It was the liquor talking, apparently.
Two officials from an anti-immigrant political party in Australia said on Tuesday that an undercover recording of them explaining the political influence that money from the American gun lobby could potentially buy was not what it seemed.
Their comments, they said, were just small talk made over rounds of scotch.
In the recording, James Ashby, the chief of staff for Pauline Hanson, leader of the One Nation party, is heard to say that his right-wing party could “own” the Australian Senate and House of Representatives with a $20 million donation from the American gun lobby.
The recording — by a reporter for Al Jazeera — was made in the United States during a trip last year, just weeks before an Australian law banning foreign political donations took effect.
The recording was revealed on Monday in the first part of a two-part Al Jazeera documentary, “How to Sell a Massacre,” for which the Australian reporter Rodger Muller posed for years as a gun-rights advocate.
Through the guise of a fake organization called Gun Rights Australia, Mr. Muller introduced Mr. Ashby and Steve Dickson, the One Nation party’s Queensland leader, to representatives from the National Rifle Association and Koch Industries during a trip to the United States in September.
On Tuesday, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said on Twitter that reports of One Nation officials soliciting donations from the American gun lobby “to influence our elections & undermine our gun laws that keep us safe are deeply concerning.”
Mr. Morrison, the leader of Australia’s Liberal Party, also accused One Nation of trying to “sell Australia’s gun laws to the highest bidders,” and said the revelations were another reason Australians should not vote for the One Nation party in general elections expected in May.
Bill Shorten, the leader of the opposition Labor Party, accused One Nation of a “betrayal of the Australian political system.”
“The idea of One Nation political party operatives going to the United States, seeking millions of dollars, promising to water down gun law protection in Australia — that was absolutely horrifying,” Mr. Shorten said.
But Mr. Ashby told reporters on Tuesday that the meetings with the N.R.A. had been about sourcing technology and gaining “an understanding of how they operate.” He said they were never about requesting $20 million, and that he and Mr. Dickson had traveled to the United States on a fact-finding mission.
“The conversations that have been recorded where there is talk of $10 and $20 million dollars — I’ll be the first to admit, we’d arrived in America, we’d got on the sauce, we’d had a few drinks,” Mr. Ashby said.
“And that’s where those discussions took place,” he continued. “Not with any potential donors. No one but Rodger Muller, Steve Dickson and myself.”
Mr. Dickson said that Mr. Muller, the journalist, had “seemed to be a very reasonable guy” — an impression he said was bolstered by Mr. Muller’s Akubra bush hat, akin to an American cowboy hat. He said the conversation was merely a product of “having scotches for three or four hours.”
“I never, ever, suspected in my wildest dreams that that guy was employed by a Middle Eastern country, by Al Jazeera, as an Australian spy to interfere in Australian politics,” Mr. Dickson said.
Al Jazeera, a satellite network based in Qatar and owned by that country’s government, said in a report on Tuesday that the documentary “provides a rare inside view of how the N.R.A. deliberates over mass shootings and seeks to manipulate media coverage to push its pro-gun agenda.”
The N.R.A. did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Tuesday evening, Australia time.
In 1996, after a gunman with a semiautomatic rifle killed 35 people in the Australian town of Port Arthur, the government introduced some of the world’s toughest gun laws.
The rate of intentional gun deaths in Australia had fallen about 33 percent from 1986 to 1996, the year of the Port Arthur massacre. But the decline accelerated after the new gun control measures were enacted, with the rate dropping about 60 percent from 1996 to 2006. President Barack Obama later cited the laws as a potential model for the United States.
One Nation’s website says that the focus of its firearms policy is to “move away from trying to criminalize firearms ownership to punishing criminals for the use of firearms to commit crimes.” Among other measures, the party’s platform calls for reducing waiting periods for handgun purchases.
In response to the new documentary, One Nation said in a statement that its members always complied with the law. It also called Al Jazeera “a state owned propaganda arm of the Qatari government that supports Islamic extremist groups and are not a legitimate media organization.”
In 2017, Ms. Hanson, the party’s leader, sparked controversy by walking into the Australian Senate wearing a burqa as a way of drawing attention to her party’s push to ban full-face coverings in public. The move drew strong criticism from other senators.