Monday, 10 November 2014

Cooking the perfect steak - Guns In Australia style.

Whilst we usually prefer to bash politicians and the media on the Guns In Australia blog, what we don't often talk about is enjoying the "fruits", or should I say "meats", of our labour.

Cooking the perfect steak is an art rarely mastered by individuals over a lifetime. So what I plan to do is share some of the secrets i've learned over the last 30 years, getting you closer to cooking the perfect steak.

Some of my tips are a little unconventional, like stomping on your steak with your boot to tenderise it first, but I invite you to try them and provide feedback.

I should start by saying all red meat should be cooked medium rare or medium at the most. If you like your steak burnt to a crisp and refuse to change your ways, well, you're only missing out and should probably walk away now.

I'm going to talk about cooking beef primarily, but these principles can be applied to venison, kangaroo, lamb as well as any other red meat.

Selecting the right cut

If you're barbecuing chuck steak, round steak, a shoulder cut because that is all you can afford or you're hunting isn't up to scratch, you probably want to try hunting on a cattle farmers land. Try to scope out a nice young beef calf and take it down with a clean head shot. You might want to get out of there quick smart if you don't have their permission to take out the calf or permission to hunt on their land.

The best cuts, in my opinion, in the following order, are the eye fillet, rib fillet, scotch fillet, t-bone, and then maybe rump. I'm not really a fan of porterhouse or sirloin, but that could be just because I haven't prepared those cuts for a steak lately.

Aging your meat

If you're buying meat from a butcher, buy a whole cut that is cryovaced and buy a cryovac kit to seal the bag after you have cut off the few steaks you plan to eat that day. Cryovac is essentially a sealed plastic bag that cuts off all the oxygen to the meat, so it doesn't go rancid, but allows the enzymes in the cut to continue to break down the meat for a more tender enjoyable eating experience.

Your local hunting and camping stores should sell these kits.

There is a lot of debate about how long you should age your meat and it varies depending on who you talk to between 1-6 weeks.

I like to age for at least 2 weeks, but find 3 weeks ideal if you're planing a BBQ and want to impress your guests. If you're just cooking for yourself or family, 2 weeks is fine. You can cut a few slices, seal the bag, rinse and repeat for another 3 weeks safely. 5 weeks is probably the maximum length i'd keep a cut in the fridge.

Preparing your steak

Get the meat out of the fridge a good 3 hours before you plan to cook it in order to bring it to room temperature.  The warmer the meat and the slower you cook it, puts less stress on the cut, savours the juices for a tender enjoyable meal.

Buy a salt grinder and season both sides of the steak with freshly ground sea salt. Rub the salt into the steak.

Bath your steak in a good quality light olive oil.  Olive oil burns at a lower temp than canola or vegetable oil, so if you use olive oil, be sure to keep the temp down low. If your oil is smoking, it's far too hot and you'll taint the flavour of your steak.

Cover your meat while it's coming to room temp.

Cooking your steak

Unless you really want buckets of smokey flavour, the grill is not the right spot to on your BBQ to cook your steak. The grill cannot sear the steak quick enough either. But there is nothing wrong with cranking it up, just before your steak is ready, to include those aesthetic grill marks.

You want to cook your steak on the plate. Get the plate reasonably hot to start with, but turn it down or even off to bring the temperature right down the moment you put your steak on.  Using the tongs, move the steak around for a good minute to stop it sticking.  Turn it over and do the same to sear it properly and to lock in the flavours.

Your steak should be ever so gently sizzling away.

How long you cook it for on each side really depends on the thickness and the cut. As a general rule, the more lean your meat, the less cooking time, particularly with fillet cuts of roo or venison.
Cooking times is not something I can teach you, but over time you should learn how well your steak is cooked by pressing it gently with tongs.  Don't cut into your steak while it's cooking to check. You'll drain all the juices out and it will go dry and taste like cardboard.

You don't roast steak, so if your BBQ has a fancy hood on it, don't close it just because it's there and might seem cool to do so.

