Thursday, March 21, 2019

Today by Paddy Manning

Ardern confirms gun law reforms
With the world watching, NZ’s PM shows how it’s done

Kyodo News via AP

The Christchurch massacre, as one local journalist wrote [$] yesterday, may be “the biggest story in the world” right now, and New Zealand’s prime minister, Jacinda Ardern, just stepped onto the world stage and gave a lesson in leadership to the sorry pretenders plaguing Western politics from Donald Trump to Theresa May, Justin Trudeau to Scott Morrison. In an eight-minute press conference six days after a national tragedy that she has handled with compassion and grace, Ardern laid out [$] a comprehensive solution to a gun law problem that has vexed her country for 20 years, and flagged it is “just the beginning of the work we need to do”. Watch every word: Ardern said nothing more and nothing less than she needed to say to get this critical job done for her country, banning outright the weapons used in last Friday’s terrorist attack – effective today – and leaving no one in any doubt of her conviction that reform was urgent and truly in the national interest.

It is the same sort of leadership that John Howard showed in the wake of the Port Arthur massacre in Tasmania in 1996, when he negotiated the National Firearms Agreement (NFA) with states and territories. It remains his most important legacy. Ardern’s response to Christchurch has many of the hallmarks of Howard’s response, including a ban on military-style, semiautomatic weapons, assault rifles and high-capacity magazines, as well as a buyback. Ardern set out a timetable – after a short, sharp inquiry she wants the laws passed by the end of the next fortnight’s parliamentary sittings – and in the meantime, there will be an interim ban on sale of any of those weapons.

This week gun control advocate Rebecca Peters, who led the campaign for reform in the ’90s and helped usher in the NFA, wrote in The Sydney Morning Herald that New Zealand was a member of the Australasian Police Ministers Council but baulked at following Australia’s lead in 1996:

Under pressure from the local gun lobby, New Zealand declined to join the scheme and instead held a review of its law. Unsurprisingly, the review recommended major changes along the lines of the Australian reforms, but those recommendations were ignored and never implemented. This left New Zealand out of step, not only with Australia, but with most other industrialised countries which recognise the need for robust controls over a product designed specifically for the purpose of causing death and injury.

Australia’s gun laws are not set in stone, however. They are being chipped away at by an ever-more powerful gun lobby. Peters’s op-ed also warned that this Saturday’s NSW election “looks set to increase the power of the minor parties that are dedicated to loosening our gun law”. In its NSW report card, Gun Control Australia recently warned the state was the worst example of compliance “slippage” in the country, with 11 breaches of the NFA. In 2017 the organisation released a state-by-state audit finding that after 21 years Australia’s gun laws were unravelling and “in trouble”. 

Until today, New Zealand’s gun laws remained 20 years behind those of Australia. It’s the exception that proves the rule: over much of the last decade, New Zealand has schooled Australia, shown us the way forward. Same-sex marriage. Broadband using fibre-optic cables. Emissions trading. It’s not a mystery: New Zealand’s proportional representation system forces alliances, and delivers compromise and steady progress, as against our see-sawing, forward-and-reverse, winner-takes-all politics.


“The lesson from the Western Australian election would be don’t do a deal with One Nation … My view is it probably cost us half a dozen seats. WA was used as a bit of a trial to see how a deal with One Nation would go. We were the guinea pigs and it failed – it failed badly in my view.”

Former WA premier Colin Barnett advises his federal colleagues not to do a preference deal with One Nation.


“It is quite within the realms of possibility that we will manage a dreadful trifecta of own goals: considerable economic carnage, a crippling social divide of the sort we observe in Brexit and in Donald Trump’s America, and the ultimate irony – increased rather than decreased global emissions.”

Former deputy prime minister John Anderson toes the party line on climate and fails to recognise his own former government’s contribution to the predicament.

The Number

Australia’s unemployment rate for February, down 0.1 per cent, which is a better-than-expected result for the federal government.

The Policy

Federal Labor will lock in its commitment to build a fast train from Melbourne to Brisbane by promising funds during the election campaign to start securing the required land corridor, which Infrastructure Australia estimates will cost a total of $2.8 billion.

The list

“There is more going on in Destroyer than the ‘de-glamming’ of a usually glamorous actress. Along with these surface amendments, which create a mask of sorts for Erin to hide behind, Kidman digs deep, using her whole body to disclose Erin’s brutality and vulnerability ... Everything about Kidman’s performance seems heightened to discomfit and confront.” 


“Punters don’t have to be across the arcane debates over statistics and definitions – whether it is valid to talk of a “per capita recession” or the “real net national disposable income per capita” as a better measure. The simple evidence of their pay packets backs up the belief that things are getting harder and less fair.” 


“The AFL has agreed that the risks of Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, dementia and ALS/MND are higher for those with brain injuries, and that ‘players are educated about the risks’. As for the threat of chronic traumatic encephalopathy, the AFL would only say it ‘acknowledges that head trauma in boxing can be associated with neurodegenerative disease’.” 


The Monthly invites Brisbane readers to enter the draw to win tickets to hear one of Australia’s foremost social researchers, Rebecca Huntley, discuss her groundbreaking Quarterly Essay, Australia Fair,  with the ABC’s Rebecca Levingston at Avid Reader in Brisbane on Tuesday, March 26.

Too often we focus on the angry, reactionary minority. But, Huntley shows, there is also a large progressive centre. Come and hear what a clear majority of Australians want most from their next government.

Entries close at 12pm AEDT on Friday, March 22, and winners will be notified by 5pm AEDT on Friday, March 22. ENTER HERE

Paddy Manning

Paddy Manning is contributing editor (politics) at The Monthly and has worked for the ABC, Fairfax, Crikey and The Australian. He is also the author of three books, including a recently updated unauthorised biography of Malcolm Turnbull, Born To Rule?


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