Sir Joh attacks gun reform

by Chris Griffith
Written 11 May 1996


my face


Former Queensland premier Sir Joh Bjelke-Petersen yesterday hit out at Australia's new national guns laws, saying legislators had the problem "by the tail and not by the head".

Sir Joh, the owner of cattle property "Bethany" and a frequent visitor to Tasmania where the tragic Post Arthur massacre occurred, said banning automatics, semi- automatics, and pump-action shotguns would not eliminate public shootings.

And he said the news laws were an insult to country people, who had safely operated guns for decades.

"Country people are being treated as little children, no longer capable, and no longer responsible for keeping a gun as they have for all these years.

"It's going to cause a lot of political headaches."

He said military rifles and bullets were available to young people 18 and over in countries such as Switzerland where there was compulsory military service.

"I realise the enormity of the situation as I have lived in Tasmania but I wonder whether this will be the solution."

He said Bethany had no feral animal problem, but his son John's former property Ten Mile had feral pigs and dingos.

"We've always had guns but I don't have automatics."

However most Queensland farmers contacted yesterday by The Sunday Mail supported Prime Minister John Howard's new gun measures, saying the scope of the Port Arthur tragedy made strict new laws inevitable.

Farmer "Tex" Barrett, who runs a 7,000 hectare cattle property at Biloela, said he had "no problem" with Mr Howard's measures, but he would rue the day he had to part with his prize 22 automatic showcase shot-gun.

"It's mainly in a case, but I use it for the odd duck, snakes, rabbits, and crows.

"I fear it will be one of those lined up that a tank drives over."

But George Patterson, who runs sheep and cattle on his Scottsdale property in Clintonvale, said while he had nothing against gun control, he believed some farmers would flout the new laws.

"I think they [the laws] are going to be hard to administer. People are just going to flout them. If they want to keep their rifles, they'll just hide them.

"People themselves and their mental state of mind is the important part of the problem to address."

Queensland farmer organisations were strongly supportive of the new restrictions.

Lex Buchanan, the president of the Queensland Farmers Federation, said his only reservation was the total ban on semi-automatics.

"The 22 is insufficient to kill a buffalo and the same applies to wild pigs.

"We would have been happy to see the very few people who required that type of semi-automatic very stringently licensed, rather than banned, but we accept the decision was made collectively by the states and commonwealth."

The president of the Queensland Graingrowers Association, Ian Macfarlane, was similarly concerned about the ban on semi-automatics.

He said owners of imported semi-automatics worth thousands of dollars should not be disadvantaged by the buy back.

"But if the rural industry is expected to make sacrifices for the good of the community, then we're happy to do so."

The Queensland president of the United Graziers Association, Larry Acton, said his organisation supported the ban "as we understand it".

"But we'll be looking for clarification on the funding of the buy-back or compensation scheme, and the licensing arrangements."