AgForce president Grant Maudsley will be knocking on Queensland Police Minister Bill Byrne’s door this week in an attempt to discover what is motivating the minister’s denigrating comments about primary producers who own handguns.
In Parliament last week Mr Byrne described rural property users with handguns as “lone cowboys”, a statement that has fuelled outrage in the bush and with AgForce.
The minister was being questioned by Member for Mt Isa, Rob Katter as to why licences and renewals for category H weapons were being denied, when Mr Byrne replied that he did not accept the idea that a pistol was a legitimate agricultural tool.
"The idea of the lone cowboy, with the pistol strapped to the hip as an effective weapon in an agricultural application simply doesn't cut it with me," he said. "The core argument that a concealable pistol, Glock or any equivalent type of weapon is going to be a preferable agricultural weapon, for application in the agricultural sector is not a viable argument to make.”
Mr Byrne went on to claim he had had “genuine conversations with leaders of the agricultural community” on the issue, but Mr Maudsley said there had been no consultation with AgForce.
“Mr Byrne should come out and consult with the ‘cowboys’ he talks about. The humane death of an animal is just as valid a purpose as recreational use, if not more so.”
The anomaly of pistol ownership being sanctioned for sport and forbidden for practical use was one of the inconsistencies that left Mr Maudsley speechless.
“We need to look at the statistics and see what’s driving this – is it coming from the police,” he said.
Mr Byrne told Parliament that further representations on the subject would be taken when the new weapons forum was convened, and these would be tested “in a credible fashion”.
“I must say upfront that the Queensland Police Service and I have serious reservations about the voracity of the claim and the argument presented,” he said, a statement that Mt Isa MP Rob Katter said undermined any sense of impartiality for the forum, before it had even started.
"The minister clearly does not appreciate the reasons for pistol use or have any concern for landowners on isolated rural properties," Mr Katter said. "To simply deny licenses because of personal beliefs is shocking, and highly irresponsible.”
In answer to Mr Katter’s original question in parliament, asking why licence applications and renewals were consistently being denied, Mr Byrne has responded that all applications are assessed on their merits and in line with their supporting documentation.
“This is done by QPS Weapons Licensing Branch. It is not done by the Minister,” he said.
Mr Byrne announced the establishment of a new Weapons Consultation Forum at the end of April, saying he wanted to ensure that government administrative practices reflect the spirit and object of the Weapons Act in Queensland, to maintain public safety above all else.
“As a regional Member of this House, and a former member of the Australian Defence Force, I am well aware of the importance of different firearms to certain constituencies,” he said. “Nevertheless, it is critical that voices of moderation, and the broader views of community members, are filtered into any proposal to shift weapons regulation in Queensland.”
Despite repeated questioning by Queensland Country Life, Mr Byrne’s office has so far not been able to say when the forum will be convened, who its membership will be made up of, nor how people will be able to have input to the forum.
According to departmental sources, the humane killing of livestock is covered by both federal and Queensland model codes, whose guidelines refer only to the use of firearms, not concealable firearms.
They also say that none of the model codes or codes of practice support the use of concealable firearms to humanely kill feral animals.
The documents outline which types of ammunition are suitable for use with feral animals, none of which can be used with a concealable firearm.