ABC Radio Melbourne with Jon Faine

SUBJECT/S: Dutton’s attack on gun control laws, Dividend imputation reform.











SUBJECT/S: Dutton’s attack on gun control laws, Dividend imputation reform.


JON FAINE, HOST: Mark Dreyfus, good morning to you.

MARK DREYFUS, SHADOW ATTORNEY-GENERAL: Morning Jon, thanks for having me.

FAINE: Australia’s gun laws have been regarded around the world as some of the best in the world since John Howard brought them in after the Port Arthur Massacre. Why would you tamper with them?

DREYFUS: Well, I have no idea and it’s extraordinary to see the Liberal Party time and again trying to water down John Howard gun laws. What Peter Dutton’s apparently wanting to do is to put gun lobby people on some advisory committee and not gun control advocates. There’s no balance there. And just recently before the Tasmanian state election the Liberal Party were discovered to have secret fire arms policy that would water down John Howard’s gun laws in Tasmania. I can keep going Jon because we can talk about a decision that split the Liberals from the Nationals on whether or not there’d be a continuing import ban on the Adler A110 and we need to protect our firearm laws Jon. I’m very clear about this. Labor’s very clear about this and Peter Dutton needs to be clear about it too.

FAINE: I was not even aware that he had a body called shooting Industry Foundation of Australia which represents the gun lobby. Have you ever met with them?

DREYFUS: I’ve not met with them. I have had some contact in the past with the sporting shooters association but I imagine there’s a range of gun lobby groups and all of them have one intent which is to somehow weaken our gun laws. That’s why you’ve had last year Michael Keanan, he was the minister talking about lessening red tape. All of this is just code for weakening the gun laws, allowing more powerful guns to be imported but we need the reverse. We need to get more control. We need to work harder on the huge number of illicit weapons that are out there in the community. Somewhere between a quarter of a million and 600,000 illicit weapons and there are huge numbers of guns still entering that illicit market, there are guns being stolen, they’re things we need to work on. We need to reduce the number of guns in circulation we need to get stricter controls not weaken them.

FAINE: That could be a very, dare I say, a very Victorian-centric view. It may well be that in regional Australia and particularly Queensland and Western Australia the perspective is entirely different.

DREYFUS: I don’t think there’s any suggestion that people who need guns for their livelihood, farmers who need gun for their work, professional shooters who can’t get access to the weapons that they need to go about their work, that’s never been suggested and can’t be. This is really about mostly sporting shooters who seem to want, somehow, a weakening of the laws and we’ve got to stand up to it.

FAINE: Can you change the laws without legislation? In other words, getting the support of in particular, the Senate and the cross benchers in The Senate to change legislation. Can you change the laws through regulations, through other methods than passing laws in The Parliament?

DREYFUS: Well of course, there’s always a range of regulations, subordinate legislation to any act of Parliament. I’d have to look closely at any change that the Liberal Government were proposing, but when Michael Keanan talks about removing red tape in gun regulation, when Peter Dutton talks about putting gun lobby people on his advisory committee, we all need to be on guard to make sure there isn’t in fact a weakening going on.

FAINE: Well the invitation to Peter Dutton stays and before I let you go as one of the senior figures in the Labor Party in the Shadow Cabinet of Bill Shorten, what do you make of the announcement of a policy that frightens self-funded superannuants on the cusp of a by-election? A do or die by-election in Batman. It’s not a great way to reassure the self-funded retirees of Northcote and Preston that the Labor Party’s in there fighting their battles is it?

DREYFUS: This is part of a continuing process of Labor announcing measures that are going to make our tax system fairer. And we’ve already made a number of announcements here. What we’re seeing is hysterical overreaction from the Government, and opportunistic leaping on the issue by the Greens Party. We certainly won’t be taking a lecture from them about pensioners. They did a deal with the Liberals not long ago that took nearly 100,000 people off the pension entirely and I think people need to understand about this is that this tax imputation credit system is designed, was designed to make sure that no one paid double tax. When you receive a dividend, you already received that dividend after the company pays tax on it. If you’re not paying any tax yourself, there is no reason for you to get a cash bonus from the government. Overwhelmingly, the cash bonuses are going to the wealthy, there are people getting as much as 2.5 million dollars back in cash bonuses.

FAINE: Well there might be one of those. That’s by no means typical. It’s just, I suppose I’m talking about the political smarts of announcing it. There didn’t seem to be any political urgency to that announcement but it just spooked people on the cusp of a by-election. It seems like a really silly thing to do.

DREYFUS: Well I think on the contrary. As long as we’re a party that is absolutely interested in reform of our tax system, we’re prepared to argue our case. That we’re prepared to stare down the hysteria we hear from Turnbull, Morrison and from the Greens Party. Around 99% of people on the full pension simply won’t be affected by these changes. And, most people, they’ve never heard of this loophole because more than 9 out of 10 people don’t get any benefit from it and it’s a bit hard to understand. But, it was never intended to operate like this, we are removing a loophole. We think it’s the right thing to do and we think voters will understand that we’re a party of reform in government. We’re not afraid to put forward the right policies.

FAINE: Thank you indeed for your time on both those issues this morning, Mark Dreyfus QC.