Openly hostile: Minister Neville’s attack on shooters

The Victorian Liberal Party has moved three amendments to the Firearms Amendment Bill which are likely to be voted this week, possibly as early as Tuesday.

Unfortunately Labor has taken this news badly, and fired off a terse media release which is aimed at the Liberals. 

What it may not appreciate is that it is also attacking the integrity and legitimate concerns of the shooting community.

Some background

You may recall the Bill seeks to introduce “Firearm Prohibition Orders” which would enable the Chief Commissioner of Police to impose significant restrictions on people from owning or possessing firearms, or even visit places where firearms are stored.

The Orders were sold to parliament as targeting criminal and terrorist activities, however the Bill does not use those words, and leaves it open for the power to issue orders to be abused for other reasons, such as for political activities.

The CFCV’s President and executive members have had several meetings with a number of Upper House MPs to try and secure the numbers necessary to seek amendments to the Bill.

There was no chance that the coalition would oppose the Bill – as it would not want to be seen opposing anything which targets criminal activities – but accepted our argument that the Bill, as it is worded, does not reflect what was intended.

In it’s last sitting week, the Liberal’s Edward O’Donohue, moved three amendments which go quite a fair way to what we were seeking.  If the other upper house MPs who said they would support our position hold true, then there is a chance these amendments will get up.

The amendments are:

  • Duration of Firearm Prohibition Orders: The change is to reduce the duration from 10 to 5 years.  This will allow changed circumstances of a person’s situation over time to be reassessed;
  • Appeals:  The proposal is to allow the person who is subject to an Order to elect whether their appeal is heard by the Magistrates Court or VCAT.  The Bill currently provides a very limited right of appeal to VCAT (including the right to know why an Order was issued) whereas a Court has significantly fewer constraints placed on it; and
  • Delegation: The Bill currently allows Orders to be issued by an officer down to Superintendent level   The concern we have is the risk that it allows police at a relatively local level to use Orders for reasons other than criminal activities, even vexatiously.  The amendment moved by the Liberals proposes that an Order can only be issued down to Assistant Commissioner level.  This does not eliminate the risk, but does significantly reduce that risk. We wanted the wording of the Bill to be changed to more closely tie the reason an Order can be issued to criminal behaviour, however are happy that limiting delegation to Assistant Commissioner is a reasonable control.

If these amendments get up, it’ll be a great outcome for the shooting community.

Minister Neville’s media release

However, not everyone is happy.  Soon after the amendments were moved, Police Minister, Lisa Neville, issued this media release:

Thursday, 30 November, 2017


Not content with eating lobsters with alleged mobsters, Liberal Leader Matthew Guy is now trying to water down laws that directly target organised crime to stop the harm they cause in our state.

The  Andrews  Labor  Government’s  Firearms  Amendment  Bill  2017  would  put  in  place  tough  new  Firearm Prohibition  Orders (FPO), which  are  designed  to  step  up  the  fight  against  criminals  who  use  illegal  firearms  to threaten, assault, murder, and destroy the lives of innocent people.

The Government’s regime would give police the powers to search the premises or vehicles of anyone subject to a FPO, as well as anyone in the company of someone with an Order, without a warrant.

Our  amendments  have  been  brought  in  at  the  request  of  Victoria  Police  to  help  them  in  their  fight  against organised crime. It’s the biggest change to police powers targeting organised crime in a generation.

Organised  crime,  including  outlaw  motor  cycle  gangs,  poses  serious  risks  to  Victoria.  They  are  responsible  for money laundering, illicit drug manufacturing, firearm trafficking, and are driving youth offending.

Instead of backing our police, the Liberals are desperately trying to water down and limit these powers.

The Liberal Party’s changes would reduce the duration of a Firearm Prohibition Order, limit the ability of police officers  to  issue  an  FPO,  and  create  unworkable  appeal  mechanisms  which  only  provide  more  opportunity  for criminals to escape justice.

The advice on the powers Victoria Police needed was clear.

The Liberal changes significantly weaken the Firearm Prohibition Order regime and make fighting organised crime harder.

The Government has been working tirelessly over the past three days to convince  the Opposition of problems associated  with  their  amendments.  Despite  detailed  advice  the  Opposition  have  not  shown  any  interest  in compromise.

Quotes attributable to Minister for Police Lisa Neville

“Matthew  Guy  has  been  caught  eating  lobsters with  alleged  mobsters  and  now  he’s  doing  their  bidding  in  the Parliament.”

“This  is  a  disgrace  and  does  not  provide  Victoria  Police  with  the  powers  they  need.  The  Liberals  are  more interested in protecting the civil liberties of organised criminals than protecting the victims of crime.”

“The only people to benefit from the Liberal Party’s  changes are organised crime figures who use illegal firearms and cause significant harm in our community.”

CFCV’s media release

Again, contrary to the Minister’s assertions, the Bill does not talk about targeting criminals (or money laundering/ illicit drug manufacturing/ firearm trafficking/ youth offending), which is the key flaw in her argument.

Given the amendments to achieve this came about from the lobbying efforts of the CFCV, the Minister’s release is more than an attack on the Liberals: it’s an attack on our concerns, our logic and our intent.

So we put this media release out:


The Combined Firearms Council of Victoria has criticised Police Minister Lisa Neville for her attack on the Liberal party for moving amendments to the Firearms Amendment Bill.

Last week, Liberal Upper House MP, Edward O’Donohue, moved three amendments to a proposal to enable Victoria Police to issue Firearm Prohibition Orders. The amendments sought to improve the legislation by making sure it met it’s original intention.

The amendments proposed by the Liberals sought to sure the scope of the Orders focused on criminal, rather than political and other legitimate, activities.

CFCV President, Bill Paterson, said the minister’s attack was political and avoided the more serious issue of preventing firearms getting into the wrong hands.

“The legislation didn’t focus on criminal activities as claimed, and could have had unintended consequences such as prohibiting farmers from visiting the homes of their neighbours,” he said.

“The reason the Bill is in the state it is in, is because the government tried to rush it through and didn’t consult anyone on it”.

“We are disappointed that the Victorian Labor Government did not consult with shooting groups, the Victorian Bar Council or civil liberties groups before pushing this legislation through”, Mr Paterson said.

He said the amendments now being criticised by Minister Neville were supported by the CFCV, and that the attack on the Liberals was actually an attack on Victoria’s shooting organisations.

He said he was grateful for the Liberal’s help in trying to fix the flaws in the Government’s bill and was hopeful that the Greens and other cross-benchers would support the changes

Neither media release got a run but we felt it was important to acknowledge our support for the amendments moved by the Liberals.  We’ve thanked them in private, and thank them in public.

We just need the rest of the Upper House to support the amendments.  Yet again, the message to Labor is that if you want to get the balance right, you need to consult.

If you’d like to receive our update on the parliamentary vote, then click here to join our email list.

The Greens

One strange twist in this could come from our mortal enemies, the Greens.  While we would never expect  they will come to our rescue, the contribution by the Greens Sue Pennicuik, during the second reading debate pointed to the Greens also having concerns about the Bill (as they did in NSW) from a civil liberties perspective.

Sue was switched on to the issues and we suspect took note of the briefing note we sent to all MPs when the Bill landed in the Upper House.  In fact she drew specific attention to the NSW experience which is that only 2% of FPO searches turned up anything relating to firearms.

We’re not going to hold our breath, but how strange would it be if the Greens voted on amendments which helped the shooting community?

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