Offence, offence, offence
The gun lobby is scarier than One Nation
Exposing the evil of One Nation powerbrokers James Ashby and Steve Dickson, as the Al Jazeera documentary How to Sell a Massacre has done, may stop the comeback the party has been on since at least 2016. What it won’t stop is the rise and rise of the gun lobby in Australia, however, nor threats to the National Firearms Agreement (NFA), as the “Point Blank” report released by The Australia Institute today warns clearly. One of the most powerful parts of How to Sell a Massacre (part two of which airs on ABC TV tomorrow night) was the interview with Port Arthur survivor Carolyn Loughton, whose daughter was shot in front of her, and who described the agreement brokered by former prime minister John Howard as “a very, very fine document, that all Australians are proud of, and [which] keeps us safe”.
Most Australians would wholeheartedly agree, and would be surprised to read in “Point Blank” that no state or territory has ever fully complied with it. It’s a testament to the power of the shooters’ vote, and if One Nation’s pro-gun advocacy falls over, there are plenty of political opportunists who are ready and eager to take their place.
In part one of How to Sell a Massacre, James Ashby tells undercover journalist Rodger Muller that if their attempt to raise up to $20 million from the US National Rifle Association “gets out, it’ll f*cking rock the boat”. Journalist and author George Megalogenis goes further, predicting that the revelations “may actually sink One Nation as a political force in Australia”. In today’s Australian, for example, one columnist describes it as an “existential crisis” [$] for the party and former senator Rod Culleton muses [$]: “No more wheels left on the cart. She’s upside down in a ditch and on fire!”
If One Nation’s primary vote collapses due to a public backlash, as all sides hope, then preference flows will matter that much less. It is a dilemma for the Coalition, which on the one hand needs the preference flows of One Nation, but which faces Labor being helped by the right-wing vote being split. Under pressure from the Nationals, the prime minister is today determinedly dodging calls from inside his own party to follow Labor and put One Nation last. For her part, Pauline Hanson has today tweeted that she was “shocked” and “disgusted” by the Al Jazeera “hit piece”, which she has referred to ASIO. Good luck with that.
NSW Labor has today moved to ban donations from the firearms industry, but one of the interesting points made in the “Point Blank” report is that political donations are only a small part of the spending of the gun lobby. The report compares gun-lobby spending per capita here and in the United States, and finds it is about the same – which headlined the ABC’s report on it today.
So, the Shooting Industry Foundation of Australia (SIFA) spends more than $30,000 per head on political campaigns, but just $2500 on donations, while the NRA spends more than $28,000 and $2500 respectively. As an example, as I reported in The Saturday Paper, in the recent Victorian election the SIFA spent $165,000 on the “Not Happy Dan” campaign, but only donated $14,000 to the Shooters, Fishers and Farmers Party, whose candidate, former senator Ricky Muir, was unsuccessful. “Point Blank” finds that SIFA’s very expensive “Flick ’em” campaign in the last Queensland election also failed in its objectives. Banning political donations? The gun lobby might be grateful. SIFA did not spend a cent campaigning ahead of last weekend’s NSW election.
The two parties that have received the bulk of the $1.7 million in political donations from the gun lobby in the seven years since 2011–12 are Katter’s Australian Party (more than $800,000) and the Shooters, Fishers and Farmers Party (just under $700,000). NSW Shooters party leader Robert Borsak told me last week that his party’s policy had changed since 2017, to include a statement that it did not support US-style gun laws. “Our policy has never been to make self-loading firearms more readily available,” he said. “Think about it – why would we want that to happen here? Why would that be in the enlightened self-interest of shooters, licensed firearms owners in Australia? It’s ridiculous to even contemplate it.”
Except, the Shooters do want Australians to have a right to shoot in self-defence in their own homes. “That would absolutely gut the National Firearms Agreement,” gun control advocate Rebecca Peters told Radio National last week. “A fundamental part of it is that defending yourself – a civilian turning into a vigilante or playing police – is not acceptable. It wasn’t acceptable before the National Firearms Agreement, but the National Firearms Agreement established it very clearly. That’s actually the major difference between the United States and the vast majority of other developed countries. Other countries do not accept that a civilian should have a gun for the purpose of killing another civilian.”
It’s any unravelling of the NFA that Australians need to worry about. As one NRA flack said in last night’s documentary, the gun lobby’s tactics in the wake of a massacre are “offence, offence, offence”. Those tactics have been effective here, and resulted in a steady erosion of the NFA, which cannot be taken for granted. The price of Australia’s freedom from massacres is eternal vigilance.
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Paddy Manning is contributing editor (politics) at The Monthly and has worked for the ABC, Fairfax, Crikey and The Australian. He is also the author of three books, including a recently updated unauthorised biography of Malcolm Turnbull, Born To Rule?
Exposing the evil of One Nation powerbrokers James Ashby and Steve Dickson, as the Al Jazeera documentary How to Sell a Massacre has done, may stop the comeback the party has been on since at least 2016. What it won’t stop is the rise and rise of the gun lobby in Australia, however, nor threats to the National Firearms Agreement (NFA), as the “Point Blank” report released by The Australia Institute today warns clearly. One of the most powerful parts of How to Sell a Massacre (part two of which airs on ABC TV tomorrow night) was the interview with Port Arthur survivor Carolyn Loughton, whose daughter was shot in front of her, and who described the agreement brokered by former prime...