The Federal Government will reintroduce legislation into Parliament this week that will enforce a mandatory five-year minimum prison sentence for anyone caught trafficking illegal firearms and gun parts.
The legislation was blocked in the Senate by the Labor Party and Greens less than two months ago.
Prime Minister Tony Abbott, with Attorney-General George Brandis, made the announcement from the Australian Federal Police headquarters in Sydney on Sunday.
Mr Abbott appealed to the Opposition to support the legislation and help keep the community safe.
“Part of keeping our community safe is cracking down hard on criminals trafficking in illegal firearms,” he said.
The PM said Labor should support the legislation, particularly as it has supported mandatory minimum sentencing in the past when in government, when it was directed at people smuggling.
He said it was wrong for the Labor Party to claim, as it did in February, that it has a fundamental problem with mandatory minimum sentences.
“I say to Bill Shorten and the Labor Party, if you’re fair dinkum about protecting our community from gun crime you should support these mandatory minimum sentences for people who traffic in illegal firearms,” Mr Abbott said.
Mr Brandis said the Government in February introduced a suite of measures to ‘crack down’ on the importation of illegal firearms, including the illegal firearm parts, if a gun was dismantled and sent separately.
He said the new bill would be introduced in the Lower House this week.
“We call upon the Labor Party to allow us to honour the commitment we made at the 2013 election to introduce a mandatory minimum penalty of five years so as to give real teeth to the Government’s crackdown on this very serious criminal and public safety issue,” Mr Brandis said.
Shadow attorney-general Mark Dreyfus said there were already heavy penalties for trafficking guns, and there was “no evidence that mandatory minimum sentences work as a deterrent”, the ABC reports.
“In 2012 Labor introduced legislation that would increase the maximum penalty for firearms trafficking to life imprisonment,” he said.
“That would have made the maximum penalty for trafficking in firearms the same as the maximum penalty for drug trafficking.
“It was designed to send a very strong message that trafficking large numbers of illegal firearms is just as dangerous and potentially deadly as trafficking large amounts of illegal drugs, and the same maximum penalty should apply.”
Greens’ Senator Penny Wright said the proposed legislation “would not make Australians safer”.
“Tougher sentencing for trafficking is not the way to address gun crime in Australia,” she said.
“While more certainly needs to be done to stop illegal imports, many illicit firearms are actually stolen from legitimate sources or taken from the ‘grey market’, including the gun used in the Sydney siege.
“Tackling gun crime requires a multi-faceted approach, not national security scaremongering.”