Port Arthur Massacre
the controversial How to "Vote
John Howard as King!"
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John Howard had been Australia’s Prime Minister for about eight weeks. He had won the right to preside over the 38th Parliament in the previous 2nd March 1996 election, when the Keating Labour Government was soundly defeated at the polls.
It is not unusual for a Prime Minister to visit the locale of a disaster, as it is part of his duties to determine just exactly what assistance the Federal government can properly concede. It is also quite proper for the Prime Minister to be fully informed of the exact problems created by the disaster, and it must be expected that this did occur with John Howard. Following the intellectual tenet, Mr Howard made provisions for the survivors to be properly counselled so as to minimise the traumatic effects they had experienced. It is worthwhile noting that many survivors later commented on the absolute failure of the counsellors to negate the problems created by the Port Arthur Incident.
The next moves made by Mr Howard though are mind-boggling. The Prime Minister stated that since the perpetrator had been apprehended, it would help ease the suffering of the survivors if they did not have to experience the pain of a Coronial Inquest. By making such a comment, Mr Howard has made a legal presumption. Under Australian law, a person must be considered innocent until proven guilty. Mr Howard must have been aware that stating Bryant was the guilty person was an offence within the meaning of the Act, of contempt. Radio commentators have been gaoled for making similar remarks. Any barrister worthy of their station would immediately condemn such statements as being prejudicial to his client. No such criticism was levelled at the Prime Minister.
Such pious comments appear to come from the heart, but there are problems. Part of the healing process is to comprehend just how and why these incidents occur. By removing the Inquest, questions that should have been answered, remained unanswered and rumours abound creating more suffering for the survivors.
There was another problem with Mr Howard’s dictum, of which he must have been well aware. Mr Howard is only a politician. It is normal under State law that every death not covered by a Doctor’s Certificate, must undergo an Inquest. There are no ifs or buts about it. It is the law and the Prime Minister would be very much aware of the various facets of the law because he studied law in Sydney, his first two years were full-time at the Law School in Philip Street and then his last two years were in articles. (Gerard Henderson, A Howard Government?) Thus, the Prime Minister would have been well aware that not even God could interfere legally with this tenet.
Furthermore, an Inquest is a judicial matter. How can any politician interfere with the judiciary? He has no power to make any decision or move within such matters, but Mr Howard made this suggestion, and it was accepted without demur. Every move made by relatives of the deceased in calling for a Coronial Inquest was denied by the Tasmanian Coroner and the Attorney General, Ray Groom who was also the Minister for Port Arthur, with the advice that any Coronial Inquest was bound to find in exactly the same finding as in the Supreme Court.
The Tasmanian Coroners Act of 1995, section 25 sub section (4) If in the course of criminal proceedings a person has been charged on indictment, the inquest, on resumption, must not contain any findings which is inconsistent with the determination of the matter by the result of those proceedings. Consider that legal requirement for a moment. An Australian Court can be required to make findings that are not inconsistent with another Court. The difficulties here are that there are two different levels of evidence that are admissible in a Coroner’s Court and the Supreme Court. The Prime Minister, Mr Howard’s suggestion has been taken to the absolute letter, but where are the powers for Mr Howard’s suggestion to be accepted?
The Australian Constitution, in Chapter 3, The Judicature, states emphatically; “71. The judicial power of the Commonwealth shall be invested in a Federal Supreme Court, to be called the High Court of Australia, and in such other federal courts as the Parliament creates, and in such other courts as it invests with federal jurisdiction. The High Court shall consist of a Chief Justice, and so many other Justices, not less than two, as the Parliament prescribes."
What is noticeable here is that the Prime minister does not rate a mention. He has absolutely no power within the judicial framework.
However, Mr Howard then went even further in his unlawful actions. Mr Howard suggested the demolition of the Broad Arrow Café. Again this was under the pretence of pain and suffering of the survivors. However, the Broad Arrow Café was part of the evidence that would be required for any future court case and inquest. There are again laws set in place to preserve evidence that ‘may’ be required by any court. It is a felony, a major crime to interfere with evidence. Again the statement was accepted without demur.
