One Nation chief of staff James Ashby and Queensland branch chief Steve Dickson have fronted the media this afternoon, after allegations that their party had solicited money from America‘s National Rifle Association were reported by the Al Jazeera network.
Speaking to press this afternoon, The Guardian writes that Ashby claimed it was undercover reporter Rodger Muller who set up the meeting between One Nation and the NRA, and that they had “had a few drinks” when they spoke to Muller about seeking $20 million in donations from the gun lobby.
The Al Jazeera investigation posted overnight revealed Pauline Hanson‘s One Nation party had late last year sought millions of dollars from America’s National Rifle Association to support their electoral strategy and their efforts to weaken Australia‘s firearm laws.
Both Ashby and Dickson were secretly recorded allegedly liaising with the NRA, who are notorious for their fight against gun control, even in the wake of a reported 323 mass shootings in the US in 2018. One Nation looked to the lobby for policy and media training advice.
“If it gets out, it’ll fucking rock the boat,” Ashby said.
Pauline Hanson’s One Nation’s attempt to get $10-20 million from the despicable US National Rifle Association to help them water down our gun laws is just obscene. Also the boast the $$ could “change the voting system” and “have the whole g'ment by the balls”. Please explain.— Derryn Hinch (@HumanHeadline) March 25, 2019
Reports that senior One Nation officials courted foreign political donations from the US gun lobby to influence our elections & undermine our gun laws that keep us safe are deeply concerning.— Scott Morrison (@ScottMorrisonMP) March 25, 2019
Earlier today, Ashby said he and Dickson were approached by undercover reporter Rodger Muller, then posing as a member of fake firearm advocacy group Gun Rights Australia/the owner of a dog food company, in NSW, and he said that he wanted to interview Hanson and “help the party“.
In accusing Muller of setting them up, he explained:
We were invited with Senator Hanson to go to the Congressional Sportmen’s Dinner in the United States. It just so happened that Roger had proposed a meeting with the American NRA.
At that stage he was telling us about the involvement that the NRA had with Donald Trump’s campaign in 2016. He’d indicated that some of the technologies could be applied to One Nation in order to assist with our campaigning. He had indicated that he was interested in helping the party and he had also indicated that those conversations would take place at the NRA headquarters in Virginia in the United States.
He was very determined to have representation from One Nation at the meeting, both for the Congressional Sportmen’s Dinner but also to introduce us to likeminded gun organisations in America as we have here in Australia and we accepted that offer.
While Ashby and Dickson met with both the NRA and conservative donors, Koch Industries, Dickson said they received no political donations from either organisation: “We didn’t get any money from any US lobby groups at all, not a cent.“
Ashby said instead that they were looking to mine the NRA’s “techniques“, and that talk of soliciting money from the gun lobby was effectively drunken banter between himself, Dickson and Muller.
This was not about sourcing money from the NRA. This was about sourcing technology, sourcing an understanding of how they operate, but never was it about seeking $20 million from the NRA.
And the conversations that have been recorded where is a talk of $10 to $20 million, I will be the first to admit, we’d arrived in America, we got on the sauce, we’d had a few drinks and that’s where those discussions took place, not with any potential donors, no one but Rodger Muller, Steve Dickson and myself.
Dickson backed up Ashby’s claim that they were drinking privately when they were caught on tape, apologising for “some of the things” he was taped saying.
I’m going to apologise to the people of Australia for some of the things that Rodger Muller has taped me saying when we were having a few drinks at the bar at our local hotel.
I don’t talk like that publicly. We were three men talking together and having scotches for about three or four hours. That is the truth of the matter.
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