One Nation leader Pauline Hanson is in hot water after footage has surfaced of her seeming to suggest the 1996 Port Arthur massacre, which killed 35 people, was a government conspiracy.
The footage is part of a three-year undercover investigation by Al Jazeera, which also found that One Nation’s Queensland party leader Steve Dickson and Senator Hanson’s chief of staff James Ashby made the case for funding in meetings with pro-gun groups in the US.
Yesterday Hanson fronted the media, claiming she and her colleagues are the victims of ‘selective editing’ and entrapment, slamming Al Jazeera’s documentary as a “political attack”.
On Port Arthur, Hanson yesterday claimed: “There is no question in my mind that Martin Bryant was the only person responsible.”
But in the damning footage, Hanson notes she has a “lot of questions” about Port Arthur, and references “comments made on the floor of parliament.”
Here’s Hanson’s press conference damning the report. Post continues after video.
The ‘comments’ she is referring to are those made by former NSW Premier Barry Unsworth in 1987, just under nine years before the massacre that changed gun laws in Australia.
Mr Unsworth was in his final months as Premier, when a gun summit was called in Canberra by then Prime Minister Bob Hawke. It was called in reaction to four mass shootings in Sydney, Melbourne and the Northern Territory that had all occurred in less than a year.
During that time, 31 years ago, you could walk into a gun shop in Australia and buy a powerful semi-automatic for $300.
Angered by the massacres in their states, Mr Unsworth and Victoria’s Premier John Cain pushed for gun laws banning self-loading rifles.
But Queensland and Tasmania were against the proposals, and the talks for and against were at loggerheads for hours.
In frustration, Mr Unsworth fronted the media on the steps of Old Parliament House and remarked: “It will take a massacre in Tasmania before we get gun law reform in Australia.”
Eight years and five months later, Martin Bryant murdered 35 people and wounded 23 at Port Arthur in Tasmania, at a former penal colony turned tourist attraction.
It was the deadliest mass shooting in Australian history. The youngest victim was three.
As a result of the carnage, then Prime Minister John Howard, who had only been in power two months at the time of the shooting, changed gun laws in Australia with the National Firearms Agreement of 1996.
With Port Arthur making headlines this week, Mr Unsworth, who is now 84, told The Daily Mail in a rare interview he regretted saying those words all those years ago.
“I said that. I regret having said it and certainly some years later, of course, we had Port Arthur. You could see that Bryant would have had some psychiatric problem to go around and kill all those people,” he said.