Australia’s nationalist One Nation party allegedly sought millions of dollars from the U.S. gun lobby and discussed weakening the country’s strict gun control laws with the U.S. National Rifle Association (NRA), Al Jazeera reported.
Posing as the head of a fake Australian pro-gun lobby, Al Jazeera secretly filmed top officials from Pauline Hanson’s One Nation allegedly meeting NRA executives in Washington in 2018.
It also reported the One Nation officials discussing the possibility of raising A$20 million ($14.22 million) prior to a meeting with a U.S. gun lobby supporter.
Concerned about foreign influence in Australian politics, particularly from China, the government introduced laws banning foreign political donations in November last year. The One Nation meetings took place in September.
“Reports that senior One Nation officials courted foreign political donations from the U.S. gun lobby to influence our elections and undermine our gun laws that keep us safe are deeply concerning,” Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison Tweeted on Tuesday.
One Nation confirmed in a statement their two representatives attended the meetings, but there was no evidence in the Al Jazeera TV report, aired late on Monday, that a donation was made.
Calls and emails to the NRA headquarters in Virginia were not immediately returned.
Australia has some of the world’s strictest firearm laws, implemented after a lone gunman killed 35 people at Port Arthur on the island state of Tasmania in 1996.
Australia banned semi-automatic weapons, launched a firearm buy-back scheme after the massacre, and imposed strict licensing rules which require weapons to be locked up when not in use.
Al Jazeera said the report was three years in the making.
In the report, One Nation’s chief-of-staff James Ashby and Queensland state leader Steve Dickson can be seen allegedly telling NRA officials that with its help the party could win enough seats to gain the balance of power in Australia’s upper house of parliament.
“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,” says Dickson. “Guns, in the scheme of things, are still going to be the be-all and end-all.”
In another meeting with a U.S. gun lobby supporter, Dickson says: “It’s going to get down to money at the end of the day. We can change the voting system in our country, the way people operate, if we’ve got the money to do it.”
Ashby confirmed One Nation had been invited to attend the meetings but he accused Al Jazeera of interfering in Australia’s looming national election, due in May.
“The matter has been referred to ASIO (the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation) and the Australian Federal Police due to concerns of foreign interference into Australian politics in the lead-up to the imminent federal election,” Ashby said in the emailed statement.
The footage allegedly records an NRA lobbyist telling both Dickson and Ashby that it would benefit the U.S. pro-gun movement if Australia’s gun laws were relaxed.
“That helps us because the biggest argument we get from folks is, ‘Well look at Australia’,” he says.
The role of One Nation in promoting right-wing nationalism in Australia has come under the spotlight in recent days following the killing of 50 Muslims in New Zealand, allegedly by an Australian white supremacist.
Nationalists have struggled to gain a significant voting bloc in Australia’s parliament, although One Nation did wield considerable influence in the upper house between 2016 and 2018.
The party fractured last year with several resignations, but it is hoping to regroup at the coming national election, with its support base largely rural voters disillusioned with the major parties which they accuse of being city-focused.
Reporting by Colin Packham; Editing by Michael Perry and Sam Holmes
Michael Avenatti says he has El Chapo’s former jail cell — which the drug dealer described as ‘torture’: report
Attorney Michael Avenatti, the colorful attorney who came to prominence representing Stormy Daniels against Donald Trump, is unhappy with his jail conditions.
On Monday, his attorney wrote to the federal judge overseeing his trial to complain about the jail conditions Avenatti is experiencing during pre-trial detention.
Scott Srebnick, Avenatti's attorney, wrote to Judge Paul Gardephe to complain about the "notorious 10-South" section of the Metropolitan Correctional Center, where he is being held in the Special Housing Unit.
"He is in a cell reportedly once occupied by El Chapo, on a floor that houses individuals charged with terrorism offenses," Avenatti's attorney wrote.
It is Greta Thunberg vs Donald Trump at climate-focused Davos gathering of economic elites: report
The starkly opposed visions of US President Donald Trump and Swedish teen activist Greta Thunberg on climate change will clash in Davos on Tuesday as the World Economic Forum tries to face up to the perils of global warming on its 50th meeting.
The four-day gathering of the world's top political and business leaders in the Swiss Alps gets under way seeking to meet head-on the dangers to both the environment and economy from the heating of the planet.
Trump, who has repeatedly expressed scepticism about climate change, is set to give the first keynote address of Davos 2020 on Tuesday morning, on the same day as his impeachment trial opens at the Senate in Washington.
‘Which Senator up this year most deserves to lose?’: Preet Bharara flooded with replies to provocative question
Former United States Attorney Preet Bharara asked his 1.2 million Twitter followers a provocative question on the eve of President Donald Trump's impeachment trial.
With worries that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) is presiding over a sham trial, many analysts have suggested that the Senate itself will be on trial.
"Which Senator up this year most deserves to lose?" Bharara, who was fired by Trump, asked.
There are a number of potentially vulnerable Republicans facing voters in 2020, including McConnell himself, Sen. Joni Ernst (R-IA), Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME), Sen. Martha McSally (R-AZ), Sen. Cory Gardner (R-CO), Sen. Thom Tillis (R-NC), Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX), Sen. Steve Daines (R-MT) and Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC).