For the past two years, NSW Shooters Party MPs, Roy Smith and Robert Brown, have been voting loyally for controversial Labor legislation to secure its passage through the Upper House where the government doesn’t have a majority.

In return, Labor ministers promised Smith & Brown that the government would support legislation giving a significant extension to hunting with guns in NSW.

Recently Brown introduced his private Game and Feral Animal Control Amendment Bill, wishfully thinking that the ALP and perhaps even the Liberals and gun-toting Nationals would give support.

The Bill is an extraordinary document which will allow hunters to shoot in National Parks and privately owned game reserves.

It is being presented in 2009 when hunting is on the nose in England and on the way out in most countries of the European Union (EU) and yet it has the endorsement of some ALP Cabinet ministers who, in theory, are opposed to feudalism, foxhunting and riding to hounds.

The first major blow to the Shooters’ Bill came from the Coalition this week when it decided to oppose the legislation and introduce its own amendments.

In a joint press statement, Liberal upper house front bencher Catherine Cusack and the Nationals upper house leader Duncan Gay, said:

“The shooting of Australian native species in our National Parks or exotic species in private game parks are offensives concepts. If this legislation is brought on, the NSW Liberal/Nationals are armed and ready to move legislative amendments to make sure it doesn’t happen.”

Mr Gay said NSW National Parks and their neighbours needed a comprehensive and strong approach to managing the threat of feral animals but this should not mean new rights for “wealthy overseas hunting tourists”.

He added: “We need comprehensive and strong management of feral species including professional conservation shooting — we don’t need for NSW to inadvertently become the Safari State of the Southern Hemisphere.”

If the government joins with the Coalition to snub the Shooters’ legislation, then Smith & Brown will turn on Labor and end their previous policy of voting for government legislation during knife-edged divisions. Instead, the pistol packing duo will become hostile to Labor’s program and frustrate it at every opportunity in an attempt to extract political concessions for shooters from Premier Nathan Rees.

This will leave Labor with the embarrassing alternative of having to wheel and deal with the four Green MPs who hold the balance of power, Lee Rhiannon, Sylvia Hale, Ian Cohen and John Kaye.

This is unthinkable to many Labor right-wingers who readily slip into bed with far right outfits like the Shooters and the Rev Fred Nile’s Christian Democratic Party but view the Greens with pathological hostility.

When Bob Carr was Premier he introduced the opportunist tactic of cuddling up to the Shooters then represented in parliament by the populist radio ham John Tingle.

Carr’s media luvvies chortled about his political “brilliance” in wooing the gun lobby so that he could secure the passage of reactionary measures like the wholesale attack on workers’ compensation and bail laws.

That opportunism has come back to haunt them and now Rees is the target of a Shooters’ Party stick-up.

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey