A MID West pastoralist has 'fired shots' at how the State government has handled the biggest overhaul of gun laws in WA history.
A special Primary Producers Firearms Advisory board was last month appointed to consult with farmers, pastoralists and growers, as the WA government moves to ban high-powered firearms and ammunition.
Chaired by Police Minister Paul Papalia, the board includes representatives from WAFarmers, Pastoralists and Graziers' Association of WA (PGA), the Kimberley Pilbara Cattlemen's Association, Vegetables WA and Wines of WA.
However, Prenti Downs station owner Jack Carmody was concerned the southern rangelands area - which includes 248 pastoral leases across the Gascoyne, Murchison and Goldfields-Nullarbor regions - had not been consulted in the process.
He was also disappointed recommendations in the Law Reform Commission of WA report, Project 105, had not been enacted.
The report, released in 2016, was built on 18 months of extensive industry and community consultation and reviewed existing firearm regime and legislation.
Under the new measures, 56 types of firearms and 19 calibres of ammunition - designed to shoot over long ranges - would become outlawed from July 1, making WA's laws some of the toughest in the country.
Southern rangelands snubbed?
Despite covering almost a third of WA, Mr Carmody believed the southern rangelands was underrepresented in the consultation process.
Pastoralists in this area depend on firearms to manage and control feral animal numbers and protect their ecosystems.
Although the PGA is one of five lobby groups on the board, Mr Carmody said it only represented a few of those who would be most affected by the new laws.
He said the minority would speak on behalf of primary producers and farmers, and it was insulting the Southern Rangelands Pastoral Alliance (SRPA), regional biosecurity groups (such as the Goldfields-Nullarbor Regional Biosecurity Association) and the WA Firearms Community Alliance (WAFCA) - which had more than 60,000 members - had not been considered.
"The SRPA would have been a great conduit for community consultation in WA's pastoral region," Mr Carmody said.
"They are not a lobby group in any way and were formed to deliver facts and provide information between government, pastoralists, producers and service providers.
"I have been contacted by professional and recreational shooters and farmers, who said they were concerned they would not be represented in any consultation, by anyone with first-hand experience on the land, or knowledge of firearms."
Mr Carmody said there were already many restrictions on what WA pastoralists and farmers could and couldn't use that should be amended.
For example, for safety reasons pastoralists are permitted a handgun for use in yards when mustering wild animals.
He said the only permitted handgun was a revolver.
"We need to change this, self-loading pistols like the Glock, which are used by police, are extremely safe and much lighter to carry on a daily basis," Mr Carmody said.
"The use of suppressors on firearms is permitted in Queensland, the Northern Territory, South Australia, New South Wales, and Victoria.
"Using a suppressor can reduce the stress and suffering experienced by animals during culling or pest control activities.
"The loud noise of a firearm can be frightening and stressful for animals and reducing this noise can make the process more humane and ethical.
"The use of semi-automatic firearms can increase efficiency and effectiveness in management of feral animals and pest species, ultimately leading to better protection for livestock and the environment."
Mr Carmody said the current restrictions on the appearance of firearms were completely arbitrary and restricted access to Australian made firearms that were used by professional shooters across Australia.
"It doesn't matter what the firearm looks like, if someone wants to do the wrong thing with it, they will, just like a baseball bat," he said.
In October 2016, the Law Reform Commission (LRC) of WA released its final report, reviewing the State's existing firearm regime and legislation.
The Project 105 report was completed at the request of the Attorney General's office and included public consultation.
A discussion paper was published for public comment and considered 46 proposals for consideration and a further 44 questions to elicit comment.
By the time the public consultation period closed, the commision had received 1244 written submissions, which helped to shape 143 key recommendations.
This was one of the largest responses the commission had ever received on a referral.
Key themes emerged from the LRC report, including:
According to the report, these themes remained in the foreground of the commission's thoughts when contemplating recommended areas for reform.
Mr Carmody said it was frustrating the WA Government had not enacted any of the recommendations, built on 18 months of industry and community consultation.
He said by taking lessons from the report, something workable could be achieved overnight.
"If you are ignoring the report, you're ignoring the boots on the ground and you're ignoring the people," Mr Carmody said.
"It is concerning that one, the reports aren't being acknowledged and two, the organisations that are information based, haven't been considered or consulted.
"Now legislation is being slipped through left, right and centre, unopposed.
"It is critical to engage in conversation - I think 90 per cent of this process should involve listening to those who would be impacted most.
"Or better yet just enact the recommendations that are in the Project 105 report."
Pest control management
Mr Carmody spent 12 hours a day culling up to 600 wild camels a day in 2018, over a 10-day period.
Staring down the barrel of a severe drought, the feral pest problem at his cattle station near Wiluna, was fast becoming an animal welfare problem.
"It was horrible to witness and came at an extreme cost, there were carcases everywhere," he said.
"I had to carry multiple firearms because they weren't designed for high frequency use, one firearm is now permanently inoperable.
"Firearms are a critical part of equipment to operate a sustainable pastoral operation, during the drought without them animals would have died in the most horrific way imaginable."
Living in remote WA, means it could take weeks or even months before government or department shooter assistance is provided to stations.
Private companies are able to respond much quicker and - after conducting his own air operation and identifying a large number of feral animals - Mr Carmody was able to mobilise within two days.
He said this highlighted how crucial access to self-loading rifles was.
"I had to use a firearm of a design that's older than the Federation of Australia," Mr Carmody said.
"Previously the former police minister suggested I use a semi-automatic 22 for culling camels.
"This is a firearm most people would use or familiarise with shooting rabbits.
"It goes against the code of practice and standard operating procedures for control of large, feral herbivores, where the minimum calibre is a 308."
Many pastoralists rely heavily on volunteer pest control groups to help protect their stations and the ecosystem.
Under the proposed legislation, which hasn't been open for comment, Mr Carmody said these volunteers would be locked out and reclassified as recreational shooters.
"If we supported them we would have to surrender our firearms as well," he said.
"These volunteers are not only saving us money, they are saving our environment.
"If you don't destroy feral horses then they're going to damage waterholes used by other animals and if you don't get rid of feral cats or foxes, we're going to lose our small, native lizards and birds."
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