VicPol’s recommendations: the real story

A good regulator:

  • consults;
  • is open and transparent; and
  • tests its proposals with key stakeholders before submitting them to government.

Then there’s Victoria Police ….

As many of you know, we started 2017 chasing ‘recommendations’ Victoria Police made to the state government to change YOUR laws, but refused to consult on.

First there’s the bad news: we lost the case.  However the good news is that we found out what those recommendations were through other means.

Not only that, but the evidence submitted by Victoria Police confirmed the accuracy of the information we received, and revealed how much lobbying a member of VicPol’s Executive Branch did behind the scenes.

A bit of background …

In March 2016, Victoria Police told the Herald Sun that they had made ‘recommendations’ to the government on “firearm law reform”. This followed around a dozen articles in the Herald Sun over the preceding months where Victoria Police expressed concerns about firearm thefts, coinciding with the 20th anniversary of the Port Arthur shootings.

In February this year, the CFCV put in a FOI request to find out what those recommendations were.

Our FOI application was rejected on the basis that the recommendations were “Cabinet in Confidence” and also that they were “working documents”, which are two exemptions which are available under FOI laws.

The problem we had with this was that these protections are normally available to government departments rather than agencies like the Victoria Police, whose job is to enforce the law, not make it.

Our VCAT action

In May, we hired a lawyer – Avi Furstenberg from Furstenberg Law –  and a barrister – Robert Cameron – to fight the decision in VCAT (and for their help and patience, we’re truly grateful. They did a great job).

To help fund the case, hundreds of shooters chipped in to raise what we needed to run the case – and we’re also sincerely grateful for their (and your) support.

Over the past few weeks, we’ve had a Directions Hearing, a Compulsory Conference and an “admin mention” and finally on November 13th, the hearing.

The decision was ‘reserved’ which meant that we received it by email around the middle of last week.

We lost the case because VCAT agreed that Victoria Police should be able to enjoy the protection of Cabinet (which we still have a problem with, but it is the way the law is).

What we found out from the case

We learnt a number of things from the evidence VicPol provided, including the events which led to how the recommendations came about.  They are:

DC Shane Patton

1.  That it was Deputy Commissioner, Shane Patton, who liaised with the Police Minister’s office.  Specifically, Victoria Police’s statement advises that:“In around February 2016, Crime Command, Victoria Police instituted a legislative reform proposal around firearms legislation. The proposal was of utmost importance to Crime Command and was targeted at decreasing firearms related offending in Victoria.”  

It also stated: “In late May 2016, it became clear that both Crime Command and Deputy Commissioner Patton (the accountable Executive Command member) wanted to ensure that the importance of this proposal for various legislative changes in relation to firearms was fully understood at Ministerial level” and that “DC Patton wanted to brief the Minister directly with concrete proposals for reform due to the significance of the proposals.”.

At the time this started, the Police Minister was Robyn Scott.  Lisa Neville took over the portfolio in May, which is when Patton decided to start briefing the (new) minister directly.

2. That the Department of Justice and Regulation (DOJR) was involved in discussions about the proposals and organising for the matter to go to Cabinet. DOJR hosts the Firearms Consultative Committee (FCC) but once again, decided to keep it in the dark.

DOJR has done this before: several years ago it developed new regulations hiking firearm dealer fees up by up to 600% which would have driven several of them out of business.

While we were able to beat that, it is clear DOJR, like Victoria Police, has a problem in being a good regulator;

3. That the recent Firearm Amendment Bill, which proposed the introduction of Firearm Prohibition Orders and other things such as changing what constitutes trafficking of firearms came from the recommendations; and

4.  That the recommendations went to Cabinet.  Twice.

The first time is to secure the government’s approval of the concept – called “Approval in Principle” – while the second is where Cabinet gets to see the detail of what eventually goes to parliament – that stage is called “Bill at Cabinet”.

We know from VicPol’s statement that the recommendations were sent after the AIP date had communicated to VicPol by the DepartmentIt means the recommendations were sent after Deputy Commissioner Patton had secured the Minister’s agreement to take the matter to Cabinet. That’s why VCAT ruled in their favour.

.. but we know what the recommendations are

You would think that because we lost the case, that we don’t know what the recommendations are.

