I rise on behalf of the opposition to speak to the Statutes Amendment (Possession of Firearms and Prohibited Weapons) Bill currently before the council. The honourable Minister for Police introduced the bill on 1 June this year. The bill seeks to amend the new Firearms Act 2015 to widen the definition of 'possession'. The decision of the Court of Criminal Appeal in the matter of the R v Ioannidis fell in favour of the respondent and the trial judge's decision was upheld. However, the Chief Justice suggested that the presumption of possession only applies if an item is found during a search at the time when the person is in the vehicle.
Currently, police search procedures dictate that a suspect is made to alight from a vehicle prior to its search. This is done for obvious safety reasons. This may have the unintended consequence of rendering any find of firearms as inconsequential, as possession is no longer presumed. This, of course, is nonsensical and must be rectified. It is entirely reasonable to presume that a firearm or ammunition found in a personal handbag inside a vehicle driven by a person constitutes possession of the same firearm or ammunition. In the case of an unfortunate set of circumstances, there is room in the legislation for a situation to occur where a firearm or ammunition may be present in a vehicle without the person knowing prior to the search. If this can be proved then the person is not presumed to possess the firearm.
Opinion on the bill was sought from the Law Society, which is yet to correspond. Once we receive its opinion we may ask questions of the minister during the committee stage. Given that this bill has not laid on the table for the normal week, as is the convention, the opposition is doing what it can to ensure the speedy passage of the bill. This bill makes common sense and the opposition commends it to the council.