However there was never any undue haste, and the building was stripped within weeks of the November sentencing. That was the extent of the demolition. The walls and floor of the original building still stand as a grim reminder to any person of the tragic events that occurred within and outside the grim construction. The suggested garden retreat has finally emerged to be officially opened on the fourth anniversary of the Massacre on the 28th April 2000. Who knows why, but the fact is the reminder, being the original walls of the building are still there. Perhaps one day the Broad Arrow Cafe shall be resurrected and become another part of the historic site for visitors to gape at.
The third move by the Prime Minister was the Police Ministers meeting on the 10th May 1996, eleven days after the massacre, where Mr Howard implemented his “National guidelines” to the various State Minister’s on what and how their new State firearm laws should comprise.
But Mr Howard is a Federal politician. He has no constitutional powers to support this foray into State matters and he was well aware of that. This point was argued very strongly with Ray Martin during the second debate, which was televised on Tuesday the 25th of February 1996. There had been other plays. The Labour Premier of New South Wales, Bob Carr had already passed legislation for his State to cede power in relation to firearms, from the State to the Federal Government. This had been done within seven days of the Port Arthur Massacre. However, the Prime Minister declined to accept this lead to accept the full Labour Party Policy in relation to National Firearms policy, and worked to retain the States rights in this matter. We were told that it was the Prime Minister’s decision, and he accepted that mantle.
However the Prime Minister still had to overcome difficulties within his party, and certain bureaucrats. This is demonstrated by the Melbourne Age, which on Monday the 29th April 1996 in a 10am special filed this report. Last night the Prime Minister, Mr Howard, led a chorus of outrage and horror when he issued a statement deploring the “tragic mass murder.” The Attorney-General and Justice Minister, Mr. Darryl Williams, pledged to press for changes to gun laws. So on the night of the actual massacre, the Federal Attorney-General or persons within his department, were well aware of the documents prepared by the previous Labor Government, and were prepared to push for the unconstitutional firearm laws, matters outside his portfolio. Protocol says the Federal Attorney-General and his department should remain silent on State issues.
Again it is proper to consult with the Australian Constitution, which under Chapter 5, The States, recognises the rights of the individual States. Section 106 deals with the Saving of the States Constitutions, section 107 with saving the power of State Parliaments, section 108 with saving of State Laws, and section 109 with the inconsistency of laws, which says, “When a law of a State is inconsistent with a law of the Commonwealth, the latter shall prevail, and the former shall, to the extent of the inconsistency, be invalid.” However this inconsistency can only be within the legislative powers of the Commonwealth, as specified in section 51 of the constitution. There is no constitutional foundation whatsoever for the demands put by the Prime Minister on the various State Ministers at the meeting of the 10th May 1996.
Furthermore, the Commonwealth is obliged under section 118 of the Australian Constitution to the recognition of laws, public Acts and records, and the judicial proceedings of every State. If however, the Prime Minister was to use section 119, which states, “119. The Commonwealth shall protect every State against invasion and, on the application of the Executive Government of the State, against domestic violence.”
Again for the Prime Minister to have any legitimate power, then the State Executive Government must request such intervention. No such request was made by the States regarding the 10th May 1996 Police Minister’s meeting. Furthermore, should such actions be held to be under duress, then again such laws are not valid, a point again raised by our constitution.
To demonstrate the two ‘prima facie’ cases of duress at this point, it must be remembered that the Victorian politician at this meeting was Bill McGrath, who had been adamant that the firearm laws in Victoria were the best in Australia, and he was not prepared to amend them. However, Mr Howard called Bill McGrath aside and accompanied by another person spoke privately to Bill McGrath, who after that meeting appeared shaken and ceded to the Prime Minister’s demand. And all this had to be completed in time for the evening news, which again must be considered as more duress. Which is more important, the proper debate on State laws or the evening news?
However, back to the private discussion between Bill McGrath, John Howard and the third unknown person. I was informed that the third person was in fact a member of ASIO. It doesn’t really matter, except when you think of it, what could Mr Howard put to Bill McGrath to make him change his stance on an unconstitutional foray. Mr Howard may not have had the right ammunition, but what did the man from ASIO tell Bill McGrath?
