Consideration in Detail

Mr HAYES (Fowler) (12:14): Again, my question is to the Minister for Justice. I know the minister is very familiar with my electorate, having himself grown up there. In fact, his mother and father are still constituents of mine; hopefully happy constituents. Apart from being the most multicultural electorate in the whole country, one of the things that really distinguishes my electorate is the number of families. The minister will no doubt recall some 12 years ago areas at the centre of my electorate, particularly around Cabramatta, were very much the destination or the distribution points for drugs and illegal firearms. As a matter of fact, the communities were terrorised in those days by organised crime gangs as they ran these illegal operations around the streets of south-west Sydney.

It is very concerning that of the 24 shootings that have occurred this year, the vast majority of those have occurred in Western Sydney—a number of them in my electorate and, indeed, in the minister’s electorate. I know that this is putting extraordinary pressure on local families. Many think there has got to be a greater police presence. Our police are doing a wonderful job on the streets of south-west Sydney. I personally stay in regular contact with the commanders of the Green Valley police, Cabramatta police, Fairfield police and the Liverpool police. I have a fair understanding about what our police are doing out there. I am wondering whether the minister could outline to the House how these weapons are coming onto our streets? The fact is that there have been 24 shootings and it is having such an effect on local families, who want to bring up their children in safety. Having these headlines appear out there is something which is certainly deleterious for the whole community. Minister, if you would outline to the House your view about where these weapons are coming from?

Mr CLARE (Blaxland—Minister for Home Affairs, Minister for Justice and Minister for Defence Materiel) (12:17): I thank the member for Fowler for his question and his interest in this matter.

A division having been called in the House of Representatives – Sitting suspended from 12:17 to 12:31

Mr CLARE: Once again I thank the member for Fowler for his question. We both have seats, and live, in Western Sydney. We see this up close and understand the impact it is having on our constituents. What is happening, effectively, is a war between rival bikie gangs fighting over drugs and turf, and our communities are in the middle of that fight. There is a real concern, a justified concern, that a stray bullet is going to hit an innocent person and that an innocent person could be killed. That is why in February I ordered a national investigation, headed up by the Australian Crime Commission, into the illegal firearms market. Last month they provided their interim findings, which show that there is a very large local black market made up of tens and tens of thousands of illegal firearms—more than 10,000 illegal handguns alone. A lot of these guns are 10, 20 or 30 years old and they do not have a use-by date. Two of the guns that have been seized in the last year were more than 100 years old and are still working.

This black market is made up of firearms that criminals get from crooked dealers, firearms that were not surrendered or registered after the Port Arthur massacre, firearms that are made or reactivated by backyard operators and thousands of firearms stolen from legitimate owners. In New South Wales alone, 7,000 guns have been stolen by criminals in the last 12 years and not recovered. That is 7,000 unsolved gun crimes and 7,000 guns in the hands of criminals. We saw evidence of this on Channel 7’s news recently, a report that contained information from the NSW Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research in New South Wales. The report revealed a nearly 20 per cent jump in the number of firearms stolen in New South Wales alone in the past 12 months—640 firearms stolen in the past year, most of them in Western Sydney, including 112 pistols, 56 revolvers and 339 shotguns. There were 1,706 firearms stolen in New South Wales in the past three years and, across the country, more than 7,000 firearms have been stolen in the last five years. The most recent example of this came just yesterday. New South Wales police reported eight pistols and eight rifles, and thousands of rounds of ammunition, stolen from a property near Baradine in the electorate of the member for Parkes. We also face the problem of firearms disappearing from state databases when people move interstate or die. The advice of CrimTrac is that about 1,400 weapons a year fall off the register and into the grey market.

The final report of the Australian Crime Commission will be considered by police ministers next month. At that meeting we will consider a raft of recommendations covering firearms, criminal reforms and other areas. Australia already has some of the toughest gun laws in the world, but there are a number of areas where we can improve upon them. I am working very closely with Mike Gallacher, the New South Wales police minister, on developing a plan to take to this meeting in four weeks time which includes the rollout of the IBIS system right across the country. IBIS does ballistics analysis of firearms that are seized from criminals. It is the sort of testing that can link firearms to previous crimes. At the moment New South Wales and the Federal Police have the system, but it does not exist across the rest of the country. I believe, and Mike Gallacher believes, in the need to roll it out nationwide. There is a lot more we need to do. Police need intelligence on who the shooters are, where the weapons are and what they are being used for. That means breaking down the wall of silence, the fear that exists in our communities of dobbing somebody in, the fear of retribution. It means making weapons harder to steal and easier for them to be seized by law enforcement. It also means tougher firearms laws and the rollout across the country of tracing technology like IBIS. Delivering these reforms will require us to all work together, and I am determined to get it done. Over the next few weeks, I will be travelling the country and meeting with police ministers to make sure that we deliver the reforms that we have to when we meet in June. That is what the people of Western Sydney expect of us and that is what we must deliver.

Proposed expenditure agreed to.

Debate adjourned.