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Visiting American conservatives should be ready to learn from us

There is an element of truth in that. Like other conservatives, the US speakers work hand-in-glove with the US National Rifle Association to fight any changes to America’s absurdly lax gun control laws. The easy availability of guns in the US unquestionably increased the chances of the latest mass shootings.

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Still, that is no reason to blackball the visitors. In fact, Australian conservatives should use this as an opportunity to point out how far apart the US and Australia are on the issue of gun control. It was Australia’s most revered conservative, John Howard, who dramatically tightened our gun laws after the Port Arthur massacre in 1996.

Coalition MP Craig Kelly, who will speak at the event, insists the American conservatives will not push for a change to Australia’s gun laws. But if they do try to foist their madness on us, they should politely be told in public at this forum that they are wrong.

Equally, Australian conservatives might want to distance themselves from some of the divisive and racist rhetoric that is fuelling tensions in the US.

Patrick Crusius, the alleged shooter in the El Paso massacre, appears to have been influenced by the same racist, white supremacist and anti-immigrant online poison that motivated Brenton Tarrant, who is accused of the Christchurch mosque shootings. Even more worryingly, Crusius’ social media posts echoed anti-immigrant and racist lines about a migrant “invasion” used on the Fox News channel and by President Donald Trump.

Australian conservatives may share a concern about illegal immigration but they should tell their US friends very clearly that Australia is a multicultural country that has been built by immigrants of all races. Anything that smacks of white supremacism is not on here.

It will be interesting to see how these tensions between conservatives here and the US play out. Australia shares many values with America, but there are also crucial differences. Australian conservatives like low taxes, too, but they endorse gun control, Medicare and a non-discriminatory immigration program.

If the American conservatives come here, they may teach us something but they should be prepared to learn something, too.

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