Interview on Breakfast Channel 10 – 27 April 2012

Topics: Gun crime

COMPERE: The East Coast seems to be caught in a wave of gun related violence right at the moment, much of it related to gangs. I mean it isn’t an exaggeration to say when I come in in the morning I’m actually surprised if there hasn’t been a shooting in Sydney.

In April there have been twenty three shootings in Sydney. That is extraordinary. Jason Clare is the Home Affairs and Justice Minister and joins me now. Jason, good morning to you.

JASON CLARE: G’day Paul.

COMPERE: Gun related violence – is it out of control?

JASON CLARE: Well it’s very serious. I live in Western Sydney and I see this up close. What you’ve got there in Western Sydney are gangs that are effectively involved in a war. They’re fighting over drugs. They’re fighting over turf and they’re using firearms to sort it out. The people I represent are terrified and justifiably so.

They’re worried that it’s not just criminals that are shooting at each other, but shooting at a house – a stray bullet is going to lead to an innocent person being killed.

COMPERE: At what point though do you say this is a crisis? I mean how many shootings, how many drive by shootings, how many innocent people have to be caught up before you say this is a crisis and actually we do have to do something differently to address it?

JASON CLARE: Well one shooting is one too many. Last week one of those shootings occurred where you had one gang shooting at a house. The person that they were shooting at was in prison – so they knew they weren’t at home but they were shooting to send a message. His parents were in the house. They could have killed an old man or an old woman.

Another shooting, there were five kids asleep in the house, so we have a crisis right now.

COMPERE: It is a crisis. We accept it’s a crisis. What can we do other than just talk about it?

JASON CLARE: There’s three things that I’ve done. I’ve offered the support of the Australian Federal Police. I’ve offered the support of the Australian Crime Commission and the Crime Commission have been helping New South Wales Police already. I met with the State Attorneys General two weeks ago. I offered the support of the National Government. I said we can introduce national anti-gang laws. They’ve rejected that approach.

COMPERE: Why? Why did they reject that because that seems to be a very good idea because then they can blame the third party if you like. They can blame the Federal Government for it and then just get right behind it. They rejected it.

JASON CLARE: It’s a good question, one you probably need to ask them. States are always keen to hold onto their own powers. You know, I can’t blame them for that. I said look, I stand ready to help you here. If you change your mind we can introduce national anti-gang laws so it’s a standing offer available to the States, but there’s something else we can do.

COMPERE: What are – just on that, what did Barry O’Farrell say?

JASON CLARE: Well New South Wales said we’ll think about it. A lot of States said no thank you, so there’s different views out there amongst the States. I think there’s a lot of more good work that we can do in the area of guns and firearms. Two months ago I set up a national investigation into the illegal firearms market and came back with a lot of bad news.

COMPERE: Well I was looking at some of the statistics that you came back with; tens of thousands of illegal firearms we know, you know are out there…

JASON CLARE: That’s right.

COMPERE: …more than ten thousand hand guns.

JASON CLARE: That’s right and most of the guns that the criminals have got are guns that have been stolen and not recovered. Just in New South Wales you’ve got 7,000 guns stolen and not recovered over the course of the last ten years.

We had a raid on a house in Bankstown in Western Sydney on Tuesday. Police and Customs went in. They expected to find steroids. They found them, but they also found a pump action shotgun and when we did the tracing analysis on this gun we found it had been stolen from a house in Morisset thirteen years ago.


JASON CLARE: Now that’s just one of 7,000 guns that criminals have got out there.

COMPERE: With that many obviously there is quite an underworld trade going on in weapons but again, you now know how big the problem is. How do you address it?

JASON CLARE: It’s a good point. I’m meeting with Police Ministers in June about this.

We’ve got strong gun laws at the moment. You remember all those reforms that happened after the Port Arthur Massacre. But there’s more that we can do here. I’ll give you some examples of the things I’m thinking about.

We’ve got fifteen different databases that hold information about firearms across the country, but they’re not all linked. There’s more that we can do there. We’ve got…

COMPERE: So more interaction, more cross-referencing?

JASON CLARE: Yeah. Policing works best when police have got all the information they need and exchanging it between all of the different police forces across the country.

I’ll give you an example of one of the problems we’ve got. We’ve got a national firearms database and it holds information about who has a license and what firearms are registered.

But if a gun or a rifle moves from one State to another it can effectively disappear and police can’t keep a track on that. If you’ve got a firearm and then you die and that firearm moves to somebody else – the Births, Deaths and Marriages system in different States works differently.

COMPERE: Alright, so you’ll tie that together…


COMPERE: Because this is a nationwide problem so…

JASON CLARE: It is indeed.

COMPERE: There should be a nationwide solution. Just a couple of quick ones for you; tonight in the Kings Cross, bikies face being thrown out of pubs and clubs if they’re wearing their patches. Now it’s one thing to initiate that. It has been initiated but policing it is quite another. Are you in favour of that?

JASON CLARE: Well I don’t think you’re going to fix the problem by banning t-shirts. That’s not the solution of itself.

COMPERE: But is it the beginning? Is it the beginning of saying our society does not accept you? We don’t want you. We’re not prepared to bow down to your patch anymore.

JASON CLARE: Well the streets are for people, not for criminals and that’s an important message to send so it’s got to be enforced and all power to the New South Wales Police. They’ve been doing a pretty good job I’ve got to say.

COMPERE: So you would support it as one step?

JASON CLARE: Yeah, it’s one step but it’s not the total solution.

COMPERE: Alright and very quickly, Barry O’Farrell’s criticism of the judiciary. Through absolute frustration – and I’m sure it’s a frustration that the average Australian on the street feels as well – essentially he’s saying they’re out of touch. Do you think the judiciary are out of touch?

JASON CLARE: I’ll back Barry on this one.

Remember what happened here – you’ve got police putting a van in front of a tattoo parlour to stop a drive by shooting happening. Then you’ve got this bloke go to the police station and say if you don’t move the truck I’ll torch it. A couple of hours later, surprise surprise, the truck gets torched and then he gets let out of prison. Come on – that’s out of touch.

COMPERE: The judiciary are out of touch?

JASON CLARE: On this one, absolutely.

COMPERE: Jason Clare thank you very much for joining us.

JASON CLARE: Thank you.