Delays at the NSW Firearms Registry - Loose Cannon

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Some months ago, I asked that readers be patient with NSW Registry staff because many would have been traumatised by the North Coast floods. 

Enquiries by me indicate that some staff were affected, but that the Registry itself was largely undamaged, and I thank readers who went out of their way at the time to be patient and kind to people who may have endured flooding, as often, even if one does not personally suffer flooding, its effect upon friends, relatives and one’s community can be devastating.

The level of flood disruption suffered the Registry would not explain the level of disruption that I am currently observing in some areas of decision making at the Registry.

I have spoken on a number of occasions to Firearms Registry staff about delays and they are all understandably been tight lipped about the extent of delays.

However, a Licensing Sergeant in one NSW Police district recently let slip to a client that there was a ‘delay until next July at the Registry’.

This presumably relates to a processing delay from point of lodgement.

If correct, this would relate to some, though not all matters.

I say some, because I have recently seen a decision produced in respect to a Paintball business within days, which was a good survival move on their behalf because I was about to go to the media in respect to that one, and another, in respect to a Firearms Prohibition Order (FPO) where I have received a response within a month.

Quick response in the FPO matter may not just have been fortuitous, because the Firearms Prohibition Order system has in the past been scrutinised by the NSW Ombudsman, who I imagine continues to watch the area with some interest.

I note that I can understand delays in some matters, for example, in respect to Sound Moderator Permits, where applications have, I presume been banked up, to await test cases that are proceeding through the Tribunal.  This is a common administrative process where Tribunal guidance is sought.

However, in respect to Moderators, I believe that Police have adopted an extreme, and rather daft, view in respect to sound moderator use, in that, despite their easy fabrication, from as little as a plastic soft drink bottle, Brillo pads and gaffer tape,no criminal anywhere in the world seems to show any inclination to use the technology.

Cliché’s usually remain in circulation because there is an element of truth to them, and here I am reminded of ‘Justice delayed is justice denied’.

During the course of my career with the Commonwealth Government, I managed at one stage, a Review area handling the reconsideration of Departmental decisions, and additionally, I have post graduate qualifications in Public Sector Management.

The type of delay I am currently observing in the NSW Registry suggests to me that either there are serious resourcing issues at the Registry, or else staff have become unproductive. 

In my experience when the latter occurs, and it can blight entire processing units, it is usually a result of poor or conflicted management.

Firearms Registries, like Defence Departments are particularly vulnerable to demotivation in this manner because of the clash between the strictly hierarchical, order based culture of the military or Police, and the much more relaxed, consultative model used in the broader public service.

While I stress that I have no knowledge of the nature of people management in the Firearms Registry, or whether delays are driven by poor management, the development of this type of delay through poor management, is common enough in the Public Service.

However, long delay is prima facie evidence of problems in the Registry that are suggestive of the need for an internal audit in order to ascertain if there are problems within the organisation.

I note that delays in the Registry are made worse by the processing model that the Registry has, which sees decisions made into primary claims, and if they are challenged there is a further delay until the matter can be scrutinised via an internal review process.

This process sees decisions often made that ignore the basic right of the individual to have ‘Natural Justice’ afforded before the making of an adverse decision that effects them.

Natural Justice is a fundamental legal right, that affords people the right to see the case against them and to respond to it. It exists notwithstanding the extinguishing by the Firearms Act 1996 of any residual RTBA that may have existed in NSW.

If Natural Justice were to be afforded, I note that the Registry would get more decisions right first time around.

I note that the Victorian Firearms Act 1996, establishes a good model for the provision of Natural Justice, although I am presently locked in a fight with them where Natural Justice is not being adequately provided. But I digress.

I hold my breath in respect to this.  As I have commented previously, in Banana Republic NSW, the Attorney General is subordinate to the Police Minister, and the Liberals and Nationals show no interest in extending fair treatment to shooters.

Indeed, the Hon John Barillaro, my local member, who is also Deputy Premier in NSW, did not even pay me the courtesy of replying to the two polite letters that I wrote to him about the Firearms Regulations 2017

Nor has he taken up an offer from me to provide him with a personal briefing on aspects of the FA 96 that trouble shooters, and which I may add, cost the general community a small fortune.

Whether this was the result of rudeness on his part or on the part of a member of staff who needs a kick in the pants, or whether Hon John is in a state of ennui because he realises that he has reached the pinnacle of Politics for a National Party Politician in NSW, and that because of the natural swings and roundabouts in Monaro Politics, where two terms are a Political lifetime, his electoral use by date draws near.

My bet is upon the latter.

Perhaps it is time for the NSW Audit Office take a serious look at this agency?

I note that there were significant surprises for Government (though not for shooters) when this occurred in WA some year ago.

Join the fight

Simon Munslow

National Firearms Lawyer
P: (02) 6299 9690
M: 0427 280 962
E: solicitor@bigpond.com
W: firearmslawyer.com.au

Simon Munslow is a lawyer who has a lifelong interest in shooting, having acquired his first firearm at the age of nine, and has had an active interest in firearms law since writing a thesis on the topic over thirty years ago at University.
Simon Munslow practices extensively in Firearms Law matters throughout Australia.

He is a regular contributor to the Australian Sporting Shooter magazine’s website on Firearms law matters, has published articles on firearms reviews and firearms law, and occasionally is asked to comment in the broader media on firearms matters.

This article is written for general information only and does not constitute advice. 
He can assist you with:

Criminal law & Administrative law and in particular that related to Firearms

• All firearms, weapons and game charges
• Avoiding & setting aside Apprehended Violence Orders
• Possession of unregistered firearms
• Unsafe transportation & storage matters
• Applications for prohibited weapons
• License Appeals
• Freedom of Information / Government Public Access matters
• Importation & Customs problems
• Advices & opinions related to Firearms law matters

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