Doorstop with the Minister for Justice and Commissioner of the Australian Federal Police

06 Oct 2017
Sydney NSW
Prime Minister
National firearms amnesty; Las Vegas; National security and airport security
Defence and National Security

PRIME MINISTER: I’m here with the Minister for Justice Michael Keenan and the Federal Police Commissioner Andrew Colvin and as you’ve just seen, some of the 51,000 firearms that have been handed in as part of the national firearms amnesty. This has been a three month amnesty. It is an example of the way in which we are relentless in doing everything we can to keep Australian safe. You saw the agreement that we had with the states and territories yesterday has strengthened our counter-terrorism laws, to ensure that Andrew and the police around the nation have the tools - legislative, technological - to keep us safe.

It is vitally important that we maintain our gun control laws. They are among the strictest in the world.

We've seen the shocking tragedy in Las Vegas. This killer there had a collection of semiautomatic weapons, which a person in his position would simply not be able to acquire in Australia. We have strict gun control laws, but we don't take anything for granted. We here not complacent about it.

We've got 51,000 firearms that have been handed in. There's a small selection of them there. 51,000 guns. Our National Criminal Intelligence Commission estimates there are 260,000 unregistered firearms in Australia. That is obviously an intelligence estimate of what this amnesty has done, is taken 51,000 of those unregistered weapons off the streets, out of harm's way, so they can't be used in a crime or be misused in an accident, which as we were discussing with the Commissioner earlier, is very common.

Weapons like this are lying around in people's homes and they can be disturbed and used even, by children. So this is a great example of our relentless focus on keeping Australians safe.

Every single one of those 51,000 guns could be used, could have been used in a crime where Australians could be killed. Now they can't. They've been collected and will now be destroyed, every single one of them will now be off the streets and out of harm's way.

So I’ll ask Michael to say a bit more about our gun control policies and our commitment and then I will ask the Commissioner to add to those remarks.


Thanks PM, Commissioner. The National Gun Amnesty has been an enormous success, running for the past three months, to have collected over 51,000 unregistered guns out of the community is an enormous achievement. It's unregistered guns that pose the threat to community safety. The law-abiding firearm owners, doing the right thing, storing the gun properly, properly licensed, a registered firearm, not they're not the threat to community safety. It's the pool of unregistered guns in the black and grey market we've been focused on since we came to government. To take 51,000 of those guns off the streets is an enormous achievement. It's not the only thing we've been doing. We want to make sure that our law enforcement is taking guns off the streets - unregistered guns off the streets - wherever they can. The National Anti-Gang Squad are one of the great successes, sending the Australian Federal Police out to sit side-by-side with their state and territory counterparts, has taken 5,700 guns off the streets. These are the guns that could fall into the hands of criminals or could be involved in a terrible accident.

So this is a great success. We will continue our relentless focus on making sure that the pool of black market guns, the guns we need to be concerned about, is as small as possible and to make sure that people who might do the wrong thing cannot get their hands on firearms to do it.


Prime Minister, Minister, thank you very much. Welcome to APF Sydney Office Headquarters. From a law enforcement perspective, this is a fantastic result. As you heard from Prime Minister and the Minister, this is 50,000 less firearms we’re going to have to deal with. This is 50,000 less firearms that may find their way to criminal hands. As you’ve already heard as well, let's not forget this is 50,000 less firearms that might be part of a tragic accident somewhere.

I want to thank our state and territory partners for working with the Commonwealth on this amnesty. I think it's been hugely successful and also thank the community, the public, who have taken this opportunity to take firearms. You can see from the firearms at the back of the room, some of them are very old. They've probably been sitting around in sheds or cupboards in basements for a very long time. We're taking this opportunity to bring it in. On behalf of all law enforcement in this country I know we say thank you very much too.


Thank you very much, Andrew. So, any questions?


Prime Minister you talked about the success of the gun amnesty, do you think it should be extended? Minister Pyne said this morning that there’s no need.


Well, this is the first National Gun Amnesty that's been held since 1996, since the big reforms that John Howard brought in following the Port Arthur massacre. States and territories have had gun amnesties of their own. This is the first national one.

It has been very successful but it’s successful because it is a call to action. It's got a beginning, a middle and an end. More than half of the guns that were handed in, were handed in in the last month. So a gun amnesty has got to be, to be most effective, it's got to be announced, it's got to have a start date, it's got to be widely advertised and people have got to know that they can't just wait another week or a month or a year – it’s got to have a call to action.

So certainly I'm not suggesting we won't have gun amnesties in the future, but this one has been very effective because it has, as I said, a beginning, a middle and an end and it has been that call to action.


Commissioner Colvin, a question for you. Do you think people should show their photo identification before they board all planes?


Well, have we finished on the firearms' issue? I'm happy to take other questions but…


Just quickly, the first gun amnesty we had was a buy-back and that obviously proved very successful. Is there any consideration being given to making this a buy-back where people would actually receive money for their guns?


I’ll ask the Minister to respond to that.


Look, the circumstances in 1996 were markedly different because we were changing the law to make a whole, enormous categories of guns were now illegal to hold.

What we've been doing here though, is just dealing with guns that are illegal to hold, that people have had in their position and we've given them an opportunity to hand them in.

So 1996 was very different because we haven't changed the laws in relation to categories of guns in the way that happened in 1996. So there was no reason to have a buy-back. If you were holding any of these weapons you were breaking the law, but we know that it is very important to reduce the pool of unregistered guns in the community. That’s why we've had this amnesty and as you can see it’s been enormously successful.


I want to add something on the subject of gun control and really, ask again for some genuine bipartisanship on national security. Asking the Labor Party for some real bipartisanship.

They often talk about it, but talking is one thing, delivering is another.

Now, we have had Labor block in the Senate on two occasions now, legislation which would establish a mandatory five year minimum sentence for people convicted of smuggling guns. You know, trafficking in guns. This is a very, very serious crime. It's putting lives at risk.

We need to send a strong signal that if you smuggle guns in Australia, you will go to jail.

It doesn't matter how good your lawyer is. Doesn't matter how persuasive a case you can mount, you should go to jail. That's got to be a very clear message.

Now, Bill Shorten has opposed that now on two occasions. He continues to do so.

He's wrong. He should recognise that Australians expect their leaders to do everything they can to keep them safe.

That means we must send the strongest and clearest signal to people who smuggle or traffic in guns, break the law, they do that, they will go to jail. That's the message we need to send.

We want Labor to rethink their position. They've been on a unity ticket with the Greens. Well, they should break that unity ticket and they should get on a unity ticket with us, keeping Australians safe.

Now I’ll ask the Commissioner to respond to your question.


Thank you for the question. Just before we move off firearms too, I think it’s important to let people know, if there are members of the public who still have firearms that they're concerned about, I would strongly encourage them to make contact with their local police across different jurisdictions. There are continuing amnesties, so if you have a firearm that you’re concerned about, the fact that this amnesty has ended, is not an excuse not to come forward to police and declare that firearm. I’m certainly encouraging people to do that.

In relation to your question, obviously we saw here in Sydney at the Sydney Airport just earlier this year, that airports continue to be an enduring interest to those who want to do us harm, to terrorism.

I'm interested in anything that makes air travel as safe as possible. We are working with the Government, but also working with industry, the private sector who have a big stake, both the airlines and airport operators and owners, on what are the most appropriate measures we can put in place to reduce that threat and risk.

So I'm very interested in measures that can help reduce that threat. If that includes identification, then I think we need to and we are having that discussion. In the community today, it's not unreasonable to show identification for a whole range of things. To hire a video you have to show identification. So, let's have that discussion and let’s make sure our air travel is as safe as possible.


Prime Minister, on passengers having to show identification, how far should that go?


I just want to endorse everything the Commissioner said. We're looking at it very carefully and of course, we are very sympathetic to the proposition that ID should be shown to board a domestic flight.

What we need to do, is assess carefully with industry, with the airline industry in particular, how it would operate to do so in a way that is as cost effective as possible - because obviously there will be costs associated with it - and that it disrupts the travelling public or slows down the travelling public as little as possible.

So it's very important if you're going to make a change like this, to get it right. So that's what we're working through very carefully.

But I have to say, I want to repeat what we said yesterday, that our airline aviation safety standards are very, very high. We have enhanced them in some ways that are apparent to the public, in a number of other ways that are not, that are not obvious. But again, there is no place for ‘set and forget’ in any area of national security.

So whether it is guns and firearms, whether it is aviation security, whether it’s counterterrorism, we are constantly seeking to improve and refine and advance the tools we have for our agencies, for our police and security agencies, to keep us safe.


Prime Minister, there are people in the community who don’t have photo identification, will the government be helping them to get ID?


Well, these are some - you've raised some of the reasons why you've got to go through this very carefully and make sure that any new requirements are introduced in a way that is effective. Both cost effective and efficient. So, yes, I understand that concern you've raised, but that's why we’re working through it carefully. You've just heard from me and the Commissioner and you can understand that we are very sympathetic to that proposition. We've got to make sure that when we make a change like this, we do so in a way that's effective.


Just on Las Vegas, you mentioned it earlier, has the Government extended any assistance to the US with an Australian citizen obviously involved, as the shooter's girlfriend?


Look, the Commissioner may want to add to this, but I don't want to make any comments about any particular case. But I can say that our agencies, including the Federal Police, work seamlessly and very, very closely, with our partners in the United States.

So there is always the maximum collaboration and cooperation and assistance provided. So that's the case in every circumstance and you can assume that's the case here.

Andrew, do you want to add to that?


PM just to say, obviously as an Australian citizen, consular assistance is available through DFAT, that’s an option for the Australian citizen to take up of course. That is her choice. We are working very closely with our local partners in the US for what assistance we can provide them.

I think what you are seeing though, is there is obviously a lot of international interest in this investigation. The Las Vegas Police Department as well as the FBI are being very front-footed putting a lot of information out into the public and I think we need to leave it to them to comment on the investigation as it unfolds. But I think we should also be very confident that agencies are working very closely together.


At this stage, has there been any direct approach for information yet, or they’re sort of working through on their end?


We're working very closely to them and I will leave it to them to comment on their investigation.


Another question for the Commissioner if I may, will contactless face recognition go live at airports next year?


Will what, sorry?


Contactless facial recognition?


Okay you are obviously referring to something quite specific. I'm not too sure what contactless facial recognition is.


OK, so when you appear at an airport and then instead of showing photo identification they –


So CCTVs at airports are by-and-large controlled by industry. Either the airport owner or operator, or Qantas as the case may be, if it is a Qantas terminal. They apply their own technology to that. We have access to CCTV, just like we could before yesterday's agreements, on a needs-basis. That's what we will continue to do. But I think you've already seen from a number of sporting ovals, for instance, that have come out and said they use facial recognition for crowd control all the time. So I think we should expect that technology is being used now, by the private sector and technology will be used by law enforcement, as well.


OK, thank you.