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The Shooters, Fishers and Farmers Party (SFF) is an Australian political party. It primarily advocates for increased funding and services for rural and regional Australia, protecting the right to farm, enhancing commercial and recreational fishing and relaxing gun control.
The party was formed in 1992, and was known simply as the Shooters Party. It initially operated only in New South Wales, but has since expanded into other states. It was registered with the Australian Electoral Commission (AEC) in 2007, and contested its first federal election the same year. In July 2009, the party changed its name to the Shooters and Fishers Party, and in April 2016, the name was changed to its current name. The party has also gradually broadened its policy focus, with water and regional health care being its main focus during the 2019 NSW state and federal election campaigns.
The Shooters, Fishers and Farmers Party currently has members in three state upper houses – two in the New South Wales Legislative Council, two in the Victorian Legislative Council, and one in the Legislative Council of Western Australia. In November 2016, the party won its first lower house seat in NSW, winning the seat of Orange in a by-election; subsequently increased to three seats following the 2019 New South Wales state election. The party won the Western NSW seats of Murray and Barwon, and now represents more than half the land mass of NSW in state parliament.
The Shooters Party was formed on 2 May 1992 by journalist and broadcaster John Tingle after the New South Wales Government proposed to tighten gun control laws after a number of Australian mass shootings. Tingle claimed the new laws would prevent citizens from owning firearms for self-defence. Tingle was elected to the New South Wales Legislative Council at the 1995 NSW election in March 1995 for an eight-year term, the party's first representative.
After the National Firearms Agreement came into force, Tingle and the Shooters Party encouraged and helped organise the formation of hunting clubs in many parts of New South Wales, and in November 1996 formed them into the Federation of Hunting Clubs. The Federation is a recognised umbrella group under the Firearms Regulations, and the Firearms Act 1996 (NSW) was amended to recognise membership of a hunting club as a "genuine reason" for a firearm licence. About 90% of all firearms licences were taken out for the purpose of hunting. In the Federation's returns with the Australian Electoral Commission since 2008/09, the Federation indicates that it is an associated entity of the Shooters and Fishers Party. The Federation and the Shooters and Fishers Party share the same address, and most of the income of the Federation (about $30,000 in 2014/15) is donated to the Shooters and Fishers Party. The Hunter District Hunting Club donated a further $42,000 to the party in 2014/15. The total receipts of the party in that year were $148,256.
Tingle was elected to a second term at the 2003 NSW election. In 2005, Tingle claimed that the Sporting Shooters Association of Australia had joined forces with the Shooters Party, with Brown being a life member of the Association. At the time, the association had more than 35,000 (now has 175,000+) members and the other mainstay of the shooting fraternity, the Federation of Hunting Clubs, had more than 50,000 members. It was the basis of the powerful gun lobby group. Tingle in the Legislative Council served until 3 May 2006 when he, at the age of 74, resigned from Parliament before, allegedly due to illness believed to be cancer.
Robert Brown, the party's chairman since 2005, was nominated by the party to fill the casual vacancy for the remainder of Tingle's term which ended in 2011. Brown was re-elected at the 2011 NSW election for an eight-year term. In 2013 Tingle resigned his position as vice chairman of the party and has relinquished his membership of the party.
For the 2013 federal election, the Shooters and Fishers Party was involved in the Minor Party Alliance and its organiser, Glenn Druery, was on its payroll. The so-called alliance arranged a preference deal among the minor parties which enabled candidates with very small primary votes to win seats in the Senate. At the 2013 election the party obtained about 1% of the national Senate vote.
In 2016, the party added "Farmers" to the party title, with the name change formally registered on 12 April 2016. The party has since adopted a much broader agenda, developing policies in areas such as water management; regional health care; education; mining and energy; local government and policing.
From the 2011–2018 period, the party has received approximately $700,000 in political donations from pro-gun groups.
In the 2019 NSW state election, the SFF Party campaigned strongly on the need to change policies and management around the Murray Darling Basin (MDB). This followed a water crisis across NSW, where several towns were left without safe drinking water, millions of fish were killed in the Menindee Lakes and there were widespread allegations of water theft, government mismanagement and corruption.
SFF release a ten-point plan on water management, following consultation with farmers, water experts and regional communities. The plan called for:
- Full standardised metering and inspections across the MDB – a 'no meter, no pump' rule for water extraction.
- An audit, measure and evaluate environmental water – management of environmental water must be centralised in the one entity, and the water kept for environmental purposes only (not sold or swapped). The costs and benefits of environmental flows must be analysed and reported on.
- A federal royal commission into water mismanagement and a five-year pause of the Murray Darling Basin Plan (MDBP).
SFF argued a federal royal commission was needed to evaluate the flawed science, weak regulation and selective data undermining the MDBP; and flush out the corruption.
The party's policies were initially entirely focused around firearms, asserting that every law-abiding citizen should have the right to own and use a firearm for legitimate purposes, including self-defence, a position that remains unchanged. In broadening the appeal the party now strongly supports recreational and conservation hunting, and laws giving shooters access to public land for hunting. It also has policies relating to personal freedom, and reduction of governmental interference in citizens' lives; as well as the need for five-year reviews of all legislation. The party's current motto is "Reclaim Freedom". It actively supports recreational fishers, four-wheel drivers and other outdoor users including hunters, as well as rural activities of farming, mining and forestry. The Party opposes what it calls "extreme Green policies" and the "left leaning social reconstructive agenda" of the Greens.
