Former prime minister John Howard has sensationally weighed into state politics after signing an open letter to voters across the Cootamundra and Murray electorates condemning the “dangerous policies” of the Shooters, Fishers and Farmers Party.
The Coalition figurehead was joined by former deputy prime minister Tim Fischer in urging residents to consider their vote on Saturday, saying Australians “can’t take a risk” on the minor party.
“It has been brought to our attention that the Shooters Party may be a serious contender in the seats of Cootamundra and Murray at by-elections this Saturday,” the letter reads.
“The Shooters’ first priority is to fundamentally weaken our existing firearms laws, introduced by the Howard-Fischer government after the Port Arthur tragedy.
We can’t take a risk on a party with such dangerous policies.
Mr Howard made reference to the 1996 Port Arthur massacre, during which 35 people were killed by lone gunman Martin Bryant, and the ensuing National Firearms Agreement implemented by the Howard government.
“Since then, there has been no mass shootings in Australia,” the letter continues.
“In light of recent world events it is clear that these laws have worked well for our country.
“Those with legitimate purposes can still access the firearms they need, including farmers and sporting shooters.
“In other words – we got the balance right.”
The letter, which also supports Nationals candidates Steph Cooke (Cootamundra) and Austin Evans (Murray), marks a crushing blow to the Shooters’ aspirations for state-wide expansion and upper house presence on the eve of what is certainly the most important weekend of their short history.
However candidates Helen Dalton (Murray) and Matthew Stadtmiller (Cootamundra) were quick to return fire, accusing the former PM of simply attempting to ‘score political points’.
“The Nationals are trying to label every licensed firearms owner, including me, Barnaby Joyce and half their members, as criminals in waiting,” Ms Dalton said.
“Howard and Fisher are just trying to score political points on the back of the Las Vegas shooting.”
Mr Stadtmiller agreed, saying the Nationals were dodging community issues such as police station mergers.