ABC Radio Brisbane Mornings – Rebecca Levingston
Subject: National Uniform Firearms Register; TikTok.
REBECCA LEVINGSTON: In Australia every legally obtained firearm is documented and registered at a state level but work is underway to get a National Firearms Register up and running. And yesterday Australia's Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus had a meeting with Police Ministers from across the country. Attorney-General, good morning.
ATTORNEY-GENERAL MARK DREYFUS: Good morning.
LEVINGSTON: What's the outcome of the meeting yesterday?
ATTORNEY-GENERAL: I want to thank all of my state and territory colleagues for coming together and very quickly agreeing on work to advance Australia's first National Firearms Register. This meeting was called after the First Ministers asked Police Ministers to work towards a National Firearms Register in the wake of the shocking events at Wieambilla in Queensland late last year.
LEVINGSTON: Which absolutely rocked not just Queenslanders, but the entire country with the death of two young police constables as well as neighbour. If there had been a National Gun Register, what might have been different?
ATTORNEY-GENERAL: Let's start by saying that the incident reminded us all the risks that police officers take every day to protect our community. We want this Register because we want to ensure that we're doing everything we can to prevent an incident like Wieambilla occurring again. We want to keep our police and community safe. What the National Register will do is create a single shared record of firearms and firearms owners. It'll give us the ability to trace firearms throughout their life in Australia and police say that this will let them assess risk better than they currently can.
LEVINGSTON: So, would that include, say, if someone's crossing a border from New South Wales into Queensland, there would be some obligatory declaration of gun possession?
ATTORNEY-GENERAL: It in all senses it's going to allow better tracing, better recording and better knowledge in the police because they'll have access to this single shared record in near real time. It's not going to replace state licensing, state permitting systems. What it will do is increase the amount of information that's available to all police officers nationwide so that they can check. And particularly, it's going to assist in things like when they're paying a visit to a home for a particular difficult reason. It's something that they'll be able to check.
LEVINGSTON: There's some pushback from some advocates who say there's already an Australian Firearms Information Network that serves as a national register. Is that not the case?
ATTORNEY-GENERAL: There is a Firearms Information Network but it's slow. It doesn't give us all the information we want. And what we're looking for is something that operates in near real time. Something that is a single shared record. We need to have systems talking to each other. Every state and territory's got some differences between the way in which they license and permit firearms and possession of firearms licensing for users and possession of firearms. We need to get to greater consistency and systems that talk to each other.
LEVINGSTON: Attorney-General, of course, you are talking there about people who have licensed registered guns, they do the right thing. How many illegal firearms are there in Australia?
ATTORNEY-GENERAL: We're not exactly sure of the exact number but it is in the hundreds of thousands. That's why we've got import controls. That's why we have amnesties that create the possibility of people handing in their guns without penalty so as to reduce the number of unlicensed firearms in Australia. We need to do everything we can. We've got pretty good gun control laws in Australia, much better than in most other comparable countries, but we can always do more.
LEVINGSTON: Yeah, but hundreds of thousands of illegal firearms. I mean, criminals aren't going to be registering their guns are they?
ATTORNEY-GENERAL: No, and that's a problem. One of the things we have to do is reduce the overall number of guns in circulation. We've got controls on particular kinds of firearms. That's been the case for many years. We have to keep working at this.
LEVINGSTON: Given that a lot of this information exists, state by state, in terms of gun registration, if you're coordinating it nationally does that mean it's not going to be hugely expensive? Have you attached a cost to a National Firearms Registry?
ATTORNEY-GENERAL: One of the things we're going to be working at between the meeting yesterday and the meeting mid-year and providing information to the National Cabinet will be that question of cost. You are right. At one level. We've got a lot of information already stored in state and territory registers, but there will be some cost and we're working through that. The Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission, ACIC, will be working on the cost.
LEVINGSTON: Is there any impact on, you know, people who have firearms, who live on properties, legally obtained firearms, and just for people listening this morning, what is going to be the impact on the average person?
ATTORNEY-GENERAL: It's not going to change licensing and permitting, which is going to continue to be run at the state and territory level. That's going to continue as before. So, there won't be any particular impact on people, as you've said, living on properties, holding firearms. What there will be is a central shared record which is going to give information in near real time to, in particular, police officers.
LEVINGSTON: When do you expect the National Register will be up and running?
ATTORNEY-GENERAL: We're working on getting it up and running as soon as possible. The requests from First Ministers to Police Ministers was to provide a worked-up proposal by the middle of this year and we are, after yesterday's meeting, well on track to do just that.
LEVINGSTON: Okay, and just finally on a busy day for you Attorney-General, I wonder, have you deleted TikTok off your phone?
ATTORNEY-GENERAL: I haven't had TikTok on my phone ever. But at the moment we're considering advice from agencies. When we've got more to say about TikTok on government devices, we will make that announcement.
LEVINGSTON: Okay. Really appreciate your time this morning. Thanks so much.
ATTORNEY-GENERAL: Thanks Rebecca.