Many shooters will have thumbed through Hot Products, the annual publication by Queensland firm Nioa, checking out the latest guns and gear from Australia’s largest importer and distributor of firearms and accessories. The latest edition runs to almost 500 pages. From a small gunshop and import business set up in 1973 in a service station in Gladstone by Bill Nioa, father of current managing director Robert Nioa, the company is now a significant and growing player in the national defence industry.
Nioa supplies the Australian Defence Force with a range of equipment and munitions, imported and also produced at its plants at Benalla and Maryborough and comes in at No.26 in Australia’s Top 40 defence companies according to rankings compiled each year by Australian Defence Magazine. To sporting shooters Nioa is perhaps better known as distributor of Glock handguns, Leupold optics, RCBS reloading equipment, Federal and Lapua ammunition and components and much more.
But not everyone is happy about Nioa’s success. In February, protesters under the umbrella of activist group Wage Peace set-up shop outside Nioa’s facility in Pinkenba, Brisbane waving placards and doing what protesters do. “When ordinary citizens take action on sites such as the Nioa factory it provides concrete information about real people going about their everyday preparation for war crimes,” the group says on its website.
“This action by Wage Peace at Pinkenba draws attention to the fact that Nioa is not just a typical Queensland company and helps to expose the weapons companies’ interest in promoting violent conflicts to sell their products.” A photo produced by the group shows a protester wearing a black T-shirt emblazed with ‘No War’ holding up a placard saying ‘Merchant of Death’ in front of the Nioa building. This seems to confirm that at least two protesters were present. Activists also put in similar appearances outside the offices of other defence companies in and around Brisbane, having no other impact whatsoever beyond exercising their moral vanity.
Nioa is a big company and well capable of taking care of itself. Yet gleefully reporting these protest activities was Green Left who noted Nioa also featured in an article revealing a National Rifle Association-style (NRA) gun lobby was flourishing here. “The Australia Institute report also notes that firearms suppliers and their affiliates, such as shooting and hunting clubs and gun advocates, have made significant political donations, run campaigns to influence voters and encouraged the election of pro-gun cross benchers,” says the Green Left report. “It found the Sporting Shooters’ Association of Australia (SSAA) had almost as many members per capita as the NRA with almost 200,000 members and an estimated income of $18 million a year.”
But wait, haven’t we heard all this before. Of course we have – in reports released by The Australia Institute in March 2019. Though it claims to be independent, The Australia Institute is closely aligned with The Greens with senior personnel being former Greens staff members and political candidates. The Australia Institute’s report entitled Point blank: Political strategies of Australia’s gun lobby was actually commissioned by Gun Control Australia.
Also commissioned by Gun Control Australia – with contributions from GetUp! members – was another Australia Institute report released around the same time entitled Hunters and collectors: Gun use and ownership in Australia. For a report on Australian gun owners this made some truly bizarre observations, including one that gun owners chose their guns to match their outfits such as when going to the beach – clearly drawn from US research.
This all shows the curious associations between so-called progressive, left-leaning organisations which are fundamentally anti-gun but whose agendas don’t entirely match organisations such as Gun Control Australia. The Green Left article on Nioa, with its reference to the Australia Institute reports, repeated straight from the Wage Peace website.
Wage Peace is an activist peace group for every conceivable peace-related progressive cause including #FreeAssange etc. Their embrace of the Australia Institute/Gun Control Australia discussion papers seems to be tangential to their fundamental agenda, their website claiming they provide strategic messaging and digital campaign support for campaigns and groups disturbing war and militarism in Australia. “We ‘organise’ and ‘mobilise’ to #EndWarCulture,” they say.
Wage Peace’s big current campaign, endorsed by Green Left, is directed at the Land Forces conference to be held in Brisbane at the start of this month. This is an expo by defence companies selling or keen to showcase their technology to the Australian and other armies. It’s not a gun show, though a number of companies such as Nioa which sell their products to Australian shooters will be exhibiting. Land Forces is not open to the general public.
Green Left used to be Green Left Weekly, a printed newspaper founded in 1990 and now also published online. Despite the name, Green Left has no formal association with The Greens political party though they appear to share common views. Green Left is actually a creature of the far left, described in its Wikipedia entry as the de facto newspaper of the Socialist Alliance which was founded in 2001 as a loose alliance of socialist organisations, including Democratic Socialist Perspective and the International Socialist Organisation.
Political scientists will appreciate that over the years Australia has been home to a bewildering array of communist and socialist groupings of divergent allegiance and agendas, small memberships, rising and fading in accordance with world events and the interests of their adherents. A significant shakeout occurred with the end of the Cold War and dissolution of the Soviet Union.
Some Australian commentators have suggested various former socialists/communists saw a brighter future with new and rising party The Greens (now The Australian Greens) which emerged from Tasmanian environmental protests in the 1980s. At least one who did was Lee Rhiannon, a former Greens senator (2011-18), NSW Greens MP (1999-2010) and long-time gun control activist.
Before signing with The Greens she was a members of the Communist Party of Australia (CPA) and Socialist Party of Australia and on leaving federal politics she returned to her roots as a committee member of the Search Foundation, legal successor to the CPA. Her speech last year for an event called Rising Peace is printed in full on the Wage Peace website.
“With Premier O’Farrell up to his elbows in pro-gun culture there is a role for the Federal Government to step in to ensure the good work started by former Prime Minister John Howard in the aftermath of the Port Arthur massacre is not undermined,” she said in a media release attacking the NSW State Government in 2012, one of many cited in the gun control section of her website.
Although its agenda is more anti-capitalist, Green Left is scarcely pro-gun, giving gushing endorsement to The Australia Institute papers such as its report on the gun lobby and steps to reduce its influence. “These are all practical measures which would help undercut the gun lobby’s lack of transparency and its profiteering from illegal arms dealing (in Australia, this is mostly legally imported firearms which are subsequently diverted or lost to the black market by lawful owners),” it says.
“The public health benefits from such reforms could include a decline in the number of gun accidents, homicides, mass shootings and the use of guns in domestic violence abuse. And that would be a good thing for public health in this country.”