Prime Minister Scott Morrison has denounced Australia‘s far-right One Nation party after Al Jazeera aired secretly filmed footage in which its leader suggested that the country’s worst mass shooting was a conspiracy.
Morrison on Thursday called Senator Pauline Hanson’s comments “appalling” and said his ruling Liberal Party would advise voters, on his recommendation, to rank One Nation below the opposition Labor Party on voting cards in an upcoming federal election, set to take place in May.
The prime minister, whose conservative party has been courting One Nation supporters, said his decision on preference rankings was based on his “strong view about the sanctity of Australia’s gun laws”.
Al Jazeera’s investigation, titled How to sell a massacre, shows Hanson claiming the 1996 mass shooting in the Tasmanian town of Port Arthur, which left 35 people dead, was carried out to change Australian gun laws.
“An MP said it would actually take a massacre in Tasmania to change the gun laws in Australia,” she told Al Jazeera’s undercover journalist, Rodger Muller, who was posing as a gun rights campaigner.
“Those shots, they were precision shots. I’ve read a lot, and I’ve read the book on it – Port Arthur. A lot of questions there,” she said.
Morrison said he was “shocked” by Hanson’s comments.
He added: “These gun laws have kept Australia safe for 20 years and have led the world. They are one of the Liberal Party’s proudest achievements.”
Later on Thursday, Hanson, who made global headlines in 2017 after wearing a burqa to the Australian parliament to protest against Muslim immigration, called Al Jazeera’s investigation a “political attack” and a “ploy to destroy One Nation heading into the election”.
She told reporters in Brisbane that her comments had been “completely taken out of context” and “heavily edited”.
The senator also defended two One Nation officials – James Ashby and Peter Dickson – who were filmed by Muller seeking up to $20m in political funding from powerful gun lobby groups in the United States while offering to weaken Australia’s strict firearms legislation.
In a meeting with the US’s National Rifle Association in Washington, DC, Dickson, a candidate in the federal election, liked Australian restrictions on guns as “poison” and vowed to “kill” them.
Ashby, in conversations with Muller, proposed a gradual approach to relaxing Australia’s gun laws, saying: “It’s like Vegemite. You don’t put a f***ing bundle of the s*** on the toast. A light smear first. Get them used to the flavour.”
He also told Muller, ahead of a meeting with the energy giant Koch Industries, that he wanted to obtain up to $20m from the group. There is no evidence the One Nation was successful in obtaining the money.
In her comments on Thursday, Hanson said One Nation would “never” accept foreign donation.
Flanked by Ashby and Dickson, she said the pair had made “stupid” and “inappropriate remarks”, but Ashby would retain his post as One Nation’s chief of staff and Dickson would remain on the party’s Queensland Senate ticket in the upcoming poll.
She went on to brand Morrison a “fool” for the move against One Nation, saying he had handed election victory to the centre-left parties.