Of course we are informed that the threat applied to the various recalcitrant ministers would have been the loss of endorsement at the next election. This must be viewed as balderdash as any such action would ensure the minister would simply become an Independent, and definitely romp it in at the next election.
So here we have three unconstitutional, improper or illegal acts committed by the Prime Minister. However, there was not a hint of an outcry from the opposition, or the judiciary, and States who have born the forays without demur. Why? There are of course certain instances whereby the government should not inform the general public, but was the Incident at Port Arthur a legitimate case? On the face of it, there is no apparent reason why a security screen should be placed around the massacre, but the screen is there, and it’s in the form of a “D notice”.
In matters of Australian security, there is frequently a ‘need to know’ agenda. This is why most Australians are quite ignorant on such matters, which are handled by our ‘Security Services’. A “D notice” is a security notice issued from the Federal Attorney General’s department, which also controls ASIO and ASIS. Matters which come under a “D notice” are considered relevant to Australia’s security, so why was a “D notice” implemented on Martin Bryant? What has made Martin Bryant the Rudolph Hess of Australia? Can there be any other reason except that the Port Arthur massacre was a terrorist attack, and that Martin Bryant is the only known connection?
In an article written by Garry Linnell in the Bulletin in May 1999, the author visited Risdon Prison in Tasmania, to view the world of Martin Bryant. He was not permitted to speak or to photograph Martin Bryant. What Linnell did inform the readers was that the Director of Prison Services, John Dodd and the Deputy Secretary of the Department of Justice, Benbigh Richards have “decided that Bryant will be stripped of the one thing he most desperately craves: an audience.” That such an action is not only unlawful, but also outside the legal boundaries of their duties, is not questioned by Linnell, but it does corroborate the “D notice” issued on the prisoner.
In the aftermath of the Port Arthur Massacre, Mr Howard had all the necessary information, but he reacted with determination on a line, which was so full of flaws, that it was obvious to many Australians that we were not being told the truth. Think again on why Mr Howard would suddenly start wearing a flak jacket? Was it only the firearm owners that would have cause to assassinate the Prime Minister? Think of what such an act would do for the anti-gun lobby? What compelled Mr Howard to wear such protection not only at Sale, but also in Queensland when electioneering for the 1998 election? When and where was the threat made against the Prime Minister’s life?
In May 1996, the Deputy Prime Minister of Australia and the leader of the National Party, Tim Fischer had a meeting with firearm owners in Central Australia, where he said to them, “If we don’t get it right this time, then next time there is a massacre and there will be, then they’ll take all our guns off us.” Just what exactly did Mr Fischer mean by that statement? Who are they, who would take all the guns off us? What did Mr Fisher mean by “the next time there is a massacre, and there will be.”? Please remember Mr Fischer’s credentials. He is an ex-serviceman, having served in Vietnam, and has been well trained in the use of the Belgian FN, which was our armed forces rifle.
The answer to some of these questions is given during the second debate between the then Prime Minister, Paul Keating and John Howard, hosted by Sydney’s Ray Martin, on Tuesday the 25th February 1996:
Martin: What about gun laws? Are you in favour of a national
In this part of the so-called ‘great debate’, Ray Martin was pushing the NSW Labor Party’s policy in relation to firearms. Regardless of Ray Martin’s ignorance in relation to the Constitution powers of the States, the push here was for the Federal Government to usurp the States powers in relation to firearm laws. This would have one major impact on firearm laws. It is however worthwhile examining the various answers given by both Keating and Howard.
Keating: Yes, but we have a national gun law ~ and we had to
fight the gun lobby to do it.
What is interesting is Ray Martin’s question to John Howard, when Martin asks: “Are you in favour of national gun laws and a national gun register?” National gun laws are unconstitutional. There would also be doubts on the validity of a national gun register.
John Howard answers that he is in favour of very strict controls on the importation, and he is interrupted by Ray Martin who doesn’t like the answer. John Howard then states, “I don’t think it is because there are certain constitutional rights and powers in this area that reside with the States and you just can’t…”
Again Ray Martin Interjects and states, “And the Federal Government has the power to have a national gun register” John Howard replies, “I am in favour of set of laws that you work out in co-operation with the States that gives the maximum amount of protection.” Ray Martin though calls this passing the buck.
Ray Martin then moves onto the subject of handguns. There may be a problem in America with handguns, but Australia has never had that problem. John Howard’s answer is to state: “I can’t see any justification at all for people carrying handguns, and I would hate to see the cities of Australia become anything like New York. I’d hate to see it.”
If we consider what has been stated in this debate by John Howard, and then consider just exactly what Graeme Richardson stated in his interview in early May 1996, “I mean the governments in South Australia and Tasmania simply declined to take part in national gun laws the last time the Police Ministers discussed it. The Tasmanian Minister saying that we don’t have a problem down here, so we don’t need to be in it. I think everyone now seems to understand that they need to be in it, and the easiest way to get one law is to cede power to the Commonwealth.”
Eight weeks after he was elected Prime Minister of Australia, John Howard certainly became aware of the need to appease that body within Australia that was prepared to slaughter men, women and children for political reasons. What is important to consider here is that John Howard did not take the so-called easy path and have the States cede their power to the Federal Government. What Howard did was to permit the States to maintain their rights within their various constitutions, but set up a National Guideline, and also permitted the States to control their own firearms register. This is important.
With these particular understandings with the State Governments, any future Federal Government cannot constitutionally remove the rights of Australians to own firearms through any so-called signed treaty with any outside force such as the United Nations. The Federal Government does not have the power to force the States to cede their powers in relation to firearms to the Federal Government, and any move to totally disarm Australians could be thrown into turmoil by just one State refusing to be bullied into ceding such power.
It is the Australian Federal Government that is represented at the United Nations, and the treaties signed by Australian representatives with the United Nations are thus only pertinent with Federal laws and powers. The Federal Government cannot sign away State constitutional matters. However if the firearm laws were ceded to the Federal Government, then the Federal Government could argue that treaties signed with the United Nations would impact on our firearm laws, and thus permit Australian Laws to be determined outside of the Australian Parliament. We would have effectively been robbed of our sovereignty, and a dangerous precedent set. This is what the Deputy Prime Minister Tim Fischer was referring to in his speech to the shooters in Central Australia. We now also have a political agenda for the Port Arthur Massacre.
But here again is another problem. The Australian Constitution was enacted in 1900, and Federation in Australia became a reality at the beginning of the 20th Century, 1st January, 1901. The constitution does not recognise any power outside the Federation that may usurp the legitimate power of the various State and Federal Governments to implement laws within Australia. Neither the United Nations, which was created in 1946, nor its predecessor, the League of Nations that was created in the aftermath of the First World War has any credence within our Constitution.
Thus, any treaty with the United Nations, signed by any Australian bureaucrat or politician is not legally binding until the articles are enacted into law by the Australian government or governments that the treaty encroaches upon. An example is the Treaty signed by the Australian Federal Government in relation to the 'Rights of Children’ was unconstitutional because the various laws in relation to the chastisement of children were State laws. The Australian Constitution totally forbids the Federal Government from directly encroaching upon any States rights, and this was one of those rights.
What Australians had in May 1996 though was a Prime Minister behaving in a manner different from normal. It is the first time that both the Liberal and Labor Parties have fully endorsed the actions of the government of the day. Could these changes have been instigated by a terrorist attack, a terrorist attack at Port Arthur?
What we did have, was the implementation of a ready-made firearm policy, constitutionally invalid, draconian, and ignorant of many of the finer points relevant to firearms, and the implementation of actual law. Would this be the reason why so many people died and so many others suffered?
to this agenda was given by Graeme Richardson, the former Labor minister
and power broker in an interview in early May 1996, after the Port Arthur
Host, Tracy: It’s time now for Graeme Richardson, morning
“Do you believe that people like Ron Owens still have the political
support today that they might have enjoyed a week ago?”
