Friday, December 21, 2012

Response to My Letter on Gun Law Reform from Washington State US Senator Patty Murray

United States Senator Patty Murray has responded to my letter urging the US to adopt Australia's gun laws :

"Thank you for writing me regarding the tragic shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut.  It was good to hear from you.
As a mother, grandmother, and former preschool teacher I was shocked by the tragedy that unfolded in Newtown.  My thoughts and prayers go out to the families and loved ones of the victims whose loss is difficult to comprehend.  

Unfortunately, this horrific tragedy was another in a long line of gun violence episodes that have ranged from places like Columbine, Virginia Tech, and Aurora to coffee shops in Lakewood to the corner of South Byron Street and McClintock Ave South in Seattle.  These episodes have plagued our cities, our schools, and our shared sense of security.  This cannot go on.  As a society we need to come together to begin a real conversation on all the factors contributing to those horrific instances of gun violence, but we also need to take specific action to bolster our current gun safety laws.
There is no question that we can and should limit access to the assault style weapons of war that are on our streets and that are too often being used to kill innocent people indiscriminately. I have repeatedly voted for an assault weapons ban and will do so again as soon as we can get a bill to the Senate floor. 
But preventing tragedies like the one in Newtown will take more than just common-sense gun policies and enforcement. It will also take a renewed commitment to understanding and dealing with the root causes that lead isolated individuals to carry out these atrocities.  At this moment, everything needs to be on the table for scrutiny. 
Our nation is at a crossroads moment, and we must take the path that protects future generations from re-living these gun violence tragedies over and over again.  It will take the courage of people with opposing views but a common purpose sitting down with one another and agreeing that the status quo is unacceptable.
Please be assured I will keep your views in mind as I work with my colleagues and please feel free to share with me your ideas on how to address this crisis. Thank you for contacting me, and please do not hesitate to contact me again".

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

US Should Look at Australia's Gun Laws

This is a letter I have written to members of the United States Congress urging them to adopt Australia’s gun laws:

“As a Member of the Australian Parliament I am writing to urge you to adopt Australia’s gun laws in the United States.

I am aware of the risk of advice from outsiders being unwelcome, but feel compelled to write all the same because

1. We cannot sit idly by and just allow senseless and avoidable deaths, in this case including 20 small children, to go on, and
2. Australia’s experience is crystal clear and I believe the United States can benefit from it.

After 35 people, including small children, were killed in the Australian island State of Tasmania in April, 1996, the Australian Police Ministers Council agreed to a national plan for the regulation of firearms.  The Plan is known as the National Firearms Agreement and its terms include:

•Banning military style automatic and semi-automatic firearms;
•Limiting the availability of non-military style semi-automatic rifles and shotguns to primary producers, professional vermin exterminators, and a limited class of clay target firearm users;
•Introducing registration for all firearms, including longarms;
•Grouping firearms into 5 broad licensing categories;
•Requiring all licence applicants to establish a genuine reason for firearms ownership;
•Requiring all licence applicants other than those applying for category A firearms to establish that they have a special need for the particular category of firearm;
•Requiring that permits be acquired for every new firearm purchase, with the issue of a permit to be subject to a waiting period of at least 28 days to enable appropriate checks to be made;
•Stricter storage requirements for all firearms; and
•Requiring all sales to be conducted by or through licensed firearms dealers.

Since these laws were enacted in 1996 Australia has not had a repeat of the massacres we had before they came into effect.

The number of gun deaths in all categories – homicides, suicides, and accidental shootings – has declined dramatically since 1996, and thousands of Australian lives have been saved as a result.

I implore you to look at our experience.  As the number of guns in Australia reduced, so too did gun violence.   It is simply not true that owning a gun makes you safer.  The fact that Adam Lanza’s mother was killed with a weapon she owned is all too familiar.

More weapons in homes and schools = more killing.

Those families who have lost a loved one are in our hearts and thoughts at this time. But please let this not be yet again condolences and prayers and hand-wringing – let this be the time when something real was accomplished.

There are plenty of problems in our world which are beyond the power of legislators to do much about.  This is not one of them”.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Treatment of Cattle in Israel Abbatoir

The treatment of these cattle was described as sadistic, and appalling, not by me, not by animal welfare activists, but by industry and government representatives.

They were right about that. They were not right, however, in suggesting the footage and the response represent the system in action.

We don’t know about this mistreatment due to the work of industry appointed auditors. We know about it due to the footage obtained by an Israeli journalist working undercover.

Indeed the best the Elders auditor could come up with when they inspected the abbatoir was that one of the gates was rusty and too noisy! I said last year when these arrangements were being put in place that it should be animal welfare groups like Animals Australia or the RSPCA doing this work. The industry ignored that call, so I’ll repeat it.

If the live animal export industry expects the public to have any confidence in it, it needs to contract representatives of animal welfare groups to carry out audits and inspections of overseas abbatoirs.

I congratulate the Israeli journalist on his work in bringing this mistreatment to the attention of the public.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Electricity Prices

It seems to me that a key driver of rising electricity prices that doesn’t get much attention in the electricity prices debate is population growth. This growth was driving electricity prices up at twice the rate of CPI long before the carbon price ever showed up. I did a detailed speech in Parliament in late 2010 about this issue, which pointed out that electricity prices in Sydney and Melbourne had doubled in the previous decade, which was twice the rate of CPI.

The impact of population growth on the cost of infrastructure isn’t well understood, not even by policy makers. If the average life of the nation’s infrastructure is 50 years, then you’ve got to set aside 2% of the nation’s income every year to keep replacing it and deal with it wearing out. But if your population is increasing by 2% a year then the new people need 100% extra infrastructure for their needs, so you’ve got to set aside another 2% of the nation’s income for that, that is, twice as much as with a stable population.

A 2% population increase only gets you 2% extra income, but it doubles your infrastructure spend. That’s why electricity, gas, water, council rates all keep rising higher than inflation. I don’t think it’s fair that pensioners and ordinary consumers should have to pay for this. I think that it’s the beneficiaries of population growth who should pay for the costs of it. The principal beneficiaries are the property developers whose land values rise when population rises.

A classic example was reported in Melbourne a couple of days ago of property developers wanting to build 30 storey high-rise buildings at Fisherman’s Bend. These developments inevitably require more electricity infrastructure – I don’t think pensioners in my electorate and other inner city residents should have to pay for that. I think that when they put in an application for rezoning or planning permits that mean more people are going to live on the site, there should be a financial contribution that genuinely reflects the extra infrastructure costs that come with that population growth. The mechanism for that needs to be worked out between governments, electricity companies and Councils, but the principle should be that the beneficiaries of population growth pay for the extra infrastructure costs that come with it.