Media spotlight ... Julia Gillard at the Herald. Photo: James Brickwood
THE Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, has hit back at claims by the Liberal Party that her government has failed at protecting Australia's borders from illegal gun imports, saying that only 1 per cent of those guns in Australia come from overseas.
Speaking to 2UE at its new studio in The Sydney Morning Herald office on Friday morning, Ms Gillard said that her government had ''more than doubled'' the number of interceptions of illegal packages - that includes drugs and firearms - since 2007.
This followed criticism this week from the Coalition and the NSW government that Ms Gillard's request for the Home Affairs Minister, Jason Clare, to investigate ways to reduce suburban violence was a ''stunt''.
Ms Gillard instructed Mr Clare to explore the limits of the federal government's legal and constitutional responsibilities in combating crime, in the wake of shootings in Sydney's west and south-west and unrest in Logan, south of Brisbane.
Ms Gillard said that while Australia did not have a gun problem as bad as the United States, and did not have a National Rifle Association equivalent, there was still a problem that needed to be addressed.
''People live in communities, they just go about their business, they do the right thing every day. And I don't think that it's right or fair or can be tolerated that they sit there wondering whether that's the night that a bullet's going to come somewhere in their street,'' she said.
Ms Gillard said Australian Crime Commission research in 2011 had found about 1 per cent of illegal Australian firearms came ''over the borders'', adding that about 44 per cent of firearms in the country had not been returned when they should have been during the Howard government's buy-back scheme.
A further 12 per cent had been stolen.
The federal opposition's justice, customs and border protection spokesman, Michael Keenan, told Fairfax Media on Friday the Labor Party could not expect people to believe that ''slashing'' funding and jobs from federal law enforcement agencies, including Customs and the Australian Federal Police, would improve its ability to police Australia's borders.
The West Australian Liberal MP said Labor had cut 750 Customs jobs since coming to power in Canberra, and more than $64 million from the agency over the last two budgets.