Tim Fischer says he’s “sick and tired” of Americans being warned about a potential terrorist attack in Sydney given the US is unable to control its deadly gun culture.
As the latest mass shooting unfolds in California, the former deputy prime minister – who led the charge for tighter gun control laws alongside prime minister John Howard – questioned the “one way” nature of the alliance when the US issued terrorism travel warnings about Australia.
“Three hundred and fifty two mass shootings in the USA so far this year but about 80 a day you don’t hear about,” Mr Fischer told ABC News on Thursday.
“All [are] unacceptable because the US is not stepping up on the public policy reform front. But have we not reached the stage where the Smart Traveller advice of [the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade] needs to be muscled up?”
Mr Fischer said a person is 15 times more likely to be shot dead in the US than in Australia and that travel advice should reflect this, as it does for Mexico.
“It’s time to call out the USA,” he said.
Mr Fischer said Australia’s alliance with the US has been “too much one way” and suggested Australia start preventing delegates from attending conferences there, as well as a “streamlining” of the annual ‘G’day LA’ event.
“I’m a bit sick and tired of the US chucking handballs at us, putting into their travel advice that it’s not safe to go to Sydney [after the Paris massacre]”, Fischer said.
The current advice of DFAT’s Smart Traveller website for the US warns the country has a “generally higher incidence of violent crime, including incidences where a firearm (gun) is involved”.
It adds that there are significant variations between different areas and recommends visitors exercise “normal safety precautions”.
Mr Fischer also singled out the NRA, the powerful gun lobbying group.
“The NRA in particular needs to be called out for their unacceptable blockage of any sensible reform, including [ammunition] magazine limitation,” he said.
As leader of the Nationals, Mr Fischer campaigned with John Howard in the wake of the 1996 Port Arthur massacre to dramatically tighten gun control laws. This included the mass buyback of over 600,000 firearms.
The government faced extreme opposition, particularly from traditional Coalition voters. In one incident, an effigy of Mr Fischer was hanged in the Queensland town of Gympie.
Thirty five people were killed and 23 injured when Martin Bryant went on a shooting spree at the Port Arthur prison colony in Tasmania, a popular tourist destination.
Since the mid-1990s, Australia’s firearm mortality rate has dropped from 2.6 per 100,000 people to just under one per 100,000, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics. The rate in the US is more than 10 per 100,000, according to the US National Vital Statistics Report.
In the 18 years leading up to the Port Arthur massacre, there were 13 mass killings in Australia. There have been zero in the 19 years since.
Copyright © 2015 Fairfax Media
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