For the shooting community, confronted by ongoing prejudice in sections of the media and community, it’s encouraging to have understanding friends in high places, something amply demonstrated at the re-launch of the Parliamentary Friends of Shooting Group in the new federal parliament.
This is a group drawn from across the political spectrum - though the Greens are unsurprisingly absent - and co-chaired by Nationals Victorian Senator and Agriculture Minister Bridget McKenzie and Victorian Labor MP Rob Mitchell. The launch event at Parliament House in Canberra was sponsored by the Shooting Industry Foundation Australia (SIFA) with support from SSAA, Shooting Australia, Australian Clay Target Association and Field and Game Australia.
Senator McKenzie said the Parliamentary Friends of Shooting Group was set up five years ago to promote shooting and hunting and their environmental, economic and health benefits and it had made a difference to conversation around the sport. She said Australians were accomplished shooters as their performances at successive Olympics had demonstrated.
“I want to talk about my love of this sport and a million Australians’ love of this sport,” she said. “Our proudest day was when every major Australian newspaper had a girl on the front page, a gold medal round her neck and a shotgun over her shoulder.”
Mr Mitchell said despite their differing political views, a passion for shooting brought the parties together. “We both know how important the entire shooting industry is to Australia. Whether it be the Olympics, hunting or in environmental controls, we know the people involved are always there doing the right thing for the community and the right thing by the sport and the industry,” he said.
The benefits were explained in a report commissioned by Senator McKenzie as the previous Minister for Sport and released in September, which showed the Australian economy is $2.4 billion and tens of thousands of jobs better off as a result of recreational hunting and sports shooting, while shooters were happier and healthier than the general population.
“That’s because we get outside, we’re hanging with our mates, loving and respectful of nature and what we do in our sport,” Senator McKenzie said. “Arm yourself with this report. It was done so we have hard data against the haters, against the Greens and those who would seek to shut down what we do.”
In the type of negative media reporting with which shooters are all too familiar, Ten network’s The Project put the boot in recently. Among much else, their sneering and biased report showed a shooter firing an SKS semi-automatic rifle, which was banned in 1996, and the Elmer Fudd cartoon character carrying a shotgun and declaring he was hunting “wabbits”.
Interviewees included anti-duck hunting activist Laurie Levy who declared it a waste of money, and SIFA’s Laura Patterson who valiantly put the case for sporting shooters. Senator McKenzie said there were people throughout the community and our workplaces whose preferred recreational activities were hunting and shooting but there was still encountered prejudice.
“If you saw The Project’s response to the release of our economic and social benefits of hunting and shooting to the Australian economy, which I commissioned as sports minister, you will see the prejudice still exists,” she said. “It insists young Australians should not be able to be taught how to safely use a firearm, shouldn’t be able to learn how to shoot clay targets or pistols or hunt to sustainably gather food. That prejudice still exists.”
Senator McKenzie had her weekend away from Canberra all planned out. “I’m heading out to get Christmas dinner and can’t wait, for a whole lot of reasons, to be out in the bush with family and friends harvesting sustainable food,” she said.
Special guests at the event were James Willett, gold medallist in the Trap event at this year’s ISSF World Cup in Mexico and Penny Smith, gold medal winner at the ISSF World Cup in Finland. Both are contenders for the Australian team at next year’s Tokyo Olympics.
To win gold in Mexico and become world champion, Willett shot 125 out of 125 targets and when asked what was going through his mind as he prepared for his final target he said: “It’s exactly what you think it is - you don’t want to miss this last one.”