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Radio Interview – Triple M Hobart Breakfast

The Hon Mark Dreyfus KC MP


Subjects: National Firearms Register

HOST, TUBES: Today marks one year since the fatal police shooting in Queensland that can claimed the lives of two officers and a bystander. The tragic event sparked National Cabinet to implement a National Firearms Register, which will address some of the gaps in the way guns are managed across our country. It's the biggest overhaul to firearms management in 30 years since changes came into place following the Port Arthur massacre. Federal Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus is here to talk us through the details. Good morning, Attorney-General.

ATTORNEY-GENERAL MARK DREYFUS: Good morning. Good to be with you.

TUBES: How will the National Firearms Register work?

ATTORNEY-GENERAL: This is a really good development. Australia's governments have come together to agree on this National Firearms Register, and it's going to ensure that police across all Australian jurisdictions, including Tasmania, will have timely and accurate information to assess firearms risk. It's going to address gaps and inconsistency about the way firearms are managed across states and territories. And as you said in your intro, this is something that we agreed to do in the aftermath of Port Arthur, all those years ago. And it's really good that the governments of Australia have come together, pushed to it by gun safety advocates, great people like Walter Mikac, and it's a really good achievement.

TUBES: Why has it taken so long Attorney General?

ATTORNEY-GENERAL: I think there was a lack of political will. I know that I've personally been committed to gun law reform and gun safety, all my working life and the Albanese Government is very committed to keeping Australians safe and to continue the process of firearms reform. But the catalyst was the shocking shooting of Constables McCrow and Arnold in Wieambilla, Queensland a year ago today and the death of their neighbour, Alan Dare. It's given new impetus, I've worked with Police Ministers in the year since to put this together. And chief ministers, premiers and the Prime Minister have agreed it last week, it's a really good development.

TUBES: Can you talk us through how a National Firearms Register will increase safety, especially for our first responders?

ATTORNEY-GENERAL: It means that police will have near-real time information about firearms and firearms owners across the country. It means that a police officer standing at the top of the driveway about to go and knock on a door will know what's behind that door, whether the person who's going to answer the door might be armed or might have guns and that's something we don't presently have. It means that where someone might have registered a gun or bought a gun in another state, and then taken it across a state border, that will come up because we'll have a national system that will provide information to state and territory police about firearms ownership. That's something we haven't had. It's something that's absolutely worth working for. It was actually something that came up in the Wieambilla event that one of the people who used the firearms had bought guns in New South Wales, taken them into Queensland but the Queensland Police were unaware of that.

TUBES: How long will it take these changes to come into effect?

ATTORNEY-GENERAL: It's going to take, we think, up to about four years because some states have got paper based systems, to be frank about it, they have to be moved into the digital age. The Commonwealth Government is assisting states and territories with that process and the systems all need to talk to each other. At the moment we've got state and territory systems that look very different. To have a National Firearms Register, there needs to be consistent recording of information and that's what we're going to.

TUBES: Do you think you'll see much backlash to this with firearm users across the country?

ATTORNEY-GENERAL: Not at all. This doesn't change the way you are able to buy guns, it doesn't change the way you're able to use guns, it doesn't change the registration requirements. What it does is improve information. It improves safety - it improves the safety of police officers, it improves the safety of the community because police officers will be able to find out where guns are.

TUBES: Well, Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus, I know across the community, we want our communities to be safe and I believe the National Firearms Register will keep our communities and our first responders even safer than hopefully what they are right now. Thanks so much for your time on Triple M. ATTORNEY-GENERAL: Absolutely. Thanks for your time.