Cowboy Farmers, QLD Handguns Revisited- Something Rotten in the State of Queensland

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I have recently been working with a Queensland farmer whois upset about moves by the Qld Firearms registry to deny both himself and other farmers who need them, handguns.

The Queensland Police Minister, the Hon Bill Byrne, has been quoted as calling farmers ‘Cowboys’ (Sally Cripps, Queensland Country Life 26 May 2016), which shows regrettable ignorance on behalf of the Minister.

If the Hon Member had done his homework, instead of ‘shooting from the hip’, he would have to concede that a legitimate need exists on some farms for a handgun where terrain, or conditions such as dense scrub or mud precludes carriage of a long arm.

Sadly the refusals seem to be first associated with a failure to receive renewal documentation leading to the farmer’s licence lapsing. Police then attend the farmer months later to round up his handguns. 

When the farmer lodges a fresh application for a handgun licence this is denied because he had possessed firearms without a licence.

Whether this Catch 22 is deliberate, or arises from inefficiency at the hands of the Registry, I cannot comment.  As a former senior government lawyer (Commonwealth) myself, I realise how often conspiracy theories are assumed by the public when dealing with government. From experience, however, I always look for evidence of incompetence or inefficiency first, as conspiracies by public servants are usually restricted to attempts at hiding evidence of incompetence or inefficiency.

 In this regard, the Queensland Firearms Registry is rife with complaints about long delays and problems, and allegations of inefficiency. I believe that a major review of that organisation and its processes is really called for, in order to get to the core of the problems there.  I suspect it would be as revealing as the review into the WA Registry some years ago.

 As an aside, I have heard that the Registry may be harvesting email addresses used by shooters without consent, and that they are then using these for later correspondence.  Given that an email address used by a shooter may not be his own,  consent for this practice cannot be assumed to have been given, and this could lead to significant difficulties down the track.

I am sure that the Privacy Commissioner would have significant concerns about this practice, if it is true.  But I digress.

I have heard that when a formerly licenced shooter complains, they are advised that the Registry does not have to send them a renewal.

This is unfair, because the public receive a renewal for every other type of licence that they have, and they have previously received them for their firearms, so they have a legitimate expectation that they shall receive one.

Given that the practice exposes the shooter to the potential risk of prosecution for possession of an unlicensed firearm (s), or the cheeky denial of a subsequent licence, because they have been in possession of an unlicensed firearm(s), significant consequences can arise for a shooter whose livelihood depends upon a firearms licence.

 I can hear many of you muttering ‘fair go’, and until recently, I would have agreed with you that this behavior is ‘un Australian’, however this expression has been much abused by a fellow red head, named Pauline.  I shall therefore drop back to the lingo of my youth.  In the UK, if a Government Official behaved in such manner the expression ‘its just not the done thing’ would have been uttered, to this, or any other form of dirty pool.

Now, before the authorities denounce me as ‘whinging Pom’, an expression that seems to have escaped todays PC speak about people from overseas, (probably because it is a fair comment, because we Poms stand up for our rights), I shall now express my concerns more technically.

While there is no obligation to send out renewals, as this forms part of a process that is often litigated, the Queensland Police are abusing power in a way that I believe violates the model litigant principle.

The model litigant principle is a principle in Australian law and governance that provides that the government, as the biggest litigator in a State, shall not abuse its resources or take unfair advantage, in order to achieve a result. 

If the Queensland Government has a legitimate concern about farmers having handguns, there should be a review, giving people the opportunity to to lodge submissions.  It should then be debated by a Parliamentary Committee, and then be debated by Parliament.  This is how Parliamentary democracy is supposed to work.

It should not be open to a bureaucrat, or Minister to simply consider the legislative grass in NSW is greener than in Queensland, and then seek to copy the policy position adopted by the registry in that state, without legislative change.

To do so involves the application of ‘LORE’ instead of the ‘LAW’.

The legal test for a Primary Producer wanting a firearm in Queensland, is one of ‘exceptional circumstances’ and nothing here has changed since my 20 August 2014 blog.

 SIMON

If I can get a few applications together, I would like to try and get the Queensland Tribunal to list them together, before a Deputy President.  Deputy President’s are also Judges, and, while no Tribunal decision creates legal precedent in the strictest sense of the word, decisions by Deputy President’s can be a useful means of setting the law in the event of conflict as they are nevertheless quite persuasive. 

It would also help to significantly reduce legal costs for each Appellant.

SIMON MUNSLOW

Simon Munslow over thirty years experience in legal practice and a life long passion for hunting and shooting. 

His experience includes post graduate qualifications in Public Sector Management, and ten years experience as an Administrative and Regulatory Lawyer with the Commonwealth Government.  This, together with his extensive knowledge and experience with firearms enables him to craft telling and creative arguments for shooters.

The balance of his time in practice has been in private practice where he has practiced extensively in criminal law, family law and firearms law. 

Simon is now semi retired, operating from a well equipped home office, and he restricts his practice to mostly handling firearms law matters.

He is passionate about keeping you shooting, which is something he does by representing shooters who fall foul of the law, and also by engaging in private political lobbying.

All material in his blogs are current at the time of publication. Blogs are of a general nature and do not constitute legal advice. 

If you need advice contact me for advice specific to your particular circumstances. 

If you have some information that you think I can use to help advance the cause of shooters, please also call me.

P: 02 6299 9690  F: 02 6299 9836  E: solicitor@bigpond.com 

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