“Well Barry Unsworth says that uh, soon the media will lose interest
in this story, if you like, if we can reduce it to a story, and politicians
will then lose their will. Do you believe that will happen?”
“Well Bob Carr passed his bill in the Lower House yesterday, to ahh,
to cede control over gun laws to the Federal Government. Does it require
that to get a truly uniform response?”
“Well if just one State holds out next Friday, and John Howard maintains
his will and his anger, he can go to a Referendum?”
“Do you believe that if there was a Referendum, then the overwhelming
majority of people would vote for uniform gun laws?”
“Hmm, okay. Thanks for your time Richo.”
In that little interview, the former Labour Federal Minister and powerbroker states the whole political agenda for the massacre in Tasmania. It is also worthwhile reading what the previous guests who were on the same show, and with whom Graeme Richardson so heartily agreed with.
Roland Browne, “we’re expecting, even though it’s raining at the moment, probably 10,000 plus people today. We’re going to have some prayers and some words about the dead, and then we’re going to hear from people who have been at the centre of negotiations with some of the government. We’ve got a very important announcement that we’re going to make at our rally, I think we could describe it as a breakthrough, and I think it is a very positive breakthrough, and I think out of this tragedy some real progress is going to be made, and we’re very very thankful for that. We have met with both the government and the opposition yesterday, and I think we’ve got some good news.”
“The gun lobby has been very powerful in Australia traditionally.
Do you believe Tasmania has turned the tide?”
“Andrew, do you agree with that?”
It is also interesting to recall the attack by the South Australian Labour Senator, Chris Schacht, when he attacked the New South Wales State politician, John Tingle who was the only politician of the Shooters Party. “I hope he recognises what his party has wrought on Australia by following these policies.” The media called the attack scathing, and accusing pro-gun groups of a campaign of political intimidation.
What is notable though is that the push for tough gun control appears to come from New South Wales. Barry Unsworth, with support from his Labour counterpart in Victoria, John Cain, were strong advocates of the policy. This must raise some concern, as it was only Victoria that suffered the two lone gunman massacres in August and December of 1987. The NSW massacre didn’t occur until 1991. It is also noticeable that the spokespersons for the various gun control bodies were all urban middleclass, university educated, persons, representing the Environmental Movement.
Graeme Richardson referred back to the 1988 election campaign of the NSW Labor Premier Barry Unsworth, with his agenda in the implementation of tougher firearm laws. Richardson states that the campaign for tougher firearm laws was not instrumental in Labor losing the election, as Barry Unsworth had already lost the election (before the firearm campaign) but many of the Labor candidates from the rural areas believed otherwise. There was also the possibility that any new effort to bring in tougher firearm laws, could see some politicians lose the will to vote for such legislation. Perhaps Richardson meant that some politicians would probably follow the desires of their constituency rather than party lines. This time it (the massacre) is so bad, it will be very hard for it to go away, and there is so much will (push) in the Commonwealth government, that there is a better than even chance that something will be done.
Prior to the Tasmanian massacre, the South Australian and Tasmanian Governments simply declined to take part in ‘National Gun Control. They stated at the Special Premier’s meeting held in Hobart in December 1987, that they didn’t have a problem with guns. Richardson now states that every State understands that they need to be in it, and should cede power to the Commonwealth. The difficulty is that if one state holds out, then people can still travel to that State and buy firearms. This is again incorrect. For a person to buy guns prohibited in one State would still require to show a relevant licence to purchase such firearm. Furthermore the importation of such firearm into a State which prohibits the ownership of such weapons would automatically cause any licence held by the importer to be cancelled.
Again to demonstrate where the push was coming from. The NSW Labor Government under Bob Carr passed a bill to cede power to the Commonwealth Government in relation to firearms prior to John Howard announcing his plans on the matter. Why would a Labor State Government be so readily prepared to assist a Liberal Federal Government in usurping State powers? Not only that, but within a week of the massacre, when there was in actual fact very little supposed knowledge of just what exactly happened. This was not another kneejerk reaction. The Victorian Liberal government was adamant that it would not be ceding powers to the Commonwealth.