The Party counts among its achievements a number of successful Bills in New South Wales. These include those giving rights of self-defence to any citizen, anywhere, with immunity from civil or criminal liability; providing extra penalties for attacks on vulnerable people; giving families of homicide victims the right to be heard in court; establishment of the Game Council New South Wales now disbanded, and legislation allowing specifically licensed hunters to hunt on public land; government funding controlled by the party for shooting clubs, and the establishment and control of regional shooting complexes; recognition of membership of a hunting club as "genuine reason" for obtaining a firearms licence; extension of minor permits from ages 18 to 12, etc. The Shooters Party also politically assists some firearms organizations and peak bodies. In 2019 NSW leader Robert Borzack stated that the party had no policies to weaken gun laws in NSW; although he called for a review of the functions and financing of NSW Firearms Registry.
In New South Wales, following the 2019 state election the party outlined its agenda that included calls for a NSW royal commission into water management, a "right to farm bill" to protect farmers against animal rights activists, and opposition to the Murray-Darling Basin plan, forced council mergers, and lockout laws in Sydney.
Before the 2004 federal election, the Australian Shooters Party was deregistered by the Australian Electoral Commission for failing to contest a federal election for four years. It was re-registered after the 2004 federal election but was deregistered again on 27 December 2006, along with a number of minor parties which did not have a representative sitting in Federal Parliament. Re-registration was achieved in August 2007. The Australian Shooters Party contested the 2007 federal election and received 0.28% of the national vote and 1.1% of the vote in NSW. The Party was instrumental in flowing preferences away from the Greens in NSW, Queensland and Victoria.
Glenn Druery who was behind the 2013 federal election preference deal successes with candidate elections on 0.2 and 0.5 percent was remunerated by the Shooters and Fishers Party for assisting in organising preference meetings and negotiating preference flows between parties. The party has been involved in Druery's Minor Party Alliance.
In May 2018, it was reported that Senator Brian Burston of One Nation had attempted to defect to the Shooters, Fishers and Farmers Party; he would have been the party's first federal representative. Robert Borsak, the party's leader in New South Wales, said that "I don't think he'd be a good representative for us [...] we're not that desperate for a Canberra representative at the moment and when we do, we'll use our own people." However, Burston subsequently said stated: "The claim that I have approached the Shooters Party is totally and absolutely false".
New South Wales
At the 2007 New South Wales state election, the Shooters Party received 2.8% of the primary vote for the Legislative Council (↑0.8%) and lead candidate Roy Smith was elected to the Legislative Council. On 30 July 2010, Smith died in his sleep and Robert Borsak was nominated by the party to fill the casual vacancy. As a result, the party holds 2 seats in the NSW Upper House. In 2009 an agreement was reached to allow hunters onto public lands in a deal with the government.
At the 2011 New South Wales state election, the Liberal/National Coalition took government but with three seats short of a majority in the upper house. The Shooters and Fishers Party held two seats along with the Christian Democratic Party, with the balance of power shifting from the Greens to the two parties. The Shooters and Fishers Party was reported to have created a "shopping list" of demands in exchange for legislative support of the now Liberal/National government, however the government "ruled out" any deals with the Shooters.
In May 2012 the party negotiated a deal with the O'Farrell government giving recreational shooters access to national parks to cull feral animals including pigs, rabbits and deer by allowing the passage of laws through the NSW Upper House to sell the state-owned power generating assets of Eraring Energy, Delta Electricity and Macquarie Generation, that were claimed to yield up to A$3 billion. Deals continue to have fallout.
At the state by-election for Orange on 12 November 2016, Shooters, Fishers and Farmers candidate Philip Donato became the party's first lower house member, defeating the incumbent National Party for the seat in the Legislative Assembly.
In the 2019 New South Wales state election, the party made breakthroughs in the state's lower house, with candidates Roy Butler and Helen Dalton winning the seats of Barwon and Murray respectively.
At the 2006 South Australian state election, two Shooters Party candidates for the Legislative Council, Robert Low and Michael Hudson, preferenced the Family First Party as well as the One Nation Party. The Shooters Party received just under 6,000 votes, or 0.6% of the electors, with a 0.08 quota. Neither candidate was elected. The party also contested the 2010 (as Shooters) and 2014 (as Shooters and Fishers) elections, increasing the number of votes in each but not enough to achieve a quota. It was deregistered before the 2018 election.
At the 2014 Victorian state election, two Shooters and Fishers candidates were elected to the Legislative Council: Jeff Bourman received 2.44% first preference votes in the Eastern Victoria Region and was elected on preferences from the other minor parties, and Daniel Young received 3.5% first preference votes in the Northern Victoria Region and was also elected on preferences. Bourman was re-elected in 2018, while Young was defeated.
At the 2013 Western Australian state election, Shooters and Fishers candidate Rick Mazza was elected to the Legislative Council with 3.09% of the vote in the Agricultural Region. Nigel Hallett was elected for the Liberal Party in South West Region, but changed to the Shooters, Fishers, and Farmers in June 2016. Mazza retained his seat at the 2017 election, but Hallett did not. Mazza subsequently formed a 'conservative bloc' with One Nation and the Liberal Democratic Party in the Legislative Council.
Current members of parliament
- New South Wales
- Robert Borsak – New South Wales Legislative Council, 2010–present
- Mark Banasiak – New South Wales Legislative Council, 2019–present
- Philip Donato – New South Wales Legislative Assembly, 2016–present
- Roy Butler – New South Wales Legislative Assembly, 2019–present
- Helen Dalton – New South Wales Legislative Assembly, 2019–present
- Western Australia
Past members of parliament
- New South Wales
- Roy Smith – New South Wales Legislative Council, 2007–2010
- John Tingle – New South Wales Legislative Council, 1995–2006
- Robert Brown – New South Wales Legislative Council, 2006–2019
- Western Australia
- Nigel Hallett – Western Australian Legislative Council, 2016–2017
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