Pauline Hanson’s key lieutenant, James Ashby, has been caught on tape with pro-gun lobbyists in the US war-gaming how to respond to a massacre and seeking to secure millions of dollars in donations to fight for a watering down of Australia’s gun laws.
Queensland party leader Steve Dickson was also covertly recorded in the sting, 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.
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.
The documentary, titled How to Sell a Massacre, aired on Monday night and is billed by al-Jazeera as a three-year investigation.
There is no evidence provided that One Nation ever secured donations in the talks, which occurred shortly before parliament banned foreign donations.
It 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.”
Days after the Christchurch massacre, New Zealand banned assault rifles.
But in Australia, the right-wing @OneNationAus party wants to weaken gun laws with the help of the NRA.
— Al Jazeera English (@AJEnglish) March 25, 2019
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.
In Washington, Dickson regaled NRA members with stories about Muslims invading Australia.
— Al Jazeera English (@AJEnglish) March 25, 2019
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.”
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.”
The statement said it was understood One Nation was targeted because of its strong approach to reducing immigration numbers and a travel ban on countries with terrorism links.
“One Nation strongly supports the rights of lawful gun ownership within Australia and have clearly outlined our policy on our website,” it said.
“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.”
Mr Ashby was also covertly recorded boasting about how he uses a personal email for sensitive matters.
“I always keep a private email and I keep a work email, because work emails are never private,” he said.
“They can be subpoenaed like that. It’s something that you learn real fast.”
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.
The controversy is set to increase the pressure on Prime Minister Scott Morrison to put One Nation last on the Liberal Party ballot paper.
While Mr Morrison has repeatedly ruled out “doing deals” with One Nation, he has refused to say whether he will preference the party before Labor or the Greens.
The Prime Minister said reports of One Nation’s efforts to court the NRA were “deeply disappointing”.
Reports that senior One Nation officials courted foreign political donations from the US gun lobby to influence our elections & undermine our gun laws that keep us safe are deeply concerning.
— Scott Morrison (@ScottMorrisonMP) March 25, 2019
Watch Part 1 of the covert investigation in full: