Giving their first televised interview since it emerged that two key One Nation figures lobbied for party funding from American pro-gun groups, Pauline Hanson’s Chief of Staff James Ashby admitted he was “on the sauce” during talks with the likes of the National Rifle Association of America (NRA).
Hanson’s party was rocked on Tuesday morning when footage emerged of Ashby and Dickson sitting down with pro-gun officials during meetings that took place last September in Washington DC, in which Ashby could be heard claiming that donations of US$20 million (AU$28 million) would allow you to “own the Australian Parliament”.
Speaking in Brisbane on Tuesday afternoon, Ashby declared he was “on the sauce” at the time, adding that the meetings were never about sourcing money from the pro-gun organisation, rather about techniques and technology that could potentially have benefitted PHON.
“We arrived in America, we got on the sauce, we’d had a few drinks,” Ashby said. “That’s where those discussions took place. Not with any potential donors.”
Ashby appeared alongside Dickson, who added: “Yes we’d had a few drinks, maybe we shouldn’t of in hindsight.”
Ashby also used the appearance to call on Al-Jazeera to release the full footage of the secretly recorded meetings, claiming that they want “all the facts out”.
He added: “We would like Al-Jazeera to release all the footage. On those secret recordings that were made, we were not going to water down any of Howard’s legislation. Steve had said it, I had said it. We said it is not going to happen. You are not putting forward the full facts, that’s what’s being required. We want the facts out.”
— 7NEWS Brisbane (@7NewsBrisbane) March 26, 2019
The pair also told reporters that Hanson was “quite ill”, accounting for her absence from the press conference in the Queensland capital, with Ashby adding that Pauline has since said she “never would have accepted” any cash from the NRA.
Dickson went on to say that he did not want to change any of Australia’s existing gun laws, despite going on to say that he would like to see more guns in the hands of the Australian people. He also admitted that he and Ashby “were had” by Muller.
He also branded Muller a “spy” who was hired to “infiltrate Australian politics”.
The footage, which will air on the ABC tonight in the first episode of How to Sell A Massacre, was covertly recorded by an undercover journalist from Al-Jazeera’s Investigative Unit, showing Ashby claiming that a sum of that magnitude would allow you to “own” the Australian Parliament, with Dickson adding: “You would have the government by the balls.”
Airing in two parts, How to Sell A Massacre shows the pair discussing changing Australia’s strict gun laws which ban members of the public from owning automatic and semi-automatic weapons.
In a teaser clip, Dickson can be heard telling NRA members at a meeting in Washington DC last September: “If we don’t change things, people are going to be looking at Australia and go ‘Well, it’s OK for them to go down the path of not having guns, it’s OK for them to go down that politically-correct path.’ And it’s like a poison – it will poison us all unless we stop it.
Undercover reporter Roger Muller posed as a pro-gun advocate to conduct the investigation, initially seen at the start of the first episode in the audience at one of Pauline Hanson’s party meetings in Queensland. Al-Jazeera even created Gun Rights Australia as a front for their elaborate investigation.
Muller initiated contact with Ashby and used his links with pro-gun groups in America to arrange a meeting with the political party, having already rubbed shoulders with senior gun lobbyists in the US and even Donald Trump Jr. In return, Ashby allegedly promised to loosen Australia’s anti-gun laws.