Scott Morrison has seized on revelations One Nation sought “to sell Australia’s gun laws to the highest bidder” to urge its flock to come home and vote for the Coalition.
The Prime Minister said he was “appalled” by revelations that Pauline Hanson’s key lieutenants were caught on tape with pro-gun lobbyists in the US seeking to secure millions of dollars in donations.
Queensland party leader Steve Dickson was also covertly recorded in the sting by the al-Jazeera network, discussing “African gangs” robbing and raping Australians and his hopes for a $10 million-$20 million donation to ensure One Nation had the government “by the balls”.
In response, One Nation has made sensational claims of “foreign interference” fears from Islamic extremists, and referred the issue to ASIO.
The documentary, titled How to Sell a Massacre, will be aired by the ABC on Tuesday night and is billed by al-Jazeera as a three-year investigation.
“We have reports that One Nation officials basically sought to sell Australia’s gun laws to the highest bidders to a foreign buyer, and I find that abhorrent,” Mr Morrison said on Tuesday.
“If you’re ever wondering why you shouldn’t be voting One Nation, there a pretty good reason. I’m not interested in getting One Nation’s preferences. I’m interested in getting their primary vote.”
Mr Morrison’s new formulation is designed to address criticism that he is refusing to pledge to put One Nation last on how-to-vote cards even after revelations it sought donations from the National Rifle Association in the US to change Australia’s gun laws.
“I separate One Nation voters from the One Nation party. I know that people who have voted for One Nation in the past have done so because of frustrations on a whole range of issues, issues that do trouble Australians: Managing the population, ensuring that our regions have jobs,” Mr Morrison said.
“How dare they seek to trade those for money and boats from a foreign buyer. That’s not on. I won’t put up with it. That’s why I don’t want their preferences, I want their primary votes – because that’s the right thing for Australia.”
Mr Morrison then repeatedly refused to confirm One Nation would be put last on Liberal Party how-to-vote cards. Asked if the Greens should instead take that spot, Mr Morrison said that was a “fair question.”
“There are plenty of extreme views out there and those extreme views that are a danger to Australia are not hostage to the left or the right of Australian politics,” he said.
I’m not competing for preferences. This is the point that the bubble never understands.”
Earlier, Liberal frontbencher Kelly O’Dwyer, who is retiring from politics, called for One Nation to be put last in her Victorian seat of Higgins.
Labor leader Bill Shorten said the revelations of One Nation’s talks with the US lobby group represented a leadership test for the Prime Minister.
“What more does Mr Morrison need to show some spine and put One Nation last?” he said.
Mr Ashby and Mr Dickson were filmed in September 2018, without their knowledge, by a journalist posing as a lobbyist called “Rodger Muller”. He was said to represent a fake gun lobby group called Gun Rights Australia.
There is no evidence provided that One Nation ever secured donations in the talks, which occurred shortly before parliament banned foreign donations.
The documentary shows footage from a meeting in Washington DC with the powerful National Rifle Association, where Mr Dickson discusses his hopes to change Australia’s gun laws.
“We get the balance of power, very simply that means that we have the testicles of the government in our hand at every given stage,” he said.
“Guns, in the scheme of things, are still going to be the be-all and end-all.”
At the same meeting, Mr Dickson told the NRA that: “African gangs imported to Australia” were committing rapes and burglaries, including “coming into the house with baseball bats to steal your car”.
During another exchange, the journalist posing as a gun lobbyist asks the One Nation officials: “If we get to a point where we can talk about figures, what sort of number are you guys thinking?”
“I’m thinking 10 (million),” Mr Dickson replies.
But Mr Ashby said he was hoping for double that amount.
“No, I was thinking 20,” he said.
Mr Dickson predicts: “If we could get that sort of money, imagine, we could change Australia”.
“I mean, that guarantees you the balance of power, you’d have the whole government by the balls.”
Australia's gun laws are world’s best thanks to John Howard & we will not be changing them. Thankfully our Gov has also made laws to criminalise taking foreign political donations so foreign lobbyists cannot seek to influence our politics. It took a Coalition Gov to do both.
— Scott Morrison (@ScottMorrisonMP) March 25, 2019
During a meeting with NRA media liaison Lars Dalseide, the pro-gun lobbyist offers tips on how to respond to a massacre while advancing gun law reform.
“‘How dare you stand on the graves of those children to put forward your political agenda?’ – just shame them to the whole idea,’’ Mr Dalseide said.
Mr Dickson replies: “I love that. Thank you.”
Mr Ashby says: “That’s very good, very strong.”
After Mr Dickson raises the issue of “African gangs” in Australia, the NRA offers advice on how to use that to promote guns.
“Every time there’s a story there about the African gangs coming in with baseball bats, a little thing you can put out there, maybe at the top of a tweet or Facebook post or whatever, like with ‘not allowed to defend their home’, ‘not allowed to defend their home’. Boom,” Mr Dalseide said.
On Tuesday, One Nation told The New Daily that the party had referred the matter to ASIO, citing “foreign interference” fears from Islamic extremists.
“Al-Jazeera are a state-owned propaganda arm of the Qatari government that supports Islamic extremist groups and are not a legitimate media organisation,” it said in a statement.
“One Nation was invited by Rodger Muller, who has now been outed as a foreign agent working for al-Jazeera, to meet with the NRA, American business leaders and attend the Congressional Sportsmen’s Dinner.
“One Nation has asked al-Jazeera to show complete transparency and release the full context of conversations. The matter has been referred to ASIO and the Australian Federal Police due to concerns of foreign interference into Australian politics in the lead-up to the imminent federal election.”
“One Nation members have always complied with the law.”
During the documentary, Mr Ashby raises concerns about what would happen if the public became aware of his discussions with pro-gun lobby.
”If it gets out, it’ll f—ing rock the boat,” he said.
“This shit goes through my head every single minute of my day.”
Later in the documentary, Senator Hanson discusses her strategy of taking “baby steps” and her decision not to attend the US talks in person.
“That’s why I didn’t go, because I thought it wasn’t a politically smart thing for me to do,” she said.
Liberal frontbencher Simon Birmingham said Pauline Hanson should “front the cameras” to explain herself.