Abbott-Turnbull clash over gun laws deepens

Abbott-Turnbull clash over gun laws deepens

SBS World News Radio: A deep rift is developing within the Coalition over an alleged deal between the former Abbott government and an independent senator over the importation of a repeat-action shotgun.

Former prime minister Tony Abbott says the Turnbull Government should do whatever it needs to ensure rapid-fire guns are not available in Australia.

He maintains he never made a deal with Senator David Leyonhjelm to change gun laws, insisting it was the Abbott Government that stopped the importation.

But Senator Leyonhjelm claims the Abbott Government agreed to insert a sunset clause of 12 months on the ban against importing the Adler lever-action shotgun.

He's now been backed by Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, who's today told the parliament he has made inquiries and is satisfied that the minister for justice made a deal in the full knowledge of the office of the then-prime minister, Tony Abbott.

Former prime minister Tony Abbott says his Government did not agree to relax gun laws in deals with crossbenchers, but Liberal Democrat senator David Leyonhjelm says he did.

Senator Leyonhjelm has revealed an email citing an agreement he claims he made with an Abbott Government minister last year.

The email suggests the Government would add a sunset clause on the Adler shotgun ban if the Senator opted to vote for an immigration bill.

The former prime minister says every piece of legislation has a sunset clause and a letter purporting to show such a deal was about telling Senator Leyonhjelm what was already happening.

Mr Abbott has told the ABC the email does not amount to proof of an agreement.

"I suspect that what these staffers were doing was telling the good Senator what was happening anyway as a matter of course in an attempt to get him to support something that we thought was a very good idea."

But Senator Leyonhjelm has told the Lateline program the email is evidence of a deal.

"He either didn't know what was going on -- which I find hard to believe, because it was a very centrally controlled Government when he was in the driving seat -- or he's forgotten, or he's being mischievous. And I can't speculate on which one of those it might be."

The email claim comes as the Government looks at whether to reclassify the seven-shot, lever-action shotgun, a decision that will ultimately be up to individual states.

The Abbott Government temporarily suspended the importation of the Adler lever-action shotgun last year until July 2016.

However, the ban was extended under Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull.

The Coalition is denying claims it is willing to trade watered-down gun laws for Senate votes as several M-Ps continue to push for a ban on imports of the shotgun to be lifted.

State and territory ministers are due to meet tomorrow.

Human Services Minister Alan Tudge has told the ABC the Government is standing firm unless the states and territories can come to a consensus.

"We've been very clear, in terms of our position overall on the Adler. We've said, 'Absolutely not. Not coming into the country, full stop, unless you guys get together (and) work it out.'"

Asked about Mr Abbott's comments in parliament, Mr Turnbull says his Government would never weaken Australia's gun laws.

But there is pressure on him to have broader debate on the matter, with the possibility of easing restrictions on the Alder, particularly for farmers dealing with feral animals.

More debate on the issue is a move the Prime Minister appears to support.

"It's the contempt. It's the contempt that people in the Labor Party have for people in regional and rural Australia who need guns in order to sustain their livelihoods in terms of exterminating feral pests on their own properties.

But Mr Abbott disagrees there is any need to introduce new weapons, saying farmers already have access to effective weapons to deal with feral pests.

"With a heightened terror threat, there is just no way that any serious Coalition Government, any government in the tradition of John Howard, should be allowing rapid-fire weapons on a very large scale into our country."

Federal Labor MP Tony Burke says the Prime Minister needs to clearly state his views on the possible classification of the weapon.

He says Mr Turnbull is yet to do that ahead of the meeting with the states.

"The thing that I can't get my head around is, why is it that Malcolm Turnbull won't tell us what Australia's position is at that meeting tomorrow? You have a meeting where the states are coming to the meeting with their position. The Commonwealth is presumably going to the meeting with a view. Now Malcolm Turnbull was asked yesterday in a media conference, 'What view is the Australian Government taking to that meeting?' We asked him in the parliament, 'What do you believe on this? What's the view of the Prime Minister and the Government on the classification of this weapon?' And Malcolm Turnbull won't answer."

The Federal Government also recently announced it would introduce tougher gun-trafficking laws, including mandatory jail terms for people caught dealing and trading weapons.

Mr Turnbull has written to Opposition Leader Bill Shorten, urging Labor to support the legislation.

 

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