One Nation, the NRA, and Al Jazeera: A Question of Public Interest Pt.1

29/03/2019

Whether it was from legitimate news sources, or the barrage of Betoota articles about people ‘on the sauce’, most would have heard about Al Jazeera’s How to Sell a Massacre investigation. Gun lobbyists – real and fake – politicians, secret meetings with alcohol, an undercover journalist, and conspiracy to buy election results. You would almost have to agree with One Nation’s own Steve Dickson when he said: “The is the stuff you see in James Bond magazines [sic].” But it is very real, and incredibly concerning for a number of reasons.

Democracy and Hypocrisy

There’s no doubt that this revelation would have garnered widespread outrage from the media and the people, but one can’t deny how much more impact it has in the wake of the Christchurch massacre. Being seen consorting with gun lobbyists after witnessing New Zealand’s deadliest attack take place at the hands of an Australian man is not a good look, and One Nation has been in damage control mode all week (if their train wreck responses can be called that). But even if you ignore the timing aspect and look at it solely as an individual event, there is much to be disgusted with over the whole affair.

One Nation is a populist party built on rhetoric similar to Trump’s. A mixture of scapegoating and ‘for the people’ rhetoric, one of their major platforms that wasn’t entirely disagreeable was the criticism of political donations from big business or foreign influences. Taking money out of politics – especially money from foreign sources – is something that affects the foundations of our democracy and should be advocated for by anyone who is sick of our current attempt to reflect the American system of oligarchic power.

But One Nation hasn’t done that, have they? No, like Trump they will repeat phrases like ‘battler for the people’ to make it seem like they are an alternative to the major parties, but in fact they have received donations from the same industries that the Coalition has, including Adani – the Indian mining company trying to force an unviable coal mine at the expense of our Reef and run away with all the money made.

The faux concern for the ‘average Australian’ works well when picking up votes from those incapable of discerning anything more than a mere slogan, but in reality One Nation is simply a smaller version of the Coalition parties. Voting with the Coalition a majority of the time, receiving donations not only from the ‘big end of town’, but foreign entities, facing scandals every other week – no wonder Morrison’s only response to the NRA revelation is to “disappointed[ly]” put One Nation below Labor on preferences. They work for the same people and have similar morals.

So it is well established that, by virtue of even meeting with the NRA, One Nation is nothing more than a pack of opportunistic hypocrites. But this has thrown the topic of political donations back into the spotlight. That is great, but it needs to remain there; I don’t have high hopes. The only reason this story has picked up so much traction is for 3 reasons:

  • The story is about the NRA and gun laws, presented in the wake of the Christchurch massacre,
  • It is One Nation involved – easy ratings and headline grabs,
  • And because it was made international news, being investigated and produced by Al Jazeera.

Give it a week or two and talk about political donations will be swept away, or at least kept to a minimum. There are those who still valiantly attend Stop Adani events, but media discourse about stopping donations from fossil fuel companies is quiet. The Royal Commission into the finance sector put political donations by banks under scrutiny, but what has happened since, exactly? I had a job interview with a man who runs a business a while ago. When we sat down he had just come from a meeting with the banks and he was not afraid to criticise them, saying “They really have not learned anything from the Royal Commission”.

Big business too – we hear scandal after scandal of workers’ rights and pay being torn away from them (Chemist Warehouse workers actually achieved a nice victory this week), which results in conversation about political donations by multimillion-dollar companies. But that is all it ever is – conversation. Action is what’s needed, but it never gets that far. The Greens are the only party I know that wants to reform political donations, with caps on the amount one can donate and banning corporate donations so as to keep our politicians honest.

It’s telling, here, that Coalition members have said they fear the ‘danger’ of a Greens victory over the encroachment of One Nation. One Nation themselves have be posting anti-Greens sentiment, decrying the “Green’s Manifesto”. I read their little infographic, and there were only one or two things I would partially disagree with – it came across as an advertisement for the Greens!

And so the same will undoubtedly happen with the NRA scandal. The Australia Institute put out some reports on the gun lobbyists here in Australia, one of which says:

“Australia’s gun lobby is comparable to America’s powerful NRA, in terms of size and spending on a per capita basis.”

Preventing the NRA from donating $10 to $20 million to One Nation only solves the issue of foreign entities subverting our democracy – that shit can stay in the US. What is now more pressing is the potential for Australia’s own gun lobby to gain power. Admittedly, the likelihood of our gun laws changing are relatively low. As Teena McQueen, the clueless, bubble dwelling LNP Vice President, so humbly explained on Q&A this week, New Zealand just copied John Howard’s government on their weapons ban. Disgraceful LNP comments aside, Howard’s response to the Port Arthur massacre was one of his only worthwhile achievements, and the Coalition no doubt expects that public opinion would march against them if they tried to change anything.

This does not mean minor parties, like SFF in NSW, One Nation, or the Liberal Democrats, will not receive donations and try to push for relaxed gun laws. Personally, I would not trust any One Nation voter with a gun – if they are a reflection of the party members, then it would be a public safety issue. If being “on the sauce” is all it takes for Ashby to end up at a secret NRA meeting in the US asking for $20 million, imagine what he would do “on the sauce” with a gun in hand! Not to mention Pauline Hanson’s mirroring of Alex Jones; the allegedly well-read Senator is sceptical about the events of 1996 in Port Arthur, hinting that there are questions that arise from the official story. Drunkards and conspiracy theorists are not the kind of people you want to be holding guns.

In Pt.2, I talk more about the ethics involved when investigating stories like this. The question has been raised by some about whether it is the media’s place to engage in unethical activities, such as setting up a fake gun lobby group, and it’s worth discussing.

HERE is a link to a petition started by the Australia Institute to keep money from gun lobby groups out of politics.

 

Liked this? Read Banks Out of Schools

Previous piece: Quick Quips: Out of Line

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