GUN LAWS BACKFIRE

Australian laws have inadvertently led to the country’s resurgent gun lobby building a massive campaign war-chest — a bounty it is tipping into electoral contests.

A Guardian report today shows that more than half a million dollars was spent by pro-gun groups at the Queensland state election in order to tip the balance towards minor, pro-gun parties including One Nation and the Katter’s Australian Party. The story examines a concern long held by anti-gun advocates: that by forcing gun owners to have a genuine reason to own a gun — for instance, being a member of a shooting club — Australia’s laws bolster shooting club membership, effectively ensuring millions of dollars in fees end up with pro-gun groups.

The report comes after gun control groups and survivors of the Port Arthur massacre criticised re-elected Tasmanian Premier Will Hodgman for secretly promising to weaken his state’s gun laws. The policy was not publicised by the Tasmanian Liberals, instead being discussed privately with pro-gun advocates. Hodgman now says he will plough ahead with all the promises made at the election, including those made secretly.

KIM COULD GIVE UP NUKES

South Korean officials say their northern neighbour is willing to abandon its nuclear weapons program. The comments were made in an official statement by members of a South Korean delegation that made a rare visit to Pyongyang this week, meeting with counterparts. The statement added that North Korea was prepared to freeze its missile program if talks with the United States got underway.

The meetings this week also paved the way for further, high-level dialogue between the two Koreas, with a direct meeting between Moon Jae-in and Kim Jong-un being planned for April.

The breakthrough is significant, though the United States and other observers have responded cooly, having seen many such efforts amount to little in the past.

“Possible progress being made in talks with North Korea. For the first time in many years, a serious effort is being made by all parties concerned,” US President Donald Trump tweeted. “The World is watching and waiting! May be false hope, but the U.S. is ready to go hard in either direction!”

PM LOSES STAFFER

A staffer to the Prime Minister who accused her ex-partner — New South Wales state minister Matt Kean — of sending explicit text messages to a colleague has left her job.

The Daily Telegraph reports ($) that after making the accusation in a social media post, which was later deleted, Caitlin Keage has now departed the Prime Minister’s Office.

The news comes as an internal Nationals’ probe into the response to Catherine Marriott’s accusations of sexual misconduct against Barnaby Joyce has been leaked to Fairfax, revealing allegations of political interference in the process.

READ ALL ABOUT IT

David Warner and Quinton de Kock charged over stairwell standoff

Alan Tudge puts English tests for migrants back in frame ($)

Miles Franklin’s secret diary discovered

Fairfax’s Laura Tingle sees ‘no conflict’ in job for PM ($)

WHAT’S ON TODAY

Sydney: Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull among the speakers at the Australian Financial Review‘s Business Summit.

Canberra: Deputy Opposition Leader Tanya Plibersek speaks at the National Press Club.

New York City: Australia and East Timor sign a treaty determining their maritime border.

THE COMMENTARIAT

Ministers pays penalty for another own goal — Ewin Hannan (The Australian $): “Courtesy of a series of own goals, Cash has been in a world of political pain for months. Now she must deal with the Coalition’s biggest spruikers chiding her for being missing in action.”

CRIKEY QUICKIE: THE BEST OF YESTERDAY

Xenophon in political limbo along with a major chunk of SA voters — Bearnard Keane: “If SA-BEST maintains something like the level of support indicated in the polls, it will match or better the achievement of One Nation in 1998 in Queensland, when the racist party secured just under 23% of the vote. The difference will likely be that One Nation managed to secure 11 seats, whereas SA-BEST will have to get lucky with preference flows to pick up even a handful.”

The great, undervalued fight of socialist-feminist Zelda D’ApranoGuy Rundle: “In 1969, when the Australian Council of Trade Unions refused to support a case for equal wages for women in the Arbitration Court, Zelda chained herself to the railings of the Commonwealth Building in protest. Soon she was joined by two other women, then it became a mass cause. Three years later, legal wage equality was instituted.”

How a US judge decided ‘artistic expression’ was a legitimate defence of discrimination — John Attridge: “This comes dangerously close to recognising homophobia and other discriminatory attitudes — provided they are ‘heartfelt’ — as valid grounds for discrimination.”

HOLD THE FRONT PAGE

Peter Fray

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