Resting your steak

Many chefs will tell you that you should rest your steak for half the time it is cooked. That is great advice if you like a cold steak.  The less you stress your steak and the slower you cook it, on a lower temp, the less time you will need to rest it. I find an average of 5 mins for a reasonably thick steak is sufficient.

Seasoning your steak 

Beef - Freshly cracked pepper 
Lamb - Lemon pepper seasoning rubbed into the meat prior to cooking. Salt not required. 
Venison - No seasoning
Roo - No seasoning or freshly cracked pepper


Disclaimer: My blog assumes the only time it's acceptable to stomp on your steak is after copious amounts of tequila, surrounded by mates who you are trying to impress with your bogan tendencies. It also assumes you understand firearms regs and that poaching cattle is illegal.

Now for some light comedy - LANGUAGE WARNING!!!

Saturday, 1 November 2014

Handgun theft in Australia - Where are the guns really coming from?

The Greens recently commissioned a Senate inquiry to investigate the ability to eliminate gun violence in Australia. The inquiry included three full days of hearings from subject matter experts, with the final hearing held in Canberra on the 31st of October 2014. Submissions were heard from NSW Police, Victoria Police, Australian Federal Police, the Australian Institute of Criminology, the Australian Crime Commission, Customs and Border Protection, the Sporting Shooters Association of Australia, Pistol Australia, Crimtrac, Attorney General's Department, the International Coalition for Women in Shooting and Hunting, Armament Research Services and the Crime Prevention Research Center.... to name just a few. 

You can expect a lot of media focus on the inquiry now that the hearings are complete. The Chair of the inquiry, Senator Penny Wright, is due to submit the final report to parliament in the coming months. Stay tuned for that gem...

Despite the hype, that did not stop "The Project" from jumping on the bandwagon and hashing together another sloppy, amateur, fear-mongering diatribe of a story on the night the final hearing closed.  The cast, "Where's Wally Aly" and "Carrie Bimbo Bickmore" were quick to pounce, parroting the Greens Senator's belief that almost all firearms on the black market are stolen from licensed firearms owners. 

Victoria Police gave evidence that of the 48,000 registered handguns in the State, only 6 were stolen in the previous year. When you consider the Australian Institute of Criminology estimate conservatively there are at least 10,000 illicit firearms on the black market, the numbers just don't add up to support the claims made by 'The Project'.

Did the researchers of the program actually attend the inquiry? Did they watch it online? Did they read the Senate submissions made to the inquiry? The answer is obviously 'NO'! Yet the executives that run the sloppy operation at Channel Ten still remain perplexed as to why viewers are tuning out whilst their station is slowly going broke. When will they admit they are completely out of touch with the broader community?

On the flip side, shooting sports have seen massive growth as Australian's are becoming more educated about firearms, refusing to buy into the fear that the mainstream media attempts to shovel down their throats for the perceived belief it might result in ratings.

But back to the topic.... surely any single cell amoeba, bored enough to tune in, would have been smart enough to know that only the theft of firearms from legitimate firearms owners would be reported to police. Why would a criminal report a stolen firearm? Of course illegal gun theft is never reported to the police, and thus never recorded in their statistical reports. When it comes to the illegal importation of firearms, how could the Police or Customs possibly know how many are entering the country illegally? They cannot possibly know what they don't know! Just because more firearms are reported stolen than Customs are able to intercept doesn't automatically draw the conclusion that most illicit firearms were stolen from lawful firearms owners.

I don't expect you to blindly agree with my opinion, but I do encourage you to watch a snippet of the senate inquiry that actually addresses these very points.  

On a side note, the entire premise of the Senate inquiry is completely flawed. Does any rational human being really believe it's possible to eliminate gun violence?  The United Kingdom banned semi-automatic handguns in 1997.  Despite this, the Home Office reported in 2010-2011, 3105 offences related to handguns. 

As a society, we need to learn to live with guns. You too can learn to live with them by either joining a gun club and following Guns in Australia on twitter and facebook... or you could relax your level of fear in the knowledge that firearms crime is relatively low in Australia.


Tuesday, 29 April 2014

Who is Michelle Fernando?

Michelle Fernando is the sister of the schizophrenic and mentally ill woman Shamin Fernando, who was responsible for the murder of their father using a pistol stolen from a gun club on August 22, 2010.

Since the tragedy occurred, Michelle has been on a crusade to tighten what she believes is a loophole, known as 6B, in our gun laws. Michelle believes it was this change to our firearms laws that enabled Shamin to steal a firearm from a Sydney pistol club prior to shooting her father to death that very same day.

The problem with Michelle's crusade is that it was not 6B that enabled Shamin to handle a firearm unsupervised and for her to later steal it.

Shamin had managed to complete her extensive probationary pistol training and compete in her first club competition prior these events unfolding. On the day of the shooting of Vincent Fernando, the club loaned Shamin a handgun, but at no point did they verify that her Probationary Pistol Licence (PPL) was issued by NSW police, certifying her to use a handgun in competition unsupervised.

The pistol club failed in their duty of care and the instructors responsible were punished by the law.

More on that later....

Despite this, Michelle sadly remains unequivocally in denial about these obvious facts and blames the Shooters and Fishers Party for a legislative change that was necessary to allow new shooters to try the sport before they commit to the lengthy and costly process of applying for a handgun licence - a provision that is currently afforded to citizens of every State and Territory in Australia.

In addition, Michelle fails to take personal responsibility for knowing her sister Shamin was attending pistol clubs, knowing she was a schizophrenic and knowing she may have been conspiring to kill their father. A video of the circumstances, in Michelle's own words, has been included here.

So what is 6B?

6B was enacted in 2008 by NSW parliament. The legal definition states that it is an.....
"Exemption for unlicensed persons shooting on approved ranges and for persons undertaking firearms safety training courses under direct supervision of a licensed instructor"
Prior to this change to the Act, it was illegal to allow unlicensed individuals to try shooting and obtain instruction while their handgun licence application and background checks were processed by NSW police - a process "mandated by legislation" takes a minimum of 6 months.

Under the 6B provision, a new member would need to show suitable identification and complete a P650 form prior to being able to receive hands-on instruction on how to handle a handgun safely.

Mental Illness and the P650 form.

At the core of the concerns of the Fernando family is part 6B of the firearms legislation. The legislation requires that a P650 form be completed by new pistol club members, declaring whether or not they suffer from a mental illness.

The Fernando's argue that nobody checks these answers and that anyone could simply lie in order to obtain access to a handgun. They seemly fail to acknowledge that access to a handgun is permitted only under direct supervision of a licensed instructor.  See the section below for the definition of direct supervision.

The reality is police do not have access to private patient records to even know if an individual makes a false declaration. Only if an individual is known to police, in relation to an incident they've attended, will they have the ability to deem whether or not the individual is a fit and proper persons to handle firearms.

So whilst the form seems to serve little purpose, surprisingly many with a mental illness are honest in their answers. Baring in mind that gun owners are not immune from common mental illnesses such as depression or anxiety, but importantly manage it appropriately.

It's also important to note many qualified mental health professionals vehemently opposed mandatory mental health checks being included in the 1996 National Firearms legislation. I suspect they disagreed with the Governments approach for various reasons. Something I hope to explore in a future blog.

What we should be talking about with one another is mental health (the root cause of the tragedy), in order to get a better understanding and education about the illness. One would think it common sense if you knew someone with schizophrenia was plotting to kill their estranged father, as well as attending gun clubs, some personal responsibility is expected of you to at alert authorities of their intentions and movements.

We live in a community and have a duty of care to one another to speak up if we suspect something bad might happen, regardless what it might be.

Forms, legislation, processes and the humans who bring all these together will never be perfect. Blaming those rather than ourselves for a lack of common sense and inaction is poor way of dealing with a loss moving forward. It's very sad and unfortunate the Fernando family are oblivious of this.

Do other states have this same 6B provision?

Yes - When the 1996 National Firearms Agreement was enacted, each state had a responsibility to pass their own firearms legislation in order to comply with the Federal agreement. NSW was the only state that did not include this exemption to their State legislation, significantly disadvantaging new members who wanted to try out the sport.  As an example, in Victoria, the exemption can be found in item 4 of SCHEDULE 3 of the Act - it states:
"A person who is of or over the age of 18 years, and who is receiving instruction in the use of a general category handgun by or under the immediate supervision of the holder of a general category handgun licence; and (b) for the purposes of obtaining a general category handgun licence for a reason set out in section 15(1)— and who has not received any such instruction on more than nine previous occasions."
So how did Shamin manage to steal a handgun?

All clubs have firearms that are specifically used for new probationary members to train with. After usually 3 months practical training under direct supervision and passing a theory test, a handgun safety certificate is issued by the club to the new member. The club also approve the applicants membership and provide a stamped approval form that the member then sends to NSW police to finalise the processing of their Probationary Pistol Licence (PPL). After their PPL has been issued by NSW police, they can then legally borrow handguns for local club matches.

"Before a new member can borrow a handgun for use to compete in a club match "unsupervised", the club has a responsibility to sight their PPL before issuing them a firearm for loan in the match."
The handgun is returned after match completion.

It's also important to note that club members are very vigilant with regard to new members. Competitors are alerted in advance of new members joining competition and tend to supervise them somewhat indirectly.

Unfortunately, the new members instructor nor the armorer who provided the handgun to Shamin verified that she had her PPL. They simply failed this simple check - leading to unimaginable consequences for the Fernando family.

Direct Supervision

Putting human error aside for a moment... There's no question that the Fernando's are clearly in denial about the circumstances surrounding their tragedy and the definition of the legislation that is currently in place.

Michelle's petition ridiculously asserts that anyone can simply get a gun from a gun club. She states:
"a 2008 change to the firearms act makes it legal for clubs to give guns to unlicensed shooters."
The reality is until the individual is issued with a probationary pistol licence from NSW police, they must always be under direct supervision.

The definition of direct supervision can be found on the NSW police website. It clearly states:
"Direct supervision must not exceed a ratio of one unlicensed person to one licensed supervisor. 
The licensed supervisor must be present at the firing line and not leave whilst shooting activities are being undertaken by the unlicensed person. 
The licensed supervisor must be able to immediately render assistance to the unlicensed person, if required. 
The licensed supervisor must personally convey the firearm and ammunition to be used by the unlicensed person from its place of storage to the firing line. 
The licensed supervisor must personally convey the firearm and ammunition from the firing line to the place of storage upon the conclusion of shooting activities."
So who was at fault?

The instructors failed to comply with the law and were subsequently charged. They attended court and were both found guilty for failure to comply with the Firearms Act. They also had their firearms licences cancelled and were significantly fined for the breach.

I highly doubt there isn't a single instructor across Australia that is not aware of the Shamin Fernando case.

After this event, I'm confident meticulous care, to a pedantic and extraordinary level, is taken to ensure the safety of individuals, the safety of the public and compliance with the law.


I do encourage you to write to the Fernando's explaining how 6B had nothing to do with the events that unfolded.  I'd add that this was an unfortunate "one off" incident that occurred due to a calamity of errors that could have been easily avoided had the instructors or the Fernando family been just a little more diligent.

I'd also write to media who are exploiting the Fernando's tragedy for cheap ratings. Their rhetoric does nothing but feed the denial of the Fernando's and further perpetuates their fanciful belief as to what led to the tragic circumstances that transpired.

To make matters worse, Gun Control Australia have callously used Michelle Fernando as the poster girl for their new facebook campaign. They and the Australian Greens (John Kaye et al) are also not exempt from my criticisms.  They should be ashamed of themselves.

The Trial

Read the case law transcript of the trial here.....