This was the ceding of power from the States to the Federal Government that Graham Richardson referred to and was desirous in attaining. This was pure Labor Party policy. It also demonstrates that politicians and bureaucrats in both Sydney and Canberra, were prepared and waiting for the massacre, one that had been predicted by Barry Unsworth in December 1987, at Hobart, at the 1987 Special Premiers’ meeting, when he stated, “There will never be uniform gun laws in Australia until we see a massacre in Tasmania.”
Thus we have the political requirement for the massacre in Tasmania. The original push came from the Labor Government under Barry Unsworth. His 1988 campaign for tougher firearm laws was part of the reason why the Labor Party lost government. The rural sector of NSW totally rejected the campaign. John Cain in Victoria had similar problems and was forced to greatly reduce the push for tougher firearm laws in Victoria.
Graeme Richardson was wrong when he stated that politicians could lose the will to stand by the firearm laws. It was the voters themselves that would reject any draconian intervention into their perceived freedoms. Any politician in the rural sectors of Australia who voted for such implementations would simply lose office at the next election, as the Unsworth Government demonstrated. Furthermore most of the so-called mass murders in Australia were domestic disputes related to perceived problems with the Family Law Act, which was another Labor Party implementation. In fact there were only two massacres outside the domestic mass murders that occurred in Australia prior to 1996.
When we look at the size and the brutality of the Port Arthur massacre, it gave cause for politicians to support the new agenda in relation to firearms. It also gave the Federal Government the impetus to step outside their constitutional powers to usurp States rights. It was also noted that Queenslanders were not impressed with the Howard’s Government’s push to intercede with their constitutional rights, and called the Federal government’s reaction as “a kneejerk reaction”. The one thing the Howard Government’s reaction was not, was the kneejerk. The entire plan and policy implementation had been devised years before, and was simply waiting for the massacre to happen.
There were two items though, that John Howard refused to accept. John Howard did not demand the States to cede their constitutional powers in relation to firearms to the Federal Government, as is what the Labor Government of New South Wales proposed. Howard implemented a National policy guide from which the States could implement their own changes and thus retain their rights. John Howard also refused to implement a National register, again leaving it the States and again permitting the constitutional powers to remain.
There is one last myth to dispel and that is regarding the so-called ‘gun lobby’. The entire gun lobby in New South Wales was only able to get one member of the Shooters Party into the Upper House of the State Government. Moreover, that was the first time in Australia’s history that the gun lobby became politically involved. In strength the shooters in that state were reputed to represent only 2% of the vote. In Victoria, the gun lobby was even weaker. There has been fractional infighting, and incompetent leadership throughout Australia.
So when the Gun Control members make certain statements, it is worthy of consideration. Roland Browne stated that from out of this tragedy, some progress has been made. The gun lobby, which has been traditionally very powerful in Australia, has been finished. What this statement demonstrates is the fact that the anti-gun lobby group has now gained immense power from the massacre. They have aced their opponents, but consider the price.
However it is remembered that Roland Browne predicted a massacre in Tasmania in November of 1995, and made similar predictions of the “A Current Affair” show after the Dunblane Massacre in Scotland. Also, Professor Simon Chapman stated on the Today show on Monday the 29th April 1996 that such predictions were feasible, then a person could not help but ponder as to where these people received their information so as to give such an accurate prediction of the future.
So let us consider the political requirements to ensure that the required national gun law requirements are accepted by all States. Tasmania had stated that they don’t have any problems with their gun laws. The Port Arthur massacre has dispelled that statement. It opens the way for the removal of automatic and semi-automatic firearms. Port Arthur was an excellent example of what can be achieved on an unsuspecting population, by a person using these military type weapons. The politicians must not lose their resolve in relation to the new firearm laws. The deaths of 35 innocents have ensured that any politician who spoke out about the implementation of such laws would be open to political suicide. The attack by Chris Schacht demonstrates what any politician would face if he dared to offer any differing opinion. The situation that led to Barry Unsworth losing so many seats in the 1988 election has now been rectified. Politically, the Port Arthur massacre eliminated every possible obstacle for the ceding of State firearm legislation to the Commonwealth Government, except for one, the Federal Constitution. What happened though was that the Howard Government declined to take that particular path, and chose another, more amenable to the constitutional rights of the States.
