The Iemma Government has put the future of its power privatisation legislation into the hands of its political enemies in the Coalition, and now it is doing dirty deals with the Shooters Party to scrounge the redneck vote.

In the NSW Legislative Council today, Shooters MPs Roy Smith and Robert Jones will be pushing their Firearms Amendment Bill which amends the Firearms Act 1996 brought in following Martin Bryant’s massacre at Port Arthur.

The government helped the Shooters to jump the legislative queue and bring on their Bill last week and will be offering it support in both houses. Why? Because Iemma and Treasurer Michael Costa will deal with anybody – except the NSW branch of the ALP – to get their power privatisation legislation through parliament.

Giving his second reading, Smith said: “The proposed amendments to the Act and regulations will streamline and improve the operation of the system for the legal use and registration of firearms for law-abiding citizens within the State of NSW by removing some of the necessary (sic) impediments to legitimate sport shooting, hunting and collecting, without any adverse impact on public safety. These amendments have been drafted following extensive consultation with the Ministry of Police, the Firearms Registry and approved sport shooting, hunting and collecting clubs over a number of years.”

Indeed, they have. Smith, president of the Sporting Shooters Association of Australia, NSW branch, from 1992 to 2007, has been lobbying for the dilution of the gun laws for over a decade, and now he’s a rifle shot away from victory, courtesy of the Iemma Government.

According to Roland Browne, co-chair of the National Coalition for Gun Control, the Shooters’ Bill is “a significant threat to public safety” and breaches both the 1996 National Firearms Agreement and the 2002 Handgun Agreement decided by the Commonwealth, States and Territories.

Browne added: “The Shooters Party has nothing to contribute on the public safety front. Its agenda is to achieve weaker gun laws to allow proliferation of firearms. This is to the financial advantage of manufactures and distributors of firearms. The Shooters Party Bill is ultimately about profits for the multi-million dollar firearms industry.”

The four Greens MPs will mount a campaign to stop the Bill today but it will be carried by the combined weight of the ALP, the Shooters, the Rev Fred Nile, the Nationals and most of the Liberals.

Greens MP Lee Rhiannon said current legislation would be “drastically watered down” by the Shooters to allow gun training for minors, easier access to shooting ranges for unlicensed persons; allow firearms to be sent via the postal system; and expand the use of self-loading and pump action shotguns for clay target shooting.

Interestingly, the Planning Department is sitting on an application for the massive expansion of a shooters’ complex in the southern highlands near Bowral. How soon before the minister, Frank Sartor, decides whether to support local objectors or ignore them and let the project go ahead? Watch this space.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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