Wrong.   Shortly after filing our matter in VCAT (in May) we were contacted by a source who was encouraged by the action we had instituted, who then sent us a detailed email outlining the recommendations – and what the government did with them. (Thank you source, you know who you are …).

Several months later, Victoria Police’s statement provided evidence which corroborated the information we had earlier received (in particular, it verified the origin of the Firearms Amendment Bill, the involvement of Cabinet and the timing of when these events happened).  Our crystal ball proved to be right.

So, in the absence of information to the contrary, it’s pretty clear the information we received is correct.  VicPol, DOJR and Labor are all welcome to refute this, but it would be up to them to prove us wrong.

The recommendations

The recommendations are listed below.  They were agreed by Cabinet, which decided to defer them until after the 2018 Victorian State Election, “so as not to alienate shooters”.

The recommendations are to:

  • Disarm most cash-in-transit security guards – Cabinet has agreed to remove firearms from plain clothed security guards carrying cash and other valuables, who make up 80-90 percent of the cash-in transit industry. This will threaten the safety of those guards, and the viability of the businesses who supply the equipment they use.  (If relevant industry bodies want to stop this from happening, then they need to get political.  They can email us at [email protected] to find out how);
  • Greater search and seizure powers – (in addition to the Firearm Prohibition Orders which we already know about), these powers will extend to allowing police to check your firearm storage at any time of day or night, without any warning or a warrant;
  • The right to reclassify any firearm – Cabinet agreed with police that they – not parliament – should be able to reclassify any firearm, for any reason, and without the right of appeal.
  • The abolition of the Firearms Appeal Committee – this will remove the ability of shooters to appeal decisions made by Victoria Police (for example, something relating to licence applications) to the Firearms Appeals Committee. This means shooters will need to take the more expensive option of hiring lawyers to take their matters to VCAT or court; and
  • Increased penalties for firearm offences and changing what constitutes trafficking firearms. The issue of what constitutes trafficking has already appeared in the Firearms Amendment Bill (currently before parliament), but not the ‘increased penalties’.  Cabinet agreed to increase the penalties for minor transgressions of the law, such as leaving a couple of 22s rolling around the floor of the ute.

If Victoria Police or government wish to correct the record, then they are free to do so by producing the source documents we were pursuing, however the information we have been given accords with the evidence given by Victoria Police.

In the absence of this, we are entitled to take these as matters of Labor policy.

Hopefully exposing these particular recommendations will make them go away for now – but more needs to be done to make sure the regulator doesn’t try something like this again (it’s happened before, so is likely to happen again).

At the end of the day we do not have a problem with laws which legitimately target criminals.  However we have to take action where there are deliberate efforts to bypass our community on laws which directly affect it. It’s as much about “good regulatory practice” (eg being open, transparent and consultative …) than anything else.

If Victoria Police can’t or won’t behave like a good regulator, it will never be able to suggest good laws – which means the crims continue to get away.

Stay in touch

With the next state election coming up in November 2018, it’s important that shooters like yourself follow the CFCV:

  1. on Facebook by Liking our page; or
  2. joining our email list (on the link in the comments area with this video)

Following us means we can get pro-shooting voting advice out to you before you vote.  That way, we will be able to use the political process to stop things like this happening.

It’ll also make it easier for you to work out who to vote for when you’re standing in front of your ballot papers unsure about who the candidates are or what they stand for!  We’ll go through the parties and candidates who will be contesting the election, what their policies are, and where their preferences will go.

You can opt out of our email list anytime.

…. A final word for those who supported us

Thanks again for your support for our VCAT action.  It’s been worth every cent raised, and every minute spent on it.

If you’d like to sponsor what we’re doing, then check out our Paypal donation page by clicking here.

Like our work? Follow us today.
Leave a comment ?

20 Comments.

  1. Great job to all involved. This type of undemocratic manipulation by unelected public servants without any consultation is the first step in the slippery slope towards a police state.

  2. Wow, make security the target if gangs. Socialists experimenting with lives. They seem to get off on it.

  3. Good work guys. Keep up the pressure to “keep the bastards honest”. I will be moving to NSW early next year but I’ll continue to watch your progress on fb. Not sure what I’ll encounter in country NSW but I tackle that then! Cheers & Merry Christmas & great 2018!

