Former prime minister John Howard has weighed into the Murray and Cootamundra by-elections, warning against a vote for the Shooters, Fishers and Farmers party.
The Coalition figurehead was joined by former deputy prime minister Tim Fischer in signing an open letter urging residents to consider their vote on Saturday, saying Australians “can’t take a risk” on the minor party, who want to change gun laws.
Helen Dalton, Shooters candidate for Murray, hit back, saying, “Howard and Fisher are just trying to score political points on the back of the Las Vegas shooting. Shame on them.”
“The Nationals are trying to label every licensed firearms owner, including me, Barnaby Joyce and half their members, as criminals in waiting,” Ms Dalton added.
Mr Howard’s letter reads, “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 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.
Ms Dalton responded by saying she wanted to keep issues local.
“This is a state by-election and I’m fighting for the state issues that matter to our community.”
Shooters candidate for Cootamundra Matthew Stadtmiller agreed, saying the Nationals were dodging community issues such as police station mergers.
The letter from Mr Howard and Mr Fischer was published in newspapers across the Murray and Cootamundra electorates.