Mr GAUDRY: My question without notice is directed to the Minister for Police. What is the latest information on the Government's firearm amnesty?
Mr WHELAN: I am sure that the honourable member would be interested to know that, from tomorrow, police stations across New South Wales will be flooded with firearms—illegal, unregistered and unwanted firearms; firearms of all descriptions; firearms that the Government, the Police Service and responsible gun owners want off the streets and out of the hands of criminals. From tomorrow, anyone possessing an illegal gun in New South Wales can hand it in to the police—no questions asked—under the Government's three-month firearms amnesty. This amnesty marks the beginning of the Government's tough new laws to combat the illegal trade of guns in New South Wales. The Firearms Amendment Trafficking Act comes into effect this weekend. Those laws create a new range of anti-trafficking offences. They increase from 10 to 14 years gaol the penalty for anyone found guilty of illegally possessing a hand gun or prohibited firearm.
Any person who supplies firearms to an unauthorised user is liable to 20 years imprisonment. These laws are specifically designed to combat criminals involved in the illegal trade of guns. The purpose of the amnesty is to give gun owners a last chance to become properly licensed, properly registered and legal. The message is simple: If people have an illegal firearm, they must hand it in. No questions will be asked. If they have a licence or a permit to possess a firearm it is their responsibility to ensure that that firearm is properly registered. Those people without a licence or a permit who are not authorised to register, possess or use a firearm must surrender their weapons. This is their last chance. These laws are a key part of the Government's strategy to reduce the number of dangerous and unwanted weapons in the community.
This amnesty will give gun owners a last chance to comply with the law. The alternative is also simple—up to 14 years gaol. In order to educate gun owners, the New South Wales Police Service has developed an advertising campaign, including newspaper advertisements, billboards and flyers. The Firearms Registry is also writing to all firearms licence holders and a firearms amnesty recorded hotline has been established. The number is 1300 557 772. It will provide people with information regarding gun laws, licensing, registration and other related questions that they need answered. Police officers need the assistance of the public to help them identify illegal guns and remove them from the community. If anyone is aware of a person who has an illegal firearm in his or her possession that person should be encouraged to hand it in. There will be no questions, no names taken, no prosecution and no recriminations. This is also a reminder call to licensed gun owners to ensure that all their firearms are properly registered.
These people have already demonstrated their willingness to comply with the law by obtaining a licence or permit. Now it is time to ensure that they still fully comply with the legal obligations that go with the privilege of owning a firearm. History has shown that amnesties work in removing unwanted firearms from the community. Honourable members may recall that, during the national gun buy-back scheme, which ran from October 1996 to September 1997, almost 200,000 firearms were surrendered. That figure includes 37,000 non-prohibited firearms surrendered voluntarily by people who no longer wanted to retain them. We have the toughest laws in the country and we will continue to lead the fight against illegal guns. The amnesty, which commences tomorrow, runs until 22 September. This is the last chance for those in possession of illegal firearms.