of full firearms. If a person holds up someone using what was in the past regarded as a prohibited item, he or she will now be deemed to be using a firearm. That is what this bill does. All the penalties and requirements are now loaded onto the imitation item rather than, as it was previously, the prohibited item. I cannot for the life of me understand why the Greens would be opposing those parts of the bill indicated by Ms Lee Rhiannon in her contribution. However, she did get right that aspect of the bill relating to limitation on disclosure during proceedings.
Members may recall that some time ago I introduced a bill to amend provisions of the Administrative Decisions Tribunal and that the Government voted against that bill for reasons set out in the provisions of this bill. I need to check Hansard
to see if the Greens supported that Shooters Party bill. Apart from that, the bill before us makes things much clearer for police, prosecutors and those who have to chase criminals who are in possession of a toy or, more specifically, an imitation firearm, which is clearly defined in the bill. Ms Lee Rhiannon has not been given adequate or proper assistance by the National Colation for Gun Control with regard to detachable magazines, because she appears to have got that wrong as well. That matter will no doubt be discussed in more detail when the Shooters Party moves its amendments in Committee.
The Hon. PENNY SHARPE
(Parliamentary Secretary) [8.56 p.m.], in reply: I thank honourable members for their contributions to this debate. The Weapons and Firearms Legislation Amendment Bill 2010 amends the Weapons Prohibition Act 1998 to ensure the effective regulation and control of prohibited weapons within the community. The proposals outlined in the bill reflect stakeholder feedback received during the substantive review undertaken of both the Weapons Prohibition Act and regulations over the past few years.
Ms Lee Rhiannon raised two issues in the debate to which I wish to respond. The first issue related to imitation and replica firearms. Currently, imitation or replica firearms are controlled as both prohibited weapons and prohibited firearms under the Weapons Prohibition Act and the Firearms Act respectively. However, currently no guidance is given in either piece of legislation as to what is meant by these terms. So to provide greater clarity about how these items are controlled the bill proposes to continue to regulate them solely through the Firearms Act.
Replica firearms can fire projectiles and will be regulated as firearms. A clear definition of "imitation firearm" will also be provided in part 4D of the Act. Essentially an "imitation firearm" is defined as anything that can reasonably be mistaken as a firearm but which cannot fire a projectile. The danger posed by these items lies in their being realistic enough to be used successfully in the commission of crime. "Replica firearm" is defined as a working copy of an established firearm. As such, these items are captured within the existing definition of "firearm" under the Firearms Act. The use of those definitions serves to bring New South Wales legislation in line with that of other States and Territories. A permit is required to own an imitation firearm today and this will continue.
The second issue related to procedural fairness. Criminal intelligence used by police in refusing or revoking a licence or permit is made known to Administrative Decisions Tribunal members hearing these matters. In this way the Government believes that procedural fairness is maintained. The bill provides police with clear offences and penalties to prosecute unlawful possession and misuse of the broad range of prohibited weapons listed in the Act. The Government will move a number of amendments in Committee. I commend the bill to the House.
Question—That this bill be now read a second time—put and resolved in the affirmative.
Motion agreed to.
Bill read a second time.
The Hon. PENNY SHARPE
(Parliamentary Secretary) [9.01 p.m.], by leave: I move Government amendments Nos 1, 2 and 3 in globo:
No. 1 Page 5. Insert after line 22:
 Section 19 (3)
Insert after section 19 (2):
(3) This section does not apply in relation to a permit that has expired if the authority conferred by the permit continues to have effect (as provided by the regulations) pending the determination of an application for a subsequent permit.
No. 2 Page 19. Insert after line 36:
 Section 25 (3)
Insert after section 25 (2):
(3) This section does not apply in relation to a licence that has expired if the authority conferred by the licence continues to have effect (as provided by the regulations) pending the determination of an application for a subsequent licence.
No. 3 Page 20. Insert after line 3:
 Section 30 (8)
Insert after section 30 (7):
(8) Subsections (6) and (7) do not apply in relation to a permit that has expired if the authority conferred by the permit continues to have effect (as provided by the regulations) pending the determination of an application for a subsequent permit.
