My Daily Advertiser Op Ed column for Tuesday 30 October 2018

by ray goodlass

Pro-gun lobby buying its way into state and federal parliaments

In a week packed with important stories that are all worthy of comment one that might have escaped the notice of many really concerned me.

It was the story that the Shooting Industry Foundation of Australia (SIFA), a pro-gun lobby, is ‘muscling up’ to change our valuable post-Port Arthur gun laws by buying its way into state and federal parliaments (ABC TV Four Corners).

It wants to change gun laws for the worse, of course. For the very, very worse, as made abundantly clear in their propaganda.

SIFA is a gun industry lobby group backed by five of the largest Australian firearms wholesalers. It has declared its intention to intervene in state and federal elections to hold governments “accountable for the decisions they make”.

Its corporate members have bankrolled its activities with more than $1.2 million since late 2014.

Now it is leading a fresh bid to lobby governments over gun laws, 22 years after the Port Arthur massacre which saw the states and territories sign up to the National Firearms Agreement.

It has sponsored “shooting days” for federal politicians and donated tens of thousands of dollars to firearms-friendly political parties.

SIFA spokeswoman Laura Patterson told the ABC’s Four Corners program that the organisation would consider getting involved in future elections, after doing so in Queensland last year.

During that campaign, called “Flick em”, SIFA contributed $220,000, aimed at forcing a hung parliament by urging voters to place the major parties last.

Among the beneficiaries of the campaign were One Nation and Katter’s Australian Party, whose federal leader, Bob Katter, is the father-in-law of one of the owners of one of the corporations bankrolling SIFA, Robert Nioa.

One of SIFA’s goals was to push for discussions about the re-categorisation of some firearms, including the controversial Adler lever action shotgun the Queensland Government had recently made harder to acquire.

Mr Nioa’s company imports the Adler shotgun into Australia.

SIFA was also part of a firearms consultative committee convened by the Tasmanian Liberal government before the state election in March to come up with a new gun policy.

When the policy was leaked on election eve it caused outrage.

It proposed laws to give better access to high-powered guns to sporting shooters, to double the firearm licence period to 10 years, and allow some shooters access to silencers.

Gun control groups accused the Tasmanian Government of breaching the National Firearms Agreement struck between states and territories after the 1996 Port Arthur massacre.

The outcry forced the Government to dump the policy after the election.

Former deputy prime minister Tim Fischer, who as part of the Howard government was an architect of the 1996 firearms agreement, told Four Corners he was concerned about gun industry lobbying.

“There is a muscling up by those making money out of a trade of guns into this country, and we need to watch that very closely lest it lead Australia and the state and territory parliaments, legislatures, and at the federal level, down the wrong path,” Mr Fischer said.

With extremist right wing parties the likely benefit of SIFA’s campaigns there is a fair chance that the Liberals and the Nationals will move to the right to accommodate the lobby, just as they have done to accommodate the likes of Pauline Hanson’s One Nation’s racism.

So it is pleasing to see that one party won’t kotow to SIFA’s bribery. Greens NSW MP and Justice Spokesperson David Shoebridge was quick off the mark, when he said “After 4 Corners unmasked the gun lobby buying its way into state and federal parliaments the Greens are calling for action, starting with mental health checks before people get access to guns.

“This is a long-standing coronial recommendation that has been ignored and recent tragic shooting deaths have confirmed this reform is urgently needed. We need laws that put community safety before the interests of the gun lobby” he said.

Indeed, no one should get their hands on a gun unless they have had a mental health check to show they pose no risk to the community.

Let’s hope the major parties and independent cross-benchers don’t follow Bob Katter in accepting this tainted money.