(Second Reading Debate, Legislative Assembly, NSW Parliament)
I oppose the process that led to the Firearms and Criminal Groups Legislation Amendment Bill 2013 being rushed through the House without members being given an opportunity to consult experts and their communities about it. Bills lay on the table for five days to enable members to assess them properly. That is called democracy. I share community concern about gun violence and agree that we must act to curb gun use and to protect people from harm. I support laws that limit access to guns and weapons and hope to see more legislation introduced that strengthens current restrictions.
I particularly support the provisions in this bill which make it an offence to lend a firearm or firearm part to a person who is not authorised to possess it and which place stronger restrictions on people subject to a firearms prohibition order. However, I do not support search powers without a warrant. The bill allows police officers to enter the premises of someone subject to a firearms prohibition order and search for firearms and ammunition. An officer does not even have to have a reasonable suspicion that the person is not complying with the firearms prohibition order. This bill opens the way for police corruption and abuse of power. A warrant allows oversight of the what, where and when of police searches when they are often dealing with criminals, and removing accountability is dangerous and completely unnecessary. Warrants are easy and quick to access if there is a reasonable reason to search a property.
They act as an important check and balance on police powers. Their removal is another incremental step towards a loss of basic rights that prevent exploitation of the innocent. The bill also adds firearm offences to the Restricted Premises Act, allowing police officers to enter premises with force and to seize storage devices and vessels, again without a warrant. These powers should be scaled back, not expanded. They are open to police corruption and lack accountability. I continue to work with and support the police officers in my electorate, but I do not support removal of police oversight and accountability.