The bill provides that, if a person's firearms or prohibited weapons permit or firearms licence is suspended, revoked or otherwise ceases to be in force, they must surrender any firearms or prohibited weapons in their possession to a police officer. That police officer is authorised to seize any firearms or prohibited weapons in such circumstances. The proposed amendments to the bill seek to clarify that this procedure will not apply if a person's application for renewal of a firearm licence or a firearm or prohibited weapon permit is already in the post or still being processed by the firearms registry at the time that the existing permit or licence expires. This extension of authority of expired permits or licences is already provided for in both the firearms regulation and the prohibited weapons regulation. The proposed amendments seek to clarify this provision in the legislation so as to provide additional certainty. Should a licensee or permit holder fail to take steps to renew prior to the expiry of their licence or permit they would not be covered by this extension of the authority.
The CHAIR (The Hon. Kayee Griffin):
The Parliamentary Secretary has moved Government amendments Nos 1, 2 and 3. I will put questions on the amendments separately because the first relates to schedule 1 and amendments Nos 2 and 3 relate to schedule 2.
Question—That Government amendment No. 1 be agreed to—put and resolved in the affirmative.
Government amendment No. 1 agreed to.
The Hon. ROY SMITH
[9.04 p.m.]: I move the Shooters Party amendment as circulated:
Page 16, schedule 1 , lines 22 and 23. Omit ", including a device known as a PVC cannon".
The amendment seeks to omit the reference in schedule 1  to a device known as a PVC cannon. How does the expression go? "There ought to be a law against it." It is sad, but that seems to have become a cultural refrain in Australia today. Long gone, it seems, are the days in which individuals were expected to know right from wrong and to moderate their behaviour accordingly. Now it is apparently necessary for the Government to point the way, otherwise our citizens would cause mayhem and injury to themselves and others. Gone are the days when kids and adults could look forward to cracker night. Gone are the days when a young boy or girl could merrily catapult stones into the creek with a slingshot. Gone are the days when most young boys had a pocketknife, often a gift from their dad or their grandfather in recognition of a youngster's ability to accept responsibility and act responsibly—almost a rite of passage.
It seems that we have given up on trying to educate our kids as to what is appropriate and what is not. That is way too hard. It is much easier to ban crackers, ban slingshots and ban pocketknives, and now we have a new ban to combat the latest threat to our society—PVC cannons. I do not know whether to laugh or cry. We have too many laws as it is. Earlier tonight various members of the House said words to the effect that members should remember that we are not here to regulate simply for the sake of regulation. We have to be careful not to unnecessarily complicate the lives of ordinary citizens. Here is a case in fact. What the hell is a PVC cannon? I know what the intention is, but without a precise definition no-one will ever be convicted of having possession of one. Worse still, it is quite possible that innocent people might be convicted for simply going about their ordinary everyday lives—plumbers, farmers, anyone who might happen to have a length of plastic pipe in the back of their truck and a couple of PVC fittings. Bunnings are in real strife. Bunnings are in real trouble here because they have shelf-loads of PVC cannons. If you think I am joking, let me quote from the Weapons Prohibition Act:
(a) anything that would be a prohibited weapon if it did not have something missing from it, or a defect or obstruction in it, is taken to be a prohibited weapon
Moreover, the Act goes on to provide that:
(b) a person in or on (or in or on any part of) any premises, vehicle, vessel or aircraft in which there is a prohibited weapon is to be regarded as having possession of the weapon unless the person proves otherwise , and
(c) if parts of a prohibited weapon are in the possession of, or are being carried by, 2 or more persons, each of those persons is to be regarded as possessing the weapon.
Strictly applied—as the law should be—we have thousands of ordinary citizens carrying around PVC cannons in the back of their utes and trucks every day.
The Hon. Rick Colless:
A danger to society!
