‘Stitched up’: Pauline Hanson hits back over secret tape
A defiant Pauline Hanson has fronted the cameras to respond to the Al Jazeera documentary which has left her party embroiled in scandal, saying James Ashby and Steve Dickson were "stitched up".
Mr Ashby and Mr Dickson hosted a press conference on Tuesday afternoon. But Ms Hanson herself remained behind the scenes as she recovered from a tick bite on her face.
The injury reportedly caused neurological symptoms, including facial paralysis.
Her only public comment before today was a tweet, in which she said she was "shocked and disgusted with the Al Jazeera hit piece".
Speaking to the media this afternoon, Ms Hanson was utterly defiant.
She accused the Australian media of being "blinded by their hate and bias towards One Nation".
"Today is the day of shame on the Australian media," she said.
"You have come here baying for my blood, and I will not give it to you. I answer to the Australian people only."
Ms Hanson said Al Jazeera's footage was "heavily edited" and the media "took it hook, line and sinker".
"The footage has been heavily edited. The comments aired have been taken completely out of context," she said.
She labelled Australian journalist Rodger Muller a "foreign agent", called Al Jazeera an "Islamist" organisation, and claimed the Qatari government was involved.
"This is Australia's first case of severe political interference from a foreign government," Ms Hanson said.
She said she had "no problem sacking people", but Mr Ashby would remain as her chief of staff and Mr Dickson would stay on the Senate ticket in Queensland.
"He's made some stupid remarks, as we all have, but I worked so closely with this man for years to know his integrity is unquestionable," she said of Mr Ashby.
She said Mr Dickson had made some "inappropriate remarks", but he deserved a second chance.
"When I first saw the initial hit piece and Steve Dickson's comments, I was disgusted. But having watched my own comments, knowing how out of context they were portrayed to the Australian people, I knew he was stitched up."
Ms Hanson also addressed the undercover footage which showed her appearing to suggest the 1996 Port Arthur Massacre was a government conspiracy.
She said the comments were "obviously heavily edited and do not reflect how I feel about those tragedies".
"There is no question in my mind that Martin Bryant was the only person responsible," she said.
"My belief stands today that he should have faced the death penalty."
Earlier today, Prime Minister Scott Morrison committed to preference One Nation below Labor at the election, citing the undercover footage of Ms Hanson speaking about Port Arthur and One Nation's reaction to the documentary.
The Prime Minister had ruled out a preference deal with One Nation last week, but repeatedly refused to offer a decisive opinion on whether the minor party should be preferenced last, or at least below Labor and the Greens.
He said it was a choice for the Liberal Party's state divisions to make when nominations for the election had closed.
Speaking this morning, Mr Morrison revealed he had brought forward that decision.
He said he had been in touch directly with the party organisation and recommended that One Nation be preferenced below Labor.
"My recommendation to them, which they are accepting, is that One Nation will be put below the Labor Party at the next election," he said.
Mr Morrison said it was a decision he had "not come to lightly", and he had based it on his "strong view about the sanctity of Australia's gun laws".
"I have left it for a few days to see what the response of the One Nation leadership would be and sadly, I'm disappointed, and I find the response of those One Nation officials unsatisfactory," he said.
"There have been further revelations overnight also, which have led me to the position this morning.
"The comments particularly last night and the linkages to Port Arthur, I was shocked by them.
"These gun laws have kept Australia safe for 20 years and have led the world. They are one of the Liberal Party's proudest achievements."
His decision only applies to the Liberals - not the Nationals, who will reach their own conclusion on preferences.
It also doesn't apply to Nationals MPs from the LNP in Queensland.
"I haven't rushed into this decision, in the same way that John Howard, who I have been consulting with closely on this matter, did not rush into this decision when he took it 20 years ago. I have followed a similar, considered process," Mr Morrison said.
The second part of Al Jazeera's documentary How To Sell A Massacre airs on the ABC tonight, and it contains more damaging revelations for One Nation.
It shows Mr Ashby discussing how to sell a pro-gun message to Australians, who remain overwhelmingly supportive of the strict gun laws implemented by John Howard in the wake of the Port Arthur Massacre in 1996.
In polling published last year, Essential Research found just 7 per cent of Australians thought the country's gun laws were too strict, compared to 62 per cent who felt they were "about right" and a further quarter who said they were too weak.
Mr Ashby suggests targeting the pitch to women and "vulnerable people".
"It's like Vegemite. You don't put a f***ing bundle of the s*** on your toast. A light smear at first, get them used to the flavour," Mr Ashby says.
"Part of it will be let's start at women's shooting range programs, self-defence programs, whatever those things might be. Start re-empowering women or vulnerable people."
Tonight's footage also reveals Mr Dickson comparing winning the balance of power in parliament to putting the government in a headlock and holding a gun to its head.
"The thing you need to understand about the balance of power is the headlock and the 9mm to the back of the head. That's where it sits," Mr Dickson said.
"Once you say, 'We want something', we will get it. Without it, they don't get any legislation through."
Those comments echo what Mr Dickson said in part one of the documentary - that gaining the balance of power would mean One Nation had "the whole government by the balls".
He addressed that language during a press conference on Tuesday afternoon.
"I said if we were fortunate enough to get into government and have the balance of power, we would have the government by the kahunas. I won't use the word that they've said last night, it would be inappropriate of me to do so," Mr Dickson said.
"But that means very clearly, and I don't know if most men here understand that, it means you've got the balance of power."
Part two of the documentary shows officials from America's largest gun lobby, the National Rifle Association (NRA), advising Mr Dickson and Mr Ashby on how to undermine Australia's National Firearms Agreement.
Their suggested tactics include co-opting journalists to write pro-gun stories and targeting sections of the population with messages "that will get people outraged" about gun control.
"You want to put messaging out there that will get people outraged. That will get them mad. Easy to understand," an NRA official says.
The footage that already aired earlier this week showed Mr Ashby and Mr Dickson talking about soliciting funding from the American gun lobby and using it to weaken Australia's laws.
To that end, they set up a meeting with Koch Industries, a company that donates hundreds of millions of dollars to conservative political campaigns in the United States.
"They have more money than God, Jesus and Mohammed all put together. All of them," Mr Ashby and Mr Dickson are told.