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Australia’s nationalist One Nation party sought funds from U.S. gun lobby: report

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.”

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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.

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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.

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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


Report typos and corrections to: [email protected].
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Quarantine, racial strife, Trump have Michelle Obama feeling down

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Former First Lady Michelle Obama said she is suffering from "low-grade depression" from coronavirus quarantine, racial strife in the United States and the "hypocrisy" of the Trump administration.

Obama made the remarks in the latest episode of "The Michelle Obama Podcast" released on Spotify on Wednesday.

"I'm waking up in the middle of the night because I'm worrying about something or there's a heaviness," the 56-year-old former First Lady said.

"I try to make sure I get a workout in, although there have been periods throughout this quarantine, where I just have felt too low," she said.

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Another watchdog at US State Department abruptly gone

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The internal watchdog looking into accusations against Secretary of State Mike Pompeo abruptly quit Wednesday, just months after his predecessor was fired.

The State Department's acting inspector general, Stephen Akard, is a longtime aide to Vice President Mike Pence and his installation in May had widely been seen as a way to keep a friendly figure in the role.

Akard informed colleagues that he is "returning to the private sector after years of public service," a State Department spokesperson said.

"We appreciate his dedication to the Department and to our country."

But Akard's departure comes just as his office finalizes a report on Pompeo's controversial decision to bypass Congress to sell $8.1 billion in arms to Saudi Arabia and other Arab allies.

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2020 Election

Andrea Mitchell knocks Biden for virtual convention speech: ‘How much does that damage the campaign?’

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MSNBC host Andrea Mitchell suggested to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) on Wednesday that presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden could "damage" his campaign by holding a virtual convention speech.

Mitchell made the remark after President Donald Trump said that he was considering holding his convention speech at the White House.

"Joe Biden is not going to Milwaukee," Mitchell told Pelosi. "How much does this damage the campaign?"

Pelosi disagreed by insisting that Democrats will hold a "great convention."

Mitchell then asked about Trump's plan to hold his convention speech at the White House.

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