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08 December 2021

One thing I am grateful to former Liberal prime minister John Howard for is the gun amnesty he courageously introduced in Australia in 1996.

Twelve days after 35 innocent people were murdered at Port Arthur, Mr Howard banned automatic and semiautomatic firearms, introduced a national firearm registration system, a mandatory ‘buy back’ scheme and worked with the States and Territories to impose uniform gun laws.

Mr Howard was only six weeks into the job of being PM when he took on tough elements within the gun lobby. It was his finest hour. It has meant Australia has remained a safe country, where we can walk down any street without any fear of facing someone holding a gun.

It also means we know our children are safe from the sickening phenomenon that has become school shootings that we have seen in the US.

This past week in America, 15-year-old Ethan Crumbley, from Michigan, was arrested and charged with the murder of four of his fellow high school students, as well as terrorism offences.

Only days before the shooting, Crumbley’s dad had bought him the gun he is accused of using to kill Tate Myre, 16, Hanna St. Julian, 14, Madisyn Baldwin, 17, and Justin Shilling, 17.

Crumbley’s parents have now been charged with involuntary manslaughter because it is alleged they could have stopped their son. The US has continuously bucked the global resistance to unfettered access to guns, strenuously holding on to their Second Amendment right to bear arms.

It’s at a devastating cost that is inconceivable to Australians.

As Labor former prime minister Paul Keating aptly put it: ‘We don’t shoot our children in schools and if they were to be shot we’d take the guns off the people who shot them. The Americans do not do this.’

Just a few days after the latest US shootings, Morrison Government MP George Christensen appeared on the US far-right web series InfoWars, hosted by Alex Jones, where he urged people to protest outside Australian embassies.

Why? Backbencher George is still rallying against public health measures that have kept Australians safe and alive during the COVID-19 pandemic.

To give you an idea of the calibre of the show’s content, the title of the episode Christensen appeared on was called ‘Infowars: S.O.S. to the World — Stand Up Against Medical Tyranny!’ Jones used the show to compare Australia’s quarantine facilities to the WWII concentration camp Auschwitz.

Christensen laughed at this and said: ‘The rest of the free world, please stand with us, please support us, and every time we see people out there protesting, whether it be in front of an embassy or elsewhere, protesting for our rights in Australia, it really does embolden the patriots, the people who are for freedom in our country to stand up’.

Mr Christensen being controversial is nothing new, but it was still an eye-opener that he went on Jones’ show. Jones is a fantasist who said the 2012 Sandy Hook massacre was a hoax. He has recently been found liable in a defamation case brought by the parents of the children who were murdered in the massacre.

Just a terrible reminder, of the 26 people who were murdered at Sandy Hook, 20 were children between the ages of six and seven years old, and six were adults.

Their names are Charlotte Bacon, six, Daniel Barden, seven, Rachel Davino, 29, Olivia Engel, six, Josephine Gay, seven, Ana Marquez-Greene, six, Dylan Hockley, six, Dawn Hochsprung, 47, Madeline F. Hsu, six, Catherine V. Hubbard, six, Chase Kowalski, seven, Jesse Lewis, six, James Mattioli, six, Grace McDonnell, seven, Anne Marie Murphy, 52, Emilie Parker, six, Jack Pinto, six, Noah Pozner, six, Caroline Previdi, six, Jessica Rekos, six, Avielle Richman, six, Lauren Rousseau, 30, Mary Sherlach, 56, Victoria Soto, 27, Benjamin Wheeler, six, and Allison N. Wyatt, six.

Mr Christensen clearly had no issue with Jones as a person though, telling the host: “Good on you for standing up for freedom. You’re one of those beacons that we have around the world.”

Appearing on the show of a person who said the murder of innocent children was a hoax and their grieving parents were just “crisis actors” is disturbing. Criticising your own nation on an international media platform is just un-Australian.

Telling people to turn up and protest at Australian embassies, where the Australians who work there should be free and unfettered to get on with their jobs, is utterly foolish and self-indulgent.

There are some things George Christensen and I agree on, including the Morrison Government’s mismanagement of the NDIS.

But on appearing on the Alex Jones show and calling for protests outside our Australian embassies, I think he made a massive mistake.

So did Nationals deputy leader David Littleproud, who publicly questioned his colleague’s judgment.

A message to Scott Morrison: the behaviour of your colleagues you walk past is the behaviour of theirs you condone.

This opinion piece was first published in The West Australian on Wednesday, 8 December 2021.