Australia’s Prime Minister Scott Morrison insisted that foreign lobbyists won’t influence his country’s gun laws, after an investigative report alleged the country’s far-right One Nation party had sought donations and guidance from the National Rifle Association of America (NRA).
In an Al Jazeera documentary broadcast Monday, an undercover reporter filmed meetings between people who belong to the two groups. In multiple sessions, recorded secretly, NRA representatives advised on general tactics to weaken tough firearm restrictions. Al Jazeera says its reporter spent three years undercover to gather information.
One Nation was hoping to raise up to $20 million in political donations from supporters of the United States gun lobby, Al Jazeera reported. Last year, Australia passed legislation banning all foreign donations to domestic political parties beginning January 2019. The meetings took places in September 2018, before the legislation came into effect.
CNN has not independently confirmed Al Jazeera’s reporting. CNN has contacted both the NRA and One Nation for comment.
Morrison said on Twitter that Australia’s gun laws would not change.
“Reports that senior One Nation officials courted foreign political donations from the US gun lobby to influence our elections and undermine our gun laws that keep us safe are deeply concerning,” the Prime Minister wrote on Twitter.
“Thankfully, our (government) has also made laws to criminalize taking foreign political donations so foreign lobbyists cannot seek to influence our politics.”
Responding to the allegations Tuesday, One Nation chief of staff James Ashby and politician Steve Dickson claimed Al Jazeera was working for the Qatari government to undermine Australian democracy. “This is skullduggery at its worst. This is the very first time Australia has witnessed political interference from a foreign government,” Ashby said.
Both men denied they had sought funds from US groups for One Nation, saying instead they were trying to learn political techniques, but they admitted to knowing the Al Jazeera journalist and traveling to the US with him where they met with the NRA among others.
Ashby said that during filmed discussions about getting millions of dollars from US donors he had been drunk. “We’d arrived in America, we’d got on the sauce, we’d had a few drinks and that’s where those discussions took place. Not with any potential donors,” he said.
But Morrison rejected Ashby’s explanation at a press conference Wednesday. “Being drunk is no excuse for trading away Australia’s gun laws to foreign bidders,” he said.
In response to the documentary, One Nation reported Al Jazeera to the Australian Federal Police (AFP) for being foreign agents and interfering in Australia’s political process.
The AFP confirmed to CNN it had received the complaint.
Founded in 1997, the One Nation party has a small number of elected representatives in federal and state parliaments across Australia. Its policies tend to be anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim and have sought to relax the country’s gun laws.
At the 2016 national election, for example, One Nation called for security cameras to be placed in all Australian mosques.
The documentary comes at a sensitive time for both Australia and One Nation.
An Australian man, Brenton Tarrant, is in custody accused of shooting dead 50 people in a terrorist attack at two New Zealand mosques on March 15.
In response, New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced military-style semi-automatics and assault rifles would be banned across the country. Parliament is expected to act within weeks.
It mirrored a decision by Australian Prime Minister John Howard in 1996 to ban a wide range of guns after a mass shooting in the state of Tasmania, which killed 35 people. The country has not suffered another such mass shooting since.