Pauline Hanson has implied that the 1996 Port Arthur massacre was a government conspiracy, in comments recorded secretly by al-Jazeera.
The second part of al-Jazeera’s undercover operation also reveals senior One Nation figures discussing how Australia’s strict gun laws would need to be watered down over time, and being advised by the US gun lobby to exploit stories about so-called “African gangs” to make the case for gun ownership.
A One Nation state leader is also shown discussing donations with representatives of multinational energy giant Koch Industries, and telling them that with more funding, the party could “change the voting system” in Australia.
Hanson slammed the documentary as a “political attack” by al-Jazeera and the ABC on Thursday afternoon, claiming she and her colleagues were the victims of selective editing and entrapment, and calling for broadcast of the second half of the documentary to be stopped.
Hidden camera footage, released as part of a documentary that also revealed One Nation had sought a US$20m (A$28m) donation from the US gun lobby, showed Hanson saying she had “a lot of questions” about Port Arthur.
“An MP said it would actually take a massacre in Tasmania to change the gun laws in Australia,” Hanson told the al-Jazeera reporter Rodger Muller.
“Haven’t you heard that? Have a look at it. It was said on the floor of parliament. I’ve read a lot and I have read the book on it, Port Arthur. A lot of questions there.”
The comments provoked fury from Labor and the Greens, who renewed calls for the Coalition to repudiate One Nation by preferencing the far-right party last.
On Thursday the prime minister, Scott Morrison, made a concession to that pressure, announcing the Liberal party would place One Nation below the Labor party on its how-to-vote cards.
“The linkages to Port Arthur, I’m sure all Australians would be shocked about,” Morrison said.
“I was shocked by them and, you know, these gun laws have kept Australia safe for 20 years and had led the world and it’s one of the Liberal party’s most proud achievements together with the National party and when it comes to this issue, we cannot allow it to be compromised or sliced away.”
In new footage to be broadcast on the ABC on Thursday evening, Queensland One Nation leader, Steve Dickson, and Hanson’s chief of staff, James Ashby, are seen meeting with senior figures from the National Rifle Association (NRA) to discuss their public relations strategy.
Glen Caroline, director of grassroots operations at the NRA, tells the men it is probably an “an unrealistic goal to wipe out a national gun ban overnight” and suggests they instead “work around the margins”.
Ashby later describes a strategy akin to giving someone a taste for Vegemite.
“You don’t put a fucking bundle of the shit on the toast, you put a light smear first,” he says. “Get them used to the flavour.”
Later in the documentary, Hanson says she didn’t think it would be “politically smart” to join Ashby and Dickson on the US trip because of how the issue could be used against her, and that she needed to take “baby steps”.
“I have to get more people elected to the parliament, which I will after this next federal election … then these are things that can be looked at.”
NRA officials also advised the men about emulating their media strategy to make the case for gun ownership, including ghostwriting articles in newspapers and capitalising on crime stories.
Dickson tells one meeting “we have African gangs now that have been imported into Australia” who are “coming into the house with baseball bats to steal your car”.
An NRA official tells the men “every time there’s a story there about African gangs coming in with baseball bats, a little thing you put out there, maybe at the top of a tweet or a Facebook post, or whatever … ‘not allowed to defend their home’ … boom.”
According to the footage, Dickson and Ashby also met with representatives of Koch Industries to discuss donations.
“What you can do to help us, it’s going to get down to money at the end of the day,” Dickson is filmed saying.
“We can change the voting system in our country, the way people operate, if we’ve got the money to do it. We’ve got the people, we’ve got the momentum, we’ve got senator Pauline Hanson … the ingredients are there, we just don’t have the petrol to put in the engine. Whatever you could do would be fantastic.”
The meetings took place before the federal parliament voted to ban foreign political donations. There is no evidence any of the groups approached by One Nation made donations to the party.
Hanson said on Thursday she was standing by both Ashby and Dickson, whom she said had been stitched up by the documentary creators.
She also said her comments about Port Arthur had been “heavily edited” and that there was “no question in my mind that Martin Bryant was the only person responsible for the murders of 35 innocent lives”.
Labor MP Brian Mitchell, who represents Port Arthur, said Hanson “is not fit to represent the Australian public in the Senate … or anywhere”.
The Greens leader, Richard Di Natale, said the comments were “disgraceful and disrespectful to the many victims of the Port Arthur massacre”.
While inner-city Liberal MPs including Kelly O’Dwyer, Tim Wilson and John Alexander have condemned One Nation, conservatives including the Nationals deputy leader, Bridget McKenzie, and the human services minister, Michael Keenan, have claimed the Greens are worse from their constituencies.
The New South Wales One Nation leader, Mark Latham, has distanced himself from the federal party, telling Channel Seven’s Sunrise that he has supported John Howard’s gun laws for 23 years and there has been “no attempt” to water them down by One Nation in his state.
Latham said Hanson had never raised questions over Port Arthur with him, adding “we should feel lasting sympathy to the things that happened that day”.
Earlier footage released by al-Jazeera showed Dickson and Ashby speaking to the undercover reporter about potential donations.
The men later claimed they were “on the sauce” when the conversation took place, but on Wednesday Morrison said being drunk was no excuse. He urged Australians to abandon the conservative minor party.
“Being drunk is no excuse for trading away Australia’s gun laws to foreign bidders,” Morrison told reporters.
In al-Jazeera’s footage, Dickson said One Nation could get the government “by the balls” through holding the balance of power in both houses if they could get millions in funding.
Hanson broke her silence on Wednesday, saying she was shocked and disgusted with the “hit piece”.
“A Qatari government organisation [al-Jazeera] should not be targeting Australian political parties. This has been referred to Asio,” she tweeted.
The One Nation leader has been suffering from a tick bite on her face for the past week, but was expected to appear in public on Thursday.
Ashby said the pair spoke only with Muller about the potential US$20m in donations.
Muller posed as the head of fake lobby group Gun Rights Australia and facilitated the One Nation meetings with the NRA.
Ashby accused Muller, who is Australian, of being a “Middle Eastern spy”.
Hanson’s office has been contacted for further comment.
Australian Associated Press contributed to this report.