Whatever else you may like to say about the Shooters Party in New South Wales, you have to admit that they shoot straight. They exist in politics as a pressure group and are not afraid to admit it. With them there is no pretending. They are in the business of blackmailing a government to further their cause — none of that nonsense that the Greens go on with about treating every issue on its own merits and refusing to cross trade on issues.
Currently, the Shooters have an issue they care about and, on a separate issue that the Labor Government cares about, they find themselves in the happy position of having the balance of power in the Legislative Council. Just the time to act tough.
The government’s desire is to get repealed a provision, mischievously slipped in to legislation by the Opposition Liberal and National parties with broad third-party support, which imposes a $55,000 fine on any newspaper that publishes tables based on Australia-wide standard tests comparing school performance. In return for doing so, the Shooters Party demands that the Labor Party support legislation it wants, which would allow the hunting of feral animals in national parks and the creation of a game park in NSW.
There are many in the Labor Party’s ranks who are prepared to do just that but Deputy Premier Carmel Tebbutt and Education Minister Verity Firth fear their inner-Sydney seats would be under severe electoral threat should the government do the deal. The Greens are close enough to toppling them anyway without sending them more lefties disillusioned by grubby dealing with the gun lobby. Fearful of losing the support of the two ministers in his own battle to keep the job as Premier, Nathan Rees has so far said “no deal” although his minions have been desperately searching for a compromise.
Shooters Party members Robert Smith and Roy Brown are having none of that compromise business, which would still prevent the establishment of their desired game-park shooting gallery. “As far as I’m concerned there will be no deal until the Government takes on the entire Bill,” Mr Smith told the Sydney Daily Telegraph yesterday. “As far as we are concerned, it’s not a deal. My legislation is based on the Government’s own reviews of their own legislation. They are running scared of the Greens and they are playing political stunts. I have made it clear that we won’t be supporting their Bills.”
Meanwhile, the parents will have to wait and see whether newspapers consider $55,000 too much to pay to provide their readers with information about their children’s schools.