Malcolm Turnbull hasn't ruled out loosening Australia's gun laws if it gives him the votes he needs in the Senate to pass the Australian Building and Construction Commission (ABCC) laws that were the trigger for July's double dissolution election.
The prime minister is currently horse trading with Senate crossbenchers to secure the nine votes he needs to pass the ABCC legislation.
In return for his vote, Liberal Democrat senator David Leyonhjelm wants a ban on the importation of the rapid-fire Adler shotgun lifted.
Leyonhjelm told BuzzFeed News that "for months" he has been talking to the government about "the need to honour the previous agreement they made" on allowing a "sunset clause" on Adler shotgun imports.
“A week before the sunset clause was due to take effect, [justice minister Michael] Keenan rang me and told me he was reimposing the ban,” Leyonhjelm told The Australian on Tuesday.
“And he said he never had any intention of allowing the shotgun into the country. Now it’s a matter of trust. It’s also a matter of my constituency, which includes 800,000 licensed firearm owners. I’m a spokesman for those folks, so what does the government’s treatment of me say about them?”
The NSW senator confirmed to BuzzFeed News he told the prime minister last month that if his demands aren't met he won't vote for the ABCC.
Turnbull refused to speculate when asked if he planned to loosen Australia's gun laws as part of negotiations with senators to pass the ABCC legislation.
Instead, he said the regulation of firearms was a state and territory issue.
"The importation ban on the lever-action Adler shotgun, over more than five rounds, was introduced and has been maintained because of a failure to date of that state and territory group to reach a resolution on it," he told ABC radio.
Turnbull described Australia's gun laws as one of the "great achievements" of the Howard government and one of the "greatest prides" of the Coalition.
Greens senator Lee Rhiannon said this isn't the first time Leyonhjelm has "blackmailed" the government over gun laws.
"On August 20 last year," Rhiannon said, "Senator Leyonhjelm said in parliament, ‘I managed to blackmail the government on adding a sunset clause to its Adler ban.' This is how he does politics.
"This Adler shotgun import ban is in place on the best advice of state, territory and federal law enforcement agencies, until the National Firearms Agreement is reviewed.
"We know the Turnbull government is desperate to resurrect the ABCC bill, but are they so desperate that they are willing to relax sensible gun laws that keep our communities safe?”
Alice Workman is a political reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in Canberra.
Contact Alice Workman at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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