Question to the Minister for Police regarding firing range safety

The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK (14:48): My question is to the Minister for Police. Regarding the Coroner's findings in relation to the death of Mr Brenton McConnal in June, will the minister rule out a judicial inquiry being undertaken to challenge the Coroner's report?

The Hon. P. MALINAUSKAS (Minister for Police, Minister for Correctional Services, Minister for Emergency Services, Minister for Road Safety) (14:48): I thank the honourable member for her important question. The Coroner handed down his findings in the inquest of the death of Mr Brenton McConnal at the Marksman firing range on 28 June this year. One of the first requests I made on becoming the Minister for Police was that the issue of tethering be included in the Firearms Regulations, a process that had commenced.

With respect to the Coroner's comments on the delays in amending the Firearms Act and the regulations to enshrine tethering, as members of this council would appreciate, an enormous amount of work has been undertaken to reform the state's firearms legislation and regulatory scheme

I have mentioned before in this place that the Hon. Tony Piccolo, the member for Light, deserves an enormous amount of credit for commencing that process which, asked recently, is concluding. That new regime came into effect on 1 July this year and places a regulatory requirement that tethering be installed at commercial firing ranges. This appears at regulation 75, which in summary requires that an approved range must have tethering devices of a type and in a manner approved by the registrar installed and also that any unlicensed persons may only use or shoot a firearm at the approved commercial range when the firearm is tethered in a manner approved by the registrar.

The police commissioner has received the Coroner's findings, and SAPOL is reviewing that document and considering it. I would note that the Coroner does not make any specific recommendations regarding the incident. Recently, the police commissioner was on the radio and stated that 'the Coroner's findings and recommendations in past inquests have been significant in terms of improving practices within policing and other government agencies', and it is my expectation that it will be no different in this particular instance and that, in this situation, SAPOL would consider any learnings that can be taken out of the incident.

Coronial inquests regularly inform police practices and behaviours. This particular inquest, of course, looked into a tragic incident. I am satisfied that, as a result of the legislative and regulatory changes that have been brought in post that incident, the likelihood of the same thing occurring today is substantially less, and that of course is a good thing, notwithstanding the tragedy that took place some time ago.

The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK (14:51): Supplementary question: can the minister confirm that the regulations which have made changes to tethering were taking place in any case, and is he taking any specific action in relation to comments the Coroner made that he as a minister was misled in relation to tethering at Marksman?

The Hon. P. MALINAUSKAS (Minister for Police, Minister for Correctional Services, Minister for Emergency Services, Minister for Road Safety) (14:52): As I have stated, I think the most important thing that has come out of the coronial inquiry in and around this particular incident and the death of Mr McConnal is to make sure that where there are things that can be improved upon so as to prevent a similar tragedy replicating itself that that be done. In my view, that is exactly what has taken place with the amendments to the firearms legislation and regulations that will now see tethering provided for at commercial firing ranges in the state of South Australia. I think that is a substantial step forward.

It is regrettable that tethering wasn't already in place at the time of that particular incident, but I think as we look to the future we now do have a regulatory and legislative regime in place that hopefully will prevent such a tragedy occurring again in the future. I think that, of course, is the most important thing to be taken out of this tragic incident.

The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK (14:53): Supplementary: will there be any disciplinary action taken against the particular officers who were found to be obstructive of Marksman installing tethering when they wanted to, and how much has been spent on legal action against Marksman to date?

The Hon. P. MALINAUSKAS (Minister for Police, Minister for Correctional Services, Minister for Emergency Services, Minister for Road Safety) (14:53): I don't have any figures at hand in terms of the dollars being spent on legal action, but I am happy to take that on notice. In respect of the Hon. Ms Lensink's question around disciplinary arrangements, of course questions around the disciplining of police officers is a question and a matter entirely for the police commissioner. There is a suite of options available to the police commissioner when he contemplates the way officers should be disciplined as a result of particular incidents.

I am satisfied, and continue to receive briefs on this particular issue, that SAPOL is doing everything that we would reasonably expect them to be doing to ensure that this particular coronial inquiry, along with every other one, in turn informs an improvement to their practices, where appropriate.