Politicians from most parties united in Canberra recently in a rare display of bipartisanship – all in the name of the shooting sports.
The Parliamentary Friends of Shooting group was officially launched in Parliament House on March 23 to help promote the legitimate sport of shooting and counteract negative attitudes towards hunters and shooters among other Senators and MPs. More than 40 politicians from the Liberal, National, Labor and Liberal Democratic parties gathered to celebrate the new group. The SSAA was invited to attend and share information about the shooting sports and the activities of our Association, including our magazines and popular award-winning cookbook Field to Fork – The Australian Game Cookbook.
Co-chaired by Victorian Nationals Senator Bridget McKenzie and Shadow Agriculture Minister Joel Fitzgibbon MP, the group hopes to educate politicians about the sport with the opportunity to participate in range days and field trips.
Senator McKenzie – who gave a resounding Senate speech on March 5 about the constant vilification of hunters by some in society – hosted the launch and encouraged politicians to use the occasion to ask questions about the shooting sports with industry representatives present, including the SSAA. “Often sporting and recreational shooting is depicted as less of a pastime than other sporting and recreational pursuits, when that simply isn’t the case,” she said.
Six-time Olympian Michael Diamond and rising star Laetisha Scanlan, who won consecutive gold medals at the 2010 Delhi and 2014 Glasgow Commonwealth Games, attended the launch and shared their stories about how shooting has rewarded them with successful careers.
“Apart from the times when our shooting stars such as Michael Diamond and Laetisha Scanlan are winning gold for Australia, our sporting and recreational shooters and hunters can get a rough deal from some sections of the community,” Senator McKenzie said.
Liberal MP Ian Goodenough, a keen pistol shooter who first tried the sport at age nine, and Labor MP Anthony Byrne, who took up clay target shooting at age 10, also shared their enthusiasm of the shooting sports with guests.
Positive attitudes towards hunters featured on the night, with Senator McKenzie pointing out that hunting delivers significant benefits to the economy and plays an important role in controlling feral pests. “In Victoria, hunting contributes $430 million annually to the local economy, with 1500 jobs in direct employment, most of those out in the regions,” she said. “Hunting and shooting delivers an incredible economic, environmental and social benefit to our community, particularly in regional areas, and the newly formed Parliamentary Friends of Shooting is keen to show our support.”
Shooting Industry Foundation of Australia (SIFA) head and Beretta Australia founder Luca Scribani Rossi echoed Senator McKenzie’s sentiments in a short address to guests, also noting the economic benefits of the growing firearms industry to Australia.
SSAA National Chief Executive Officer Tim Bannister said it was pleasing to see a united show of support for the shooting sports by politicians from both sides of the chamber. “I commend Senator McKenzie and Anthony Byrne MP for organising this new group, and hope to see this refreshing show of support reflected in parliamentary debates and legislation into the future,” he said.
The group will attend range days and networking events as a way of showing their support for the shooting sports.