The initial fear from the various gun control lobby groups was that Queensland would be the recalcitrant State. That situation was overcome. However, when Victoria started to alter some parts of the newly adopted Firearm Act, the screams of outrage from the anti-gun lobby were loud and hysterical. Federal Justice Minister Amanda Vanstone made some noises, but was unable to compel the Victorian Premier to change his decision on the new adjustments as they were within the National guide. There are now two noticeable differences in the various State firearms legislation. One is that even today the laws vary from State to State, and are thus not National gun laws. The second is that it is now extremely difficult for firearm owners to transport their firearms interstate, due to the non-recognition of interstate shooters licences, and difficulties in applying for those licences.
Thus, as a result of the Port Arthur massacre, the Prime Minister, John Howard came to the decision that something had to done to prevent such an atrocity to again strike at the citizens of Australia. That decision was made, as many would say, with undue haste that suggested an urgency of which the Australian people were not informed. One of the loudest voices would have been that of the anti-gun lobby. Then there was the prepared document already lodged and waiting within the Federal Attorney General’s Office, which apparently fitted the required agenda.
The SSAA would later state that the author of this document was a bureaucrat within the Attorney General’s Office by the name of Daryl Smeaton, and that he was part of the anti-gun lobby. It was also stated that this document was several years old and had been waiting for such an occasion. The main element for the document was the removal of military type firearms from individuals. In fact the new Firearms Acts did far more than that. Firearms held by the government outside of the armed Services were also destroyed, even though they would have been considered back up in any emergency, such as East Timor. The document also caused the removal of many other firearms that would not be considered military type firearms, such as the self-loading .22 rifles that have been used for generations for hunting rabbits.
It was the rural communities that were hit the hardest by these new firearm laws, those same communities that rejected the 1988 campaign of Barry Unsworth. Those communities still feel as though they are no longer part of the of Australia’s political scene. The respectable sporting shooter who had always obeyed the law not only felt the political wrath of unscrupulous politicians, but also felt they were being blamed for the Port Arthur tragedy. In the various states that had already introduced firearm registries these respectable law-biding members of society were compelled to hand over their property to be destroyed. However there were also a large number of people within both the urban and the rural communities who had failed to respect the firearm registries and their weapons were not known to the government. To these people came the belief that governments were not to be trusted, and they were not compelled to part with their weapons. Naturally criminal elements also had no compulsion to disarm themselves.
There is one last Federal Politician, or perhaps I should say member that played a major role in the aftermath of the Port Arthur Massacre, and that was Pauline Hanson. We are all aware that Pauline Hanson was the Liberal Party candidate in a strong Labor electorate, until she upset the hierarchy with comments against the Aboriginal bureaucracy. It was the disendorsement that won her the seat as the rural voters clamoured for some legitimate representation.
The attacks on the member for Oxley were always considered on the racist issue, but if the Labor view of the gun issue relating to Barry Unsworth and his defeat in the 1988 State election is considered, then a completely different picture emerges. The Labor Party was always eager to do as much damage as possible to the emerging political member, and the party she created. The Liberal and National Parties were always reticent in attacking her head on. Both sides of the government were aware of the so-called 90% voters for safer firearm laws and the 2% pro-gun voters and how the rural voters would react to any government implementing the prepared Labor firearm laws. In fact, had the One Nation Party not existed at the 1998 election, then the Labor Party would have been returned to power.
The majority of support for the One Nation came from the rural sector, and 85% of the votes One Nation received at the 1998 election were from the gun owners of Australia. Even then these voters were unwilling to give their preferences to the Labor Party for many reasons, but the main reason must be the venomous and dictatorial attack which the Labor Party led. This was the one political card that could not have been predicted prior to the March 1996 election, the election that the Labor Party knew it would lose. It would also have been unknown at the time of the planning of the Port Arthur Massacre.
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