Firearms and Other Acts Amendmnet Bill 2021

Ms ADDISON (Wendouree)

I am pleased to speak in support of the Firearms and Other Acts Amendment Bill 2021.

Thank you to the Minister for Police and the Attorney-General in the other place, as well as their ministerial offices and the Department of Justice and Community Safety.

I strongly admire and support the Victorian police. I wish to thank the police officers who keep my community of Ballarat safe for the work they do, day in, day out, putting themselves in harm’s way to serve and protect our community.

I am so pleased to see the Minister for Police back at work after a period of time away to focus on health. The minister does an outstanding job in her portfolios and is well respected by many people who work in the fields of police and water.

The minister also did an outstanding job in the portfolio of emergency services between 2018 and August 2021, especially during the 2020 bushfires, supporting our emergency services.

Consequentially, the minister is widely well respected, and I have witnessed this firsthand in my electorate of Wendouree when the minister visited the police assistance line contact centre in the Ballarat CBD as well as opening the new Lucas fire station in Winter Valley, next to the new police forensic hub and the Ballarat West police station.

I was disappointed that the minister was unable to be at the opening of the Ballarat forensic hub, however I was pleased to welcome the Parliamentary Secretary for Police and Emergency Services representing her.

Our new forensic hub in the Wendouree electorate was one of two to open across the state—the other being in Morwell—and is a game changer for police in Ballarat and western Victoria. By establishing these hubs, many save hours and resources for officers as forensic exhibits no longer need to be sent to Macleod in south-eastern Melbourne and processed locally.

Our state-of-the-art facility is fast-tracking investigations by delivering high-quality forensic services in Ballarat. This is a fantastic outcome for Ballarat and other regional communities. This significant investment is another example of the Andrews Labor government’s commitment to community safety.

I thank the minister for her support for my community and I look forward to welcoming her back to Wendouree in the very near future.

The Firearms and Other Acts Amendment Bill 2021 amends:

  • Control of Weapons Act 1990
  • Criminal Procedure Act 2009
  • Evidence (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1958
  • Firearms Act 1996
  • Sex Offenders Registration Act 2004
  • Victoria Police Act 2013
  • There has been significant consultation with affected parties across all aspects of this bill.

With regard to the changes and impacts on the justice system, stakeholder consultation has occurred with:

  • Victoria Police
  • Corrections Victoria
  • the Magistrates Court and
  • Victoria Legal Aid

With regard to the proposed changes to the firearms, I am pleased that the Minister for Police’s firearms advisory body, the Victorian Firearms Consultative Committee (VFCC), was consulted and endorses all the amendments to the Firearms Act 1996.

This group includes representatives from:

  • the Australian Deer Association,
  • Field and Game Australia,
  • the Firearm Safety Foundation (Victoria),
  • the Firearms Traders Association of Victoria,
  • the Sporting Shooters Association of Australia,
  • the Police Association Victoria,
  • the Victorian Clay Target Association and
  • the Victorian Farmers Federation.

The bill will enable the expanded phase trial and evaluation of digitally recorded evidence-in-chief (DREC) to continue for a further two years to 3 October 2024 by amending the Criminal Procedure Act 2009. This will ensure that the experience of victim-survivors using the DREC is captured and will enable the full assessment of DREC, particularly the impact of DREC on the criminal and policing systems.

The changes proposed in the bill will enable the Magistrates Court to direct an adult accused to appear at a first remand by audiovisual link by amending the Evidence (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1958—if satisfied that appearance by audiovisual link is consistent with the interests of justice and the accessed consents, or the court is satisfied that exceptional circumstances exist.

The Firearms and Other Acts Amendment Bill 2021 will amend the Firearms Act 1996 to allow the accurate classification of firearms, provide for enhanced firearm storage and make general improvements to the act. In doing so we are requiring higher minimum standards for the storage for category A and B firearms.

This bill also requires firearms dealers to comply with minimum conditions when sending firearms and firearm parts through a post or courier service to prevent theft. This is particularly timely with our pivot to online shopping and the capacity to have our goods delivered to our door.

The bill introduces changes that improve the oversight and monitoring of the maximum duration for the hire and loan through commercial arrangement of a firearm for that licensed firearm dealer and further that these arrangements cannot be indefinite.

Licensed firearm dealers will also be required to see a valid firearm licence before they dispose of a firearm. This bill is putting into legislation something that is already in practice.

Another change is a person subject to a firearm prohibition order to notify the Chief Commissioner of Police within 24 hours after a change of residential address.

There is also a minor broadening of the delegation list of senior police authorised to approve a firearm prohibition order—this is on 1.5 per cent of the Victoria Police sworn workforce.

We are a government that respects and supports Victorian police. I would like to add my voice to many others who are so grateful to our police, who are doing an incredible job protecting our state, most recently dealing with the anti-vaxxers, anarchists and antisocial elements at the illegal gatherings out the front of the CFMEU office, across the city and at the Shrine of Remembrance.

Watching the attacks on police, as well as journalists and innocent bystanders going about their business, was not only disrespectful but disgraceful.

I pass on my heartfelt thanks to our committed Victoria Police who keep us safe, and I wish to pass on my best wishes to those police members who have been injured in the line of duty. Footage that I have seen from some of these rallies of people attacking members of the police is sickening and shows us who these people really are.

We are serious about community safety and crime prevention. The most significant law and order issue in my community is family violence. Sadly, family violence is far too common for many living in my community and the impacts on women and children are significant, enduring and intergenerational.

Many people living in Ballarat and western Victoria have suffered and continue to suffer from the impacts of a life that has been dominated by threats and controlling behaviours as well as the effects of physical, psychological and financial abuse.

Our police, our Orange Door and our social services are working hard to support these families and break the cycle of violence. But it is very challenging work and I am grateful for the job that they do.

In summary, this bill makes amendments to the Firearms Act 1996 (Vic) to improve firearm safety and enhance regulatory practice and amends the firearm prohibition order (FPO) scheme to improve oversight of FPO subjects and expand the delegation list of who can approve an FPO.

The bill also makes a range of miscellaneous amendments to other acts to continue improvements and ensure fairness across our justice system and deal with the ongoing pressures of the COVID-19 global pandemic.

I commend the Firearms and Other Acts Amendment Bill 2021 to the house.

 

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