  4. You guys have done a FANTASTIC job shining a light on the underhanded dealings going on
    I fully expect other state Police have done similar things
    It’s too hard to go after crims, the Police don’t know where they live – but they know where WE live …..
    Law Abiding Firearm Owner – Qld

  5. Thanks Scott

    Greatly appreciated!

    Regards
    Neil

  6. Wow, so sweet f*ck all that targets actual criminals, but continues to completely f*ck over anyone that is trying to do the right thing. Surprise, surprise, surprise! Tyranny at it’s best when the foxes are in charge of the hen house!There should always, be separation of powers! No one should be able to create the law and then enforce the same law they create. Judge Dredd!

  7. Oh dear sounds awfully like Tasmania too!!

  8. Re the security guard section; this appears to follow up on a recommendation that was put to the (Federal) Justice Minister back in the 80s which recommended disarming security guards and then offering police services to escort any moneys at a substantial fee. A similar practice works in Indonesia albeit over there access to firearms for self defence etc is available if you tick all the boxes.

  9. Good Work Guys,

  10. I feel safer already – when the CCP can declare a single shot .22 a Cat D longarm because he feels like it. And your licence can be revoked at any time for no reason given and no appeal? What’s the point of having a Firearms Act ? I don’t suppose we will hear our concern raised in the hard left media.

  11. Great work everyone.

    Is it possible to against directly against the Deputy Commissioner involved in this abuse of power which he didn’t even have?

    This scumbag is a Public Servant, not an elected official, he MUST be held accountable for his treachery.

  12. FOI Victoria Police to find out how many firearms the Police can’t account for. Last count years ago was over two hundred. Pot calling the Kettle black.

  13. Russell Bate OAM

    Those of us who have had the privilege of serving on state and federal government advisory committees will be aware that there is an significant level of ignorance of firearms and firearms related matters among politicians, public servants and perhaps not surprisingly, the police. The recent review of the NFA by the federal and state governments provided ample evidence of this.

    While ignorance prevails among those who propose and pass regulations it is inevitable that bad legislation is the result. Historically the involvement of representatives of the shooting sports in the various state and federal advisory groups has ensured that some level off expert advice has been available when considering and drafting new regulations. The decision in this case not to involve the several state appointed firearms advisory bodies is a clear breach of good practice and will do little to ensure good and well founded legislation.

    More importantly it will do little to enhance trust between law abiding firearms owners and the state Labor Government and the Victorian Police

  14. Trust me, I know from 15 years experience in Vicpol, there are some police who think that the way to promotion and success is to take up the anti firearms cause and kiss arse of the politicians who think the same way. Looks like the DC IS LAYING FOUNDATION WORK WITH LABOR PARTY FOR A POTENTIAL FUTURE TILT AT NO. 1 SPOT. Unfortunately the old days of an apolitical police force ended when Mick MILLER was appointed Chief Commissioner. Fortunately though many police are also shooters with no political axe to grind.

  15. Great job…. and thankyou.

  16. Last time someone looked up in the ceiling of the St Kilda Cop Shop there were heaps of guns up there…..don’t look at me….. 😈

  17. The firearm community should lobby to take the whole regulation out of the police’s hands. It should be regulated by an independent body, similar to Vicroads that look after vehicle regulations. The police will always just take the stand that nobody should own a gun. Let them inforce the law, not make the laws too. Got help us if Vicpol get their way.

  18. Look up “Massacres In Australia” on Wikipedia. Massacres have been unaffected by legislation specifically about firearms. Download and save it before someone hacks it. The lie that the so-called ‘gun laws’ prevent further massacres is taught to trainee police and acts not only as justification for doing whatever they want to those who think law actually means anything, but as a filter: anyone who doesn’t accept it doesn’t qualify as police. I saw similar filters at work in churches in Sydney’s North in the 1980’s, where I was told by a girl that I should die of bullet wounds, so guns could be banned: accept the lie or we do to you what we want.

  19. The Chief Commissioner has gone of ‘fatigue leave’ or sick leave.
    I wonder if it’s related to these “sick” recommendations?
    If this isn’t “Police State” action, it’ll do til we get some!
    And the ALP’s “don’t rock the boat” til after the 2018 elections is straight out of the KGB Handbook.

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