The Hon. ROY SMITH:
Exactly. We have ample legislation available to the police to prosecute people who misuse PVC pipe, whether they use it to make PVC cannons and use those inappropriately, or whether they use the pipe to smack other people across the head. We do not need another unnecessary law that will, in reality, be difficult—if not impossible—to enforce. I commend the Shooters Party amendment to the House.
The Hon. MICHAEL GALLACHER (Leader of the Opposition) [9.08 p.m.]: That was one of the best performances I have seen. It has been a long couple of weeks, and I would like to thank the Hon. Roy Smith for a bit of amusement. Although there is no doubt that this is a very serious issue to him, at the end of the day I think a lot of people got great enjoyment from his speech. I think it is fair to say that, apart from one or two members in the Chamber, he is probably the only one who will be voting for this amendment tonight. We do not want to see PVC cannons or any other type of cannon, or any sort of implement or product that can be manipulated in such a way that it can be used in such a device.
The Hon. Roy Smith delivered his speech in a jocular fashion and referred to kids with firecrackers and penknives. A couple of years ago I vividly remember seeing footage of a bus on Luxford Road at Lethbridge Park, an area I am very familiar with as it is close to where I lived as a teenager. A Westbus travelling along Luxford Road was hit with a projectile fired out of a PVC pipe. The projectile and device were found. The projectile made a hole in a window of the bus and went into the bus. If it had hit anyone, it would have seriously injured if not killed the person. There is no doubt that children were involved. In the past children may have used firecrackers or penknives. Now they use PVC pipes to fire projectiles into passing vehicles. This provision has the potential of being manipulated. I am sure the Hon. Roy Smith and his colleague would be able to give examples to the contrary. But the lasting impression I have of that bus in Lethbridge Park means that the Opposition cannot support the amendment. We cannot tell the community that any form of cannon, even one made out of plastic, is acceptable. If we did, everything that Ms Lee Rhiannon said would be true. I call on members not to vote for this amendment.
The Hon. PENNY SHARPE
(Parliamentary Secretary) [9.11 p.m.]: The Government does not support this amendment. The fact that PVC cannons can be constructed at home using readily available materials does not mean they are not dangerous. PVC cannons can and have been used to propel a range of projectiles, including batteries, water and carbon dioxide cartridges, all under pressure. For this reason and based on operational advice received from the NSW Police Force, the Government intends to retain PVC cannons as prohibited weapons. Hence, the Government opposes the amendment.
The Hon. ROBERT BROWN
[9.11 p.m.]: It is necessary to put on the record that my colleague the Hon. Roy Smith presented his speech, as the Leader of the Opposition said, in a somewhat humorous manner. It was not intended as entertainment for members of this House. It was intended as a means of ridicule of this unworkable legislation. My colleague and I are as aware as any member about the danger of some of these implements. However, since 1996 holders of firearm licences have been harassed and prosecuted for simple administrative errors, such as having a particular rifle magazine or having a bolt in a rifle when it should not have been there. My colleague's contribution was not meant to belittle the danger of any projectile-firing device. If the law is read in its strict interpretation my colleague's speech was accurate. You can have a PVC pipe with one screwed end and perhaps a small hole drilled into the pipe and, bingo, you have parts of what could be described as a PVC cannon. I perhaps should not put this on the Hansard
record, but PVC cannons do not require explosive devices. They can be used with a bottle of soda water and a couple of antacid tablets. In fact, that is probably what most miscreants would use. I want to put on the record that the Shooters Party was not trying to diminish the seriousness of the Government's bill. We were trying to point out that in many regards this provision, in terms of its ability to be used for prosecution, is very silly.
Question—That the Shooters Party amendment [C2010-037] be agreed to—put and resolved in the negative.
Shooters Party amendment negatived.
Schedule 1 as amended agreed to.
The Hon. ROY SMITH
[9.14 p.m.], by leave: I move Shooters Party amendments Nos 1, 2 and 3 on sheet C2010-035B in globo:
No. 1 Page 18, schedule 2 , line 30. After "firearm.", insert "However, the exemption provided by this subsection does not extend to an antique revolver.".
