Watch the above excerpt from SBS Insight Program, Episode 8, 2016, please click on the play button on the video.
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Here’s an transcription of the excerpt…[transcription starts 15: 17]
Jenny Brockie: Graham Park here with the Queensland Shooters’ Union and the National Farmers’ Federation. How did you react to the Prime Minister’s proposal at the time?
First I’d like to say you hear these stories and my heart just goes out to anyone who’s been the victim or the families of victims in tragedies like this, whether they be one at a time or whether they be in something as horrific as Port Arthur. It’s just horrendous, and I think every one of us here would like to do things to lower the levels of violence in our community, including gun-related violence.
With that said, I think a lot of the protests from rural people, and I was in Toowoomba at the time when Mr. Howard and others proposed these laws, there was considerable dissatisfaction, there were protests. I think the real reason there was so much angst and protest is that many people in rural areas who use firearms on a day-to-day basis for their occupation and recreationally knew at the time and tried to tell politicians around the country that this was going down the wrong track. The way it was done was a major mistake that has now helped create a huge stockpile of illegal firearms in this country, and that specifically occurred and they were warned it was going to occur by the way they went about it instead of a consultative way. They took an approach where they effectively started to demonise firearms owners, to attack them as if they were the problem.
When you’re using something that you use every day in your job or recreationally involved, and someone starts treating you like a potential murderer, you naturally take offense, especially when you don’t believe it’s going to make any noticeable difference, and that’s exactly what’s happened.
Jenny Brockie: Can I get a response from you, John Howard, to that?
I understand what you’ve said, I knew that it was going to cause the resentment that you have described, but my difficulty was that I knew, given the nature of political decision-making, I knew that unless the decision was implemented immediately it would wither away. That’s what happens. You say: “Right, I will sit down and have a discussion about it.” I felt from the very beginning that unless the government stood by our, I suppose, initial instinctive reaction to ban these weapons, I knew that if we engaged in some kind of generalised discussion, you would end up with compromising… You would end up with a situation where some of the state governments would resist it.
Jenny Brockie: So you wanted to take advantage of the moment to get…
John Howard: I felt that this was so terrible. This was the largest mass murder of this type in the history in…
Jenny: 35 people dead.
35 people, and it wasn’t until the Breivik massacre in Norway a few years ago that it was exceeded, and this had happened in Australia. If we had said: “Let’s talk about how we can deal with this,” you wouldn’t have ended up with the ban we’ve got. You said, sir, as I understand it, it was the way it was done. If it had been done…
It was the way it was done. It was a total insult to regional Australia. It’s still a total insult to the regional people of Australia, and we have to live with the consequences of while you paint a broad brush, people in the bush have added costs, added imposts, added restrictions that have done absolutely nothing to change their safety; and yet, we are constantly told how good it was for us. Yet, you go anywhere in regional Australia, we don’t see it. Families see increased cost, increased restrictions, we see a massive increase in feral animal problems. 720 million dollars a year is the damage done to agriculture in this country now from feral animals, so that’s increased massively since 1996.