EDITORIAL: Australia needs a national approach to knife laws after Bondi tragedy and Wakeley stabbing

The Nightly
3 Min Read
Tributes for the people killed in the massacre at Westfield Bondi Junction.
Tributes for the people killed in the massacre at Westfield Bondi Junction. Credit: Pool/Getty Images

No one needs to bring a machete to a suburban train station.

And there’s no good reason to be carrying a switchblade through your local shops.

Australians are justifiably proud of laws which mean our firearm ownership is among the lowest in the OECD.

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But a side effect of that is that knives and other blades are the weapons of choice for criminals and wannabes.

The past week has shown with tragic clarity just how much damage a knife in the hands of the wrong person can do.

Six people were murdered and many more injured on what should have been a regular Saturday afternoon. Normality pierced by the actions of an unstable man with a blade in his hands.

Then just two days later a bishop was left seriously injured after he was stabbed mid-sermon.

A 16-year-old boy is alleged to have carried out the attack, which was live-streamed around the world.

Despite the clear danger posed by these deadly weapons, Australia’s knife laws are weakened by their inconsistency.

In NSW, carrying a knife in public without a reason for doing so can land you in jail for four years and fines of up to $11,000 can be issued for wielding a knife.

The penalties might soon be even harsher, with Premier Chris Minns already saying he is open to further tightening the laws in the wake of the twin stabbing attacks.

But carry the exact same weapon across the border into the ACT — Australia’s new bikie crime hot spot — and the penalty is just six months.

Victoria also has substantially lighter penalties than NSW, with the maximum penalty for unlawful possession of a knife in that State just one year. And yet knife violence is far from a rare occurrence in Victoria.

On Monday, Victoria Police arrested a 15-year-old and 16-year-old boy alleged to have taken part in a violent brawl involving a machete.

One child was taken to hospital with head injuries.

And on the same day, a man was stabbed in broad daylight in the car park of a suburban footy club in Point Cook. His attackers were said to be a group of teenage boys.

Since March 2023, Queensland Police have had the authority to stop and search people in night precincts and on public transport infrastructure using metal detection wands. They say they’ve seized more than 500 illegal weapons as a result, including tomahawks, box cutters and machetes and want to extend the power to include shopping centres.

Other States are watching with interest. WA Attorney General John Quigley has already flagged his intention to explore giving police in the State the power to “wand” people in entertainment precincts. That’s welcome, but to be truly effective, Australia needs a cohesive approach nationally.

A deadly weapon is a deadly weapon, regardless of whether it’s in Sydney, Hobart or Brisbane.

No doubt that would draw some push back from the civil liberties crowd. But as the devastating events of the past week have shown, something needs to change.

Responsibility for the editorial comment is taken by The Nightly Editor-in-Chief Anthony De Ceglie.

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