No. 2 Page 19, schedule 2 , lines 1–3. Omit all words on those lines. Insert instead:
(3) A permit under section 31 to acquire a firearm is not required in the case of an antique firearm.
(4) Sections 50, 50AA, 51 and 51A do not apply in relation to the sale or purchase of an antique firearm or a firearm part for an antique firearm. However, the exemption provided by this subsection does not extend to an antique revolver or a firearm part for an antique revolver.
(5) Sections 50 (b) and 51 (1) (b) (ii) and (1A) (b) (ii) do not apply in relation to the sale or purchase of an antique revolver.
No. 3 Page 19, schedule 2 , lines 7–13. Omit all words on those lines. Insert instead:
(5) In this section:
means any firearm manufactured before 1900 that:
(a) in the case of a firearm other than a pistol:
(i) is not capable of discharging breech-loaded metallic cartridges, or
(ii) is a firearm the ammunition for which is determined by the Commissioner to be ammunition that is not commercially available, or
(b) in the case of a pistol—is not capable of discharging breech-loaded metallic cartridges.
means an antique firearm that is a percussion lock pistol equipped with a revolving cylinder.
Amendment No. 1 provides that the exemption from registration and licence provided by schedule 2  does not extend to an antique revolver. Amendment No. 2 provides an exemption from registration and the need for a permit to acquire antique revolvers but maintains the need to have a current licence or permit in order to possess the antique revolver. Amendment No. 3 inserts a definition of "antique revolver" in the Firearms Act. These amendments are necessary. Without them, under the current provisions of the bill, any person could legally possess but not use an antique revolver. The provisions do not impose a requirement to hold a licence or permit and, hence, there is no requirement for a police check. This would create a situation where anyone could legally possess a real revolver, albeit one manufactured prior to 1900, which looked like a modern revolver. In fact, it would be more similar than most imitation firearms but it would be a real firearm. However, it is an offence to possess an imitation firearm. I have consulted with collectors and collectors clubs. They consider, as I do, that it would be a retrograde step to allow antique revolvers to be purchased without the requirement of a firearms licence. I commend the amendments.
The Hon. PENNY SHARPE
(Parliamentary Secretary) [9.16 p.m.]: The Government does not oppose these amendments. Currently under the Firearms Act 1996 certain antique revolvers manufactured prior to 1900 are not required to be registered. It has been brought to the Government's attention and raised by the previous speaker that many antique revolvers, in fact, may have a modern appearance and in this way be capable of instilling fear in others if used in the commission of crime, whether or not they are loaded with ammunition. For this reason, the Government has agreed to limit the current legislative exemption from licensing requirements granted under section 6A of the Firearms Act to exclude antique revolvers. Instead, a firearms collectors licence will be required in order to lawfully own an antique revolver. In this way the highest standards of public safety are ensured. The Government does not oppose these amendments.
Reverend the Hon. FRED NILE
[9.17 p.m.]: The Christian Democratic Party supports these amendments. Contrary to the contribution by Ms Lee Rhiannon on behalf of the Greens, these amendments toughen up the Government's legislation.
Question—That Shooters Party amendments Nos 1, 2 and 3 [C2010-035B] be agreed to—put and resolved in the affirmative.
Shooters Party amendments Nos 1, 2 and 3 [C2010-035B] agreed to.
Question—That Government amendments Nos 2 and 3 be agreed to—put and resolved in the affirmative.
Government amendments Nos 2 and 3 agreed to.
Schedule 2 as amended agreed to.
The Hon. ROY SMITH
[9.18 p.m.]: Although I circulated Shooters Party amendment No. 4 on sheet C2010-035B, some technical issues about the wording have been raised. Consequently, I will not move it.
Schedule 3 agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported from Committee with amendments.
Adoption of Report
Motion by the Hon. Penny Sharpe agreed to:Motion by the Hon. Penny Sharpe agreed to:
That the report be adopted.
Motion by the Hon. Penny Sharpe agreed to:
Bill read a third time and returned to the Legislative Assembly with a message requesting its concurrence in the amendments.
That this bill be now read a third time.