The Australian journalist Christian Kerr has smeared the Shooters and Fishers Party with accusations of ‘sleazy’ politics based on the suspicions of a university academic and The Greens senator Lee Rhiannon in an opinion piece that appeared on the newspaper’s website.
While the piece is predominantly about an inquiry into the recent federal election and what he says is a distortion of the will of the people thanks to the preference deals that saw micro-party members gain seats in the upper house.
However, the story descends into a thinly veiled attack on the Shooters and Fishers Party with accusations of “shooting lobby funding” being illegally used to pay for organising preference deals among the minor and micro-parties.
Kerr says that The Australian was told of micro-party preference deals that included offers to pay for nomination fees for the election. He then uses Swinburne University of Technology academic Brian Costar and Rhiannon to assert that: “…there are deep suspicions shooting lobby funding is involved. Costar has no doubts this is the case. He suspects part of the $500 million-plus expended in the guns buyback scheme that followed the 1996 Port Arthur massacre is behind much of the mysterious minor and micro-party activity. Rhiannon has also tracked flows of gun club money, but adds financial disclosure requirements have not been fully met. Questions are met with a wall of silence.”
The accusation has angered SFP senator Robert Brown MLC who told Sporting Shooter that Kerr had not done his homework.
“I see this piece as factually inaccurate,” he said. “The journalist made several statements in there that show how poorly he has done his homework.
“He says that in 1980 the NSW Govt and Neville Wran introduced preferential voting. That didn’t happen until 2000. There is also a veiled referenced to money sloshing around from a gun lobby war chest and he seems to be almost trying to say that the money is the result of Howard’s buy back scheme. I mean, how are these people journalists? They don’t think too much about what they report.
“Costar for example, an intellectual, says he suspects part of the $500 million from the gun buyback scheme is behind much of the mysterious minor and micro-party activity. It’s a shame he didn’t flesh that out a bit more because that is ridiculous.”
Brown said that if Rhiannon had in fact tracked flows of gun club money, she would not find anything that was not already publically disclosed.
“She would find exactly what is in the Electoral Funding Authority’s published data which shows with, for example, the Shooters and Fishers Party, exactly where their funds have come from,” he said.
“The same argument could be levelled at The Greens. For years under the NSW Labor Party, literally hundreds of millions of dollars were shovelled into the environment trust. Then the little green groups all around the state would apply for grants. Someone like the Nature Conservation Council would project manage the applications for them and I have no doubt that project management fees were part of the cost for these little kick-your-can-along bush regeneration projects.
“If Lee Rhiannon wants to throw around accusations then perhaps the authorities should be looking at the flow of money going into The Greens.”
Brown also accused the major parties of attempting to reduce elections to a two-horse race with candidate nomination fees for the Upper House rising from $500 to $2000 in February this year.
“Labor, the Coalition and the Greens quietly put through legislation to increase the nomination fee per upper house candidates,” he said. “They admitted that it was to ‘simplify the ballot sheet’. Well, to simplify the ballot sheet is code for reducing the election to a two-horse race, or the Greens see it as a three-horse race.
“(Political consultant Glenn) Druery put it quite nicely: ‘Does Australia want to see a Coles and Woolworths political system?’ And do you? Of course you don’t. Coles and Woolworths appear to do everything they can to knock down the minor players and it looks as though some of the major players would love to do it.”