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Leyonhjelm warns govt over Adler gun ban

AAP logoAAP 17/10/2016 Paul Osborne, AAP Senior Political Writer

Key crossbench senator David Leyonhjelm has threatened to hold the government hostage over a deal on gun imports he claims it reneged on.

But Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull insists there is "no chance at all, no prospect whatsoever" of his government weakening Australia's strong gun laws.

At issue is a temporary ban the Abbott government imposed in mid-2015 on the importation of a seven-shot version of an Adler lever-action shotgun in response to police concerns about a plan to bring them into Australia in large numbers.

A five-shot version of the gun is allowed to be imported and legally converted to hold more ammunition under existing laws.

The temporary import ban would no longer apply if state governments agreed to classifying the gun for tougher restrictions, Justice Minister Michael Keenan told parliament on Tuesday.

The government renewed the ban in August after the Council of Australian Governments failed to reach agreement.

Mr Turnbull says the ban was not designed to weaken or vary John Howard's gun laws.

"What has been identified is an area in his gun laws where there needs to be strengthening," he told parliament.

But Senator Leyonhjelm says Mr Keenan, under Mr Abbott's leadership, promised him the ban would end after 12 months.

"They did a deal with me and then they welshed on it," Senator Leyonhjelm told reporters.

"Until this is solved my relationship with the government is going to be difficult," he warned, citing his key vote on industrial relations legislation, the government's childcare package and an overhaul of vocational student loans.

Senator Leyonhjelm released an August 2015 email from Mr Keenan's office confirming that "12 months after this ... the ban will automatically cease to be in place.

"In return, Senator Leyonhjelm will vote against the Labor amendments to the Migration Amendment (Strengthening Biometric Integrity) Bill 2015," the email states, referring to laws about immigration officials collecting biometric data and an opposition bid to require a parent or guardian be present when blood, saliva or fingerprints were taken from a child.

Senator Leyonhjelm's support for restoring the Australian Building and Construction Commission is now at stake.

Senator Leyonhjelm insists the government has known he was unhappy about the gun issue for two months.

"Only now when it has got to the crunchy point on the ABCC that they suddenly go, oh, crap, we've got a problem here," he said.

"It has been sitting there since August; it just happens to be the ABCC bill that has first come up where my vote is considered crucial."

Although the initial deal was negotiated under Mr Abbott, the former prime minister weighed in on Tuesday.

"Disturbing to see reports of horse-trading on gun laws. ABCC should be supported on its merits," he tweeted.

Labor also accused Mr Turnbull of being so weak he was prepared to do any deal he could to get his agenda through parliament.

Labor tried to formally condemn the government during question time "for being willing to trade John Howard's gun laws for votes in the Senate".

Mr Turnbull said that in discussions with Senator Leyonhjelm, he was "working hard to ensure that any concerns or disappointment he has is addressed".

Senator Leyonhjelm has started proceedings in the Senate to overturn the ban.

If his motion isn't debated - and voted down - by November 21, the regulation banning the Adler imports will be disallowed.

Immigration Minister Peter Dutton said there had been "two separate discussions" with Senator Leyonhjelm regarding the bill last year and the Adler gun.

Mr Dutton said the government had now made it clear the issue of gun imports would be dealt with by the Council of Australian Governments.

"We are not going to allow the importation of the gun," he told Sky News.

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