What are our unqualified bureaucrats hiding?

 

Want to know what our new Firearm Regs are likely to contain – after Tasmania and South Australia make it clear that there is a bigger agenda underway?  In this blog we tell you what we have and have not found out.

This is the second of THREE blogs in a series about bad behaviour by our bureaucrats.  YESTERDAY we revealed new regulations being proposed in South Australia which will make life tough for our colleagues there. TODAY we’ll tell you what we think is in store for shooters in Victoria in regulations which will come into effect next year.  TOMORROW we’ll tell you about the problem of having bureaucrats with no qualifications or experience with firearms, in charge of firearms policy, and the risk this presents to the government of getting their policy settings wrong.

The proposed new Victorian Firearm Regulations

The CFCV is concerned our bureaucrats are planning to impose new storage and transportation requirements when the Firearm Regulations 2008 are remade in over a year’s time.

Not only does that adversely affect the shooting community, but has the potential to put our police minister on a collision course with the shooting community.

What we believe the Department of Justice and Regulation is working on

Over the past year, we made FOI applications to Victoria Police and the Department of Justice and Regulation (DOJR) in relation to the remaking of the regulations. We also lodged an appeal about one of the responses to the FOI Commissioner.

While the documents we were seeking were “denied in full”, the FOI Commissioner has confirmed DOJR developed a table spanning 7 pages relating to the ‘authorising provisions’ of the Firearms Act 1996, which set out what the proposed regulations can and cannot do.

This is significant because it means the government is giving serious consideration to expanding what the new regulations could cover.

We confirmed this with a public servant who told us that this type of discussion normally “requires just a sentence or two”.

The dedication of 7 pages suggests the government is a very clear sign that the government is looking at imposing a lot of new requirements on Victorian firearm owners.

Recent media statements by those preparing the regulations

The people who are involved in the making of regulations include DOJR, the Victoria Police and the Minister for Police and Emergency Services.  If you want to know what changes they want to see, you only need to look at comments they made to the media in recent months:

  • Storage: Representatives of Victoria Police have made multiple statements to the media (mostly the Herald Sun) over a 2 year period about the rate of gun thefts from some homes and the quality of gun safes.
  • Transportation: Last year the Victoria Police issued firearm transportation guidelines which formed their view of how firearms are to be transported in vehicles.While the guidelines have been amended, they include new requirements relating to the transportation of firearms which are not provided for in the Firearms Act.  The LRD’s approach to this issue was antagonistic, at best.
  • Extensive reform of our gun laws: On 30 March 2016, the Herald Sun reported (in the context of firearms stolen from licensed gun owners finding their way into the black market):

“”Victoria Police has discussed the issues with state government and has commenced work with the department of justice and regulation with a number of recommendations for firearm reform legislation, a Victoria Police spokeswoman said”; and

“We’ve also asked Victoria Police to review our gun laws to identify any potential improvements and will work through those recommendations when the review is complete” [former Acting Police Minister, Robyn Scott] said”

The first rule of making good policy is to consult affected stakeholders.

Clearly our policy makers want to make major changes, without consulting those affected.   We are concerned that the consultation with those affected will be minimal and late in the process.

What could the ‘recommendations’ be?

The problem we face is that expanding what the regulations cover moves some of the provisions which are currently in the Act into an instrument the Minister can change without going to parliament.

Worse still, the regulations can be delegated to someone else, such as the Chief Commissioner.

We saw a similar arrangement with the banning of hunting at Lake Mokoan, where the person who signed off on the prohibition wasn’t the portfolio minister, but a bureaucrat.

If the regulations are to accurately reflect what the Victoria Police have been putting out in the public domain, it could mean:

  • outlawing the carrying of gun cases simply sitting in the back of your car / 4×4;
  • Seizing your firearm if you are caught exceeding the speed limit;
  • specifying much bigger and heavier safes than we have now: potentially ones with two key locks instead of one as they have in WA; and
  • requiring every shooter to install a monitored alarm, costing least $40 a month in monitoring fees.

Each of these can be traced back to public statements made by Victoria Police or documents they have published.

Until we see the recommendations, we cannot discount any of these possibilities working their way into the new regulations.

The quality of advice to the minister

Not only should Police Minister Lisa Neville be concerned about the quality of consultation, she needs to question the experience and qualifications of those providing advice to her.

That is because the people who are leading this work have little or no qualifications or experience in any aspect of civilian firearm use – such as coaching, judging, shooting, competing, hunting or running a shooting club.  They do not understand the structure of the industry, the various affiliations or the drivers which help the shooting industry do what it does.

That means they are poorly placed to brief their minister.  This is made worse if they don’t bother to consult those with subject matter expertise during the development of new proposals.  The public servants are also arguably failing to meet their responsibilities in the Code of Conduct for Victorian Public Sector Employees.

Minister Neville needs to fix this.  The minister is consulting the shooting community on a related matter regarding the storage of firearms through the Firearms Consultative Committee, but the regulations will deal with a much broader range of issues.

DOJR’s response to the CFCV

In its response to our FOI application, DOJR stated:

“[releasing the documents] would cause confusion and unnecessary debate about something that has not progressed beyond an idea of what needs to be done at some stage in the next two years.”

While we appreciate that an ‘idea’ needs to be developed before release, commitments to ‘reform our firearm laws’ are more than ‘ideas’.

Failing to release the documents only serve to deepen our suspicions.

… but won’t there be consultation later on?

The formal part of the consultation process required by law normally occurs 3 or 4 months before they are to be remade.  This is because there are other approval and publishing requirements which need to happen before the regulations come into effect.

The consultation process involves the release of draft regulations and a “Regulatory Impact Statement” (RIS) which details the costs and benefits of the regulations and other options for a minimum of 28 days.  This is likely to happen around this time next year, as the old regulations expire in April 2018.

While we will have the chance to provide comment, there will not be enough time to make any major changes. This is because major changes – such as the recommendations which Victoria Police and former acting Minister Scott spoke freely about – can take weeks or months to redraft, which cannot be done at such a late stage.

If we wait for the RIS to come out in late 2017 or early 2018, we will not know what the government has in store for us until it is way too late to do anything about it.

That is not a risk we’re willing to take.

The opportunity to consult is there now

In Victoria, we have a Firearms Consultative Committee. The purpose of the FCC is to provide the government with an effective sounding board on policy matters, including matters in confidence such as proposed regulations.

This provides for a ‘no surprises’ approach which ensures that regulations which come out “the other end” have been road tested at an early stage. It ensures advice to the Minister for Police and Emergency Services is as complete as is possible.

If there are no surprises, then it needs to tell this to the broader shooting community immediately.

It needs to be open and transparent about the recommendations it is considering and the 7 page table, and have the courage to be prepared to argue its case in front of the shooting community before drafting instructions are issued.

No wonder we are cynical.

What you can do.

We can stop them.

However we need your help to continue the fight – because in politics, strength comes in numbers.  You can do this by donating to our fighting fund – which was set up for this very reason.

Your donation will help us fund more FOI requests (yes, we need to do more), conduct more mailouts to other shooting organisations and run our industry wide forum in April (to which you are invited – click here to get your ticket) and help us let the rest of the industry know what needs to be done.

 Click here to go to our Paypal donation page or here to go to our donation page where other options are available.

You can also stay up-to-date on the regulations by joining our email list – so we can let you know what needs to be done and when.  Click here to join it now.

Coming up

TOMORROW we explain why our highly paid public servants who are responsible for developing firearms policy in Victoria, are failing to consult properly. Click here to see it.

It’ll make you furious!

Click here to join our email list to make sure you don’t miss it.  You can opt out anytime!

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