Firearms on display as Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull visits the AFP Sydney Airport Office in Mascot, Sydney.

Does the Shooters, Fishers and Farmers Party (SFF) want to give guns to 10-year-olds and relax the national firearms agreement?

March 14, 2019

The Statement

“I think the Shooters Party is absolutely dangerous. Their policies of giving guns to 10-year-olds and relaxing John Howard’s gun laws are recent policies. We will not stand for 10-year-olds being given guns in NSW.”

NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian warns that the Shooters, Fishers and Farmers (SFF) party wants to give guns to 10-year-olds and wind back the National Firearm Agreement. March 14, 2019.

The Analysis

The NSW government has attacked the SFF’s gun policies saying “they are pretending that they’re not party positions – they are.”

AAP FactCheck examined the premier’s claims, reported in The Daily Telegraph (paywall), the SFF has policies to give guns to 10-year-olds and relax John Howard’s 1996 National Firearm Agreement.

The Shooters, Fishers and Farmers Party was formed in 1992 by shooters and hunters who believed the 1992 NSW Firearms Amendment Act “was designed to make them the scapegoats for criminal misuse of firearms by others”. In 2016 the party changed its name to the Shooters, Fishers and Farmers Party (SFF). 

The SFF holds two NSW Upper House seats and the party has increased its vote at every election since 2003.

In a November 2016 NSW by-election the SFF won its first lower house seat in Orange by 56 votes after seven recounts. 

An SFF spokesperson told AAP FactCheck the party was fielding 25 candidates for NSW Lower House seats at the March 23 election.

Back in 2011, the SFF introduced a bill to NSW parliament to remove restrictions on the age of shooters for air rifles, with a caveat that minors be supervised by parents. The bill lapsed.

SFF party leader Robert Borsak said in August 2017 the party “would be happy to see minor’s permits for firearms use to be reduced from 12 years of age to 10 years.”

On October 11, 2017 NSW Nationals leader John Barilaro recounted to NSW parliament a Sydney radio interview in which Mr Borsak “confirmed that he wants to see guns in the hands of 10-year-olds”. Mr Barilaro told parliament “the policy of the Shooters Party is to have 10‑year‑olds with guns on properties”. 

Mr Borsak told AAP FactCheck the party dumped the policy regarding 10-year-olds in October 2017 because of “community attitudes”. “We changed our policy in October 2017 and now support the existing age restrictions”, which allow 12-year-olds to use and possess guns, but not buy firearms.

The SFF policy shift, reported in The Australian (paywall), followed the party’s defeat in two NSW by-elections on October 14, 2017, supposedly following “scare-mongering” over the policy by the Nationals.

In February 2019, the SFF’s only NSW lower house member, Orange MP Phil Donato, reiterated the policy shift and refuted a claim by the premier that his party wanted 10-year-olds to have guns. “It’s pure scare-mongering, it’s purely trying to place fear in the community by the premier, totally false,” Mr Donato said.

The premier and her Treasurer Dominic Perrottet have however maintained the SFF has a policy to give guns to 10-year-olds.

On December 17, 2018, the premier called on Labor to rule out a deal with the SFF over its policy to lower the age limit for a minor’s gun permit. “People want to know what you stand for and I don’t stand for 10-year-olds having guns, I don’t stand for those laws that John Howard put in 1996 to be watered down,” Ms Berejiklian said.

On February 2, 2019, Mr Perrottet likened the SFF to American gun lobby the National Rifle Association (NRA). “The opposition leader is jumping into bed with an organisation like the NRA of NSW who want to arm 10 year olds with guns,” Mr Perrottet said in a Daily Telegraph article (paywall).

AAP FactCheck concludes the premier’s claim the SFF has a policy to give 10-year-olds a gun is false.

Twelve days after the April 1996 Port Arthur massacre in Tasmania, where 35 people were killed, prime minister John Howard announced a sweeping package of gun reforms.

Cabinet papers released by the National Archives of Australia reveal a May 10, 1996 meeting with commonwealth attorney-general, Daryl Williams, and state and territory police ministers broadly adopted Mr Howard’s gun control package which became the National Firearms Agreement (NFA). 

The SFF’s top two policies for the 2016 federal election were to repeal the 1996 NFA and “vehemently oppose” the establishment of a Commonwealth Firearms Registry.

Mr Borsak however told AAP FactCheck the premier’s claim, that SFF has a policy to “relax” Mr Howard’s gun laws, was a “complete lie”, as the party had also dropped that policy in October 2017 to “reflect community sentiment”.

“There is no short-term, medium-term or long-term aim by the party to repeal the National Firearms Agreement,” he told AAP FactCheck. “We’re not looking for a relaxation of the National Firearm Agreement at all, what we are looking for is a review of the administration of the Firearms Act in New South Wales.”

Mr Borsak’s claim is supported by a February 2018 story in The Australian (paywall). “After being hit with Nationals claims they wanted semi-automatic weapons introduced, the Shooters have also watered down their previous policy of having the National Firearms Agreement abolished and reworked.”

However the current policies page on the SFF website lists “review the National Firearms Agreement of COAG” as its first item under firearms. Also included are plans to oppose a Commonwealth Firearms Registry or any other federal interference state firearm laws, and expand self-defence rights and non-lethal means of protection.

AAP FactCheck concludes that premier’s claim regarding the currency of the SFF’s National Firearms Agreement policy is inconclusive.

The Verdict

Ambiguous – It is not possible to determine the veracity of the statement, or it has an equal weighting of true and false elements.  

Revision History

First published March 14, 2019 18:52 AEDT

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