Anti-forestry campaigners and conservationists in Tasmania have revealed themselves to be guns for hire, turning their attentions to the recent Firearms Act amendments after helping to bring the timber industry in the state to its knees and contributing to widespread unemployment.
Tasmanian Conservation Trust director Peter McGlone, wildlife biologist Nick Mooney and former Greens candidate Anna Reynolds have joined with Gun Control Australia spokesman Roland Browne to oppose the reforms to the Firearms Act.
The conservation heavyweights are using the same scare tactics they used against the forest industry, predicting more crime, deaths and vandalism if the laws are relaxed. These same people predicted species extinction and wholesale destruction of the forests in Tasmania if logging was allowed to continue – claims that are historically incorrect, given the health of the forests despite 200 years of timber harvesting.
The claims are apparently made on political grounds to scare up concern from an ignorant voting public to put pressure on the incumbent government who have shown that political expediency will overrule common sense and science every time.
According to a report in the Mercury, the group also had support from the Police Association of Tasmania, the Hobart Mums Network and emergency medicine specialist Dr Bryan Walpole, who was central in the emergency response to the Port Arthur tragedy.
They met over concerns the Tasmanian Firearms Consultative Committee, formed to provide firearms advice to Police Minister David O'Byrne, was stacked with gun enthusiasts even though anti-gun lobbyists failed to take up the invitation to join.
Mr Browne declined an invitation to be part of the government's committee, saying he refused to sign a confidentiality agreement.
Meeting organiser Reynolds said it was important the views of the wider community were represented in the gun debate. She said Tasmanians should not forget what happened at Port Arthur showing that she is only interested in scaring up support from an ignorant public rather than looking at the real issues of illegal firearms.
"Unfortunately it seems interest spikes when there's a serious accident or disaster, but what we're trying to do is ensure Australia and Tasmania stay at the forefront of gun reform," she said.
Mr Browne said there were growing concerns about gun-related crime in Tasmania and softening laws could make the state an "embarrassment" nationally, especially given Tasmania was a catalyst for firearm reform after the Port Arthur massacre.
Dr Bradshaw raised concern about suicides and accidental shootings. He believes suicide rates would drop if Tasmania had stricter gun controls.
Meanwhile, Mr McGlone said legal and illegal shooting of wildlife in Tasmania was a problem.
When questioned in State Parliament yesterday about when the long-awaited amendments would be tabled, Mr O'Byrne replied "soon".
Mr O'Byrne said members of the committee were not only drawn from firearms-owning associations.
"We have representation from additional agencies such as the Department of Health, particularly dealing with mental health, Education, Parks and Wildlife, and relevant sections of Tasmania Police," Mr O'Byrne said.