Justice Minister Michael Keenan spoke in Parliament on August 12 about the Crimes Legislation Amendment (Powers, Offences and Other Measures) Bill 2015 and to respond to the Member for Batman the Hon David Feeney’s suggestion of increasing maximum penalties for firearms offences rather than introducing mandatory minimum sentences. Minister Keenan was quoted as saying:
“The member for Batman also suggested, in his contribution, that it is preferable to increase the maximum penalties for firearms offences as opposed to introducing a mandatory minimum sentence. The maximum penalties for firearms offences, under the Criminal Code Act 1995, are imprisonment for 10 years, a fine of $425,000 or both. The government considers it appropriate to introduce a mandatory minimum sentence of five years imprisonment rather than increase the maximum penalty.
We believe the introduction of mandatory minimum sentences will act as a stronger disincentive for people seeking to illegally import and export firearms and firearms parts into and out of Australia. This is a similar view to that of the United Kingdom government, which has introduced mandatory minimum sentences for firearms-trafficking offences. The member for Batman also suggested that we have failed to explain the need for mandatory sentencing. The government considers that illegal firearms trafficking is a serious offence worthy of mandatory minimum penalties. This sends a strong message on the seriousness with which the government takes gun related crime and violence, and it is appropriate that the new mandatory minimum sentences capture all offenders who engage in the illicit firearms trade not just those who trade in large numbers of firearms or parts.
The entry of even a small number of illegal firearms into the Australian community can have a significant impact on the threat posed by the illicit market and, due to the enduring nature of firearms, a firearm can remain within that market for many years. Regardless of the number of articles that have been trafficked it is necessary to put in place substantial penalties on all trafficking offences - with the aim of preventing even one more firearm from entering the illicit market.
This bill makes a range of important amendments to combat serious criminal activity, support our law-enforcement agencies and ensure that the Commonwealth criminal laws remain comprehensive and up-to-date. The bill will impose tough mandatory minimum penalties for firearms trafficking and the supply of firearms and firearms parts to the illicit market. These measures will ensure that the punishments for these serious offences are commensurate with the threat to Australian society posed by gun related crime.”