Robert Borsak delivered a scathing speech in NSW Parliament on the conduct of the review of the NSW Firearms Regulation and the Weapons Prohibition Regulation.
Today I wish to talk about corporate governance within New South Wales government agencies and how the people of New South Wales currently are being dudded by the Department of Justice flouting the rules and acting with impunity. The most recent example of botched governance processes by the Liberal-Nationals Government can be seen in the remake of the Firearms Regulation 2006. It is an indictment on this Government’s incompetence and inability to plan that the Firearms Regulation has been rolled over multiple times and now has been left to the last possible minute to be reviewed. The Department of Justice made the grandiose statement that the remake is intended to ensure that regulations are up to date, adhere to the Government’s better regulation principles, are written in plain English, reduce red tape wherever possible, protect public safety, and ensure that the remade regulations reflect the needs of the New South Wales community.
On close inspection, the draft regulations and regulatory impact statement reveal a reckless disregard and contempt for due process and the needs of the community.
For starters, the public consultation announcements from the NSW Police Force and the Department of Justice were inconsistent. The Department of Justice website said that the NSW Police Force was seeking comments on the consultation drafts of the Firearms Regulation, the Weapons Prohibition Regulation and the regulatory impact statement. On the other hand, the NSW Police Force invited comment on both the regulations and the regulatory impact statement, but then stated only comments on the regulations would be accepted. Finally, the regulatory impact statement [RIS] itself says:
Feedback on the issues raised in this RIS will be used to develop revised Regulations.
Clearly there is confusion between the Department of Justice and the NSW Police Force. Next, the claim that the regulations will adhere to the better regulation principles is a joke. There is no attempt whatsoever in the regulatory impact statement to establish the need for the proposed amendments, to show that the amendments will be effective and proportional, to justify the proposed amendments with evidence, or to comply with the minimum consultation period of 28 days. Stakeholders were given only 24 days to comment.
In another show of arrogance, the NSW Police Force has affirmed in an email to my staff that submissions will not be published, despite the Better Regulation Office’s consultation policy requiring that submissions received as part of a consultation process be made publicly available. The NSW Police Force has not yet responded to our question asking why it chose not to comply with New South Wales government policy on the publication of submissions. How arrogant and contemptuous of corporate governance and due process can a government agency possibly be? If that is not bad enough, it gets worse.
The draft regulations propose additional discretionary grounds for refusal of a firearms licence “whether or not the person has been prosecuted for, or convicted of, an offence”. This goes straight to the concerns aired early last year by Chief Justice Tom Bathurst, when he warned that the presumption of innocence is being eroded in New South Wales because the existing means of reviewing legislation are inadequate. The regulations also propose that shooting clubs now notify the commissioner each month of a member’s change of address, instead of annually as is currently required. Bizarrely, the NSW Police Force, through the regulatory impact statement then has the audacity to claim that this will result in a reduction in costs to clubs, and will reduce red tape and administrative burdens. What planet are these bureaucrats on? It makes me wonder whether they have even heard of the NSW Police Force’s standards of professional conduct, let alone whether they have made any attempt to comply with them.
These proposed firearms regulations are a dog’s breakfast. It is high time that the New South Wales Liberal‚ÄëNationals Government stopped flouting the requirements of good governance. The Audit Office of New South Wales needs to investigate the conduct of the review of the firearms regulations. It will be sure to find plenty on which to comment. The people of New South Wales deserve better from this Government. The people of Cootamundra deserve better. Thankfully, they will soon get their chance to vote for a better future.