One Nation 'Stone Cold Sober', Not Tipsy, Al Jazeera Journalist Claims
The Australian journalist behind the undercover operation that exposed One Nation's links to the America's powerful gun lobby has refuted claims party members were drunk during meetings.
An Al Jazeera documentary, broadcast this week, featured secretly recorded footage of One Nation Queensland leader Steve Dickson and chief of staff James Ashby.
It showed the pair talking to senior members of the National Rifle Association (NRA), discussing obtaining $US20 million in political donations, and claiming Muslim people immigrating to Australia were "breaking into people's homes with baseball bats and killing people."
Dickson reportedly said it would be like a "poison" for the world to look to Australia as a model for gun control.
On Tuesday, Ashby and Dickson gave a remarkable press conference where they blamed the conversation on being "on the sauce" after drinking scotch, and accused the Al Jazeera journalist of being a "spy" who employed "James Bond" techniques.
The journalist behind the investigation,Peter Charley, has refuted that -- claiming that, besides the first night the pair arrived in the United States, Ashby and Dickson were both "stone cold sober".
"They had a couple of drinks on their first night, they didn't seem smashed or inebriated to me," Charley told 10 daily.
But I know they were stone cold sober when they attended a large number of other meetings with the NRA and other pro-gun groups in Washington throughout that week, many of them first thing in the morning.
"So to say they were drunk, well, they may have had a few drinks on the first night but they were certainly sober for the rest of it."
Undercover journalist Rodger Muller spent three years infiltrating NRA ranks, posing as a gun advocate who was campaigning for the repeal of Australia's rigid gun control laws.
Muller, who isn't a journalist by trade, was chosen for the project in 2015 by Charley -- the executive producer of Al Jazeera's Investigative Unit in Washington, DC.
"We were looking to find out what the NRA really says behind closed doors about things like mass killings in America," Charley said.
"What do they really think and how do they feel and what do they say."
Muller had all the necessary requirements, Charley said, such as being willing to travel on short notice and being prepared to take on the image of someone who was pro-gun, even to his family and friends.
Before assuming his role, the businessman was put through gun safety courses and arms training, taught how to use hidden cameras, and trained in the ethics of journalism and how to conduct himself as an undercover journalist.
Little by little, Muller made connections within the NRA's top order before approaching One Nation about a year ago.
Charley's interest in the party was to determine if it had any connections with the NRA, and whether or not the gun lobby was attempting to influence the Australian gun debate.
"They hate Australia's gun laws because they're worried those laws might be implemented in America," Charley said of the NRA.
Following the release of the documentary, One Nation referred Al Jazeera to both the AFP and ASIO, claiming "foreign interference" in the upcoming federal election.
The undercover operation also ignited debate about whether journalists operating covertly to uncover a story was appropriate -- which some critics have called "entrapment".
"I would not call this entrapment," Charley said.
"Entrapment is to sort of lure someone into a situation that they normally wouldn't enter into, you know to bring them into something and make them do something against their better judgement is entrapment. That is not the case here.
"I'm comfortable with the way we used hidden cameras, it was not a breach of any guidelines that are imposed on us. We feel that the public interest is the big issue to be kept in mind. Does the public have a right to know this information?"