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National Party Leader plays down Senator Boswell's opposition to three-cornered contests in Queensland at the next Federal election

ELLEN FANNING: The National Party Leader, Tim Fischer, was also at the conference. He's playing down this dispute. He also spoke to Catherine Job.

CATHERINE JOB: Tim Fischer, isn't this just the sort of brush fire you don't need five months out from a Federal poll?

TIM FISCHER: It should be seen in perspective. There will be a whole lot less three-cornered contests compared to the 1993 elections. There has been for the last few elections a three-cornered contest at the Senate level in Queensland. In the absence of a joint Senate ticket being offered, Ron Boswell made his campaign declaration, and that is the circumstance.

CATHERINE JOB: Is he right, though, when he says that the Nationals are bending over backwards; they're making all the sacrifices and the Liberals just aren't returning in kind?

TIM FISCHER: Well, the out-going National Party President, Don McDonald, made a very comprehensive offer by letter to the Liberals. These are Queensland organisational matters and the negotiations will continue in the terms of working through the seat-by-seat Lower House situation, I should think.

CATHERINE JOB: But as Federal National Party Leader, you'd like to see the Liberals in Queensland compromise a bit, wouldn't you?

TIM FISCHER: I'd like to see that there is agreement to maximise co-operation there. There will in fact be that. There will be less three-cornered contests than previously, but there still will be some three-cornered contests, as there is each election, and just as well because it was through the three-cornered contest in Hinkler with Paul Neville that we scored a very big win at the last elections.

CATHERINE JOB: Just the same, it doesn't sound much like co-operation when you've got one of your most senior people in Queensland urging National Party supporters not to lift a finger for the Liberals in the Senate election.

TIM FISCHER: Ron Boswell said that we must hand out our own cards in those three-cornered contests....

CATHERINE JOB: He said you must not hand out Liberal ones.

TIM FISCHER: ...to maximise the Senate vote, of course remembering that every second preference on those cards go to the Liberal Party and vice versa.

CATHERINE JOB: Should Senator Boswell be disciplined for speaking out in such forceful terms against your Coalition partner, so close to a Federal poll?

TIM FISCHER: Senator Boswell was merely declaring his campaign open for the Senate in the absence of a joint Senate ticket. Offers were made, negotiations will still continue with regard to some other details. There will be absolute co-operation. The Coalition overall is working well, but you must remember, as in every other election, there will still be a number of three-cornered contests, but they'll be sensibly conducted by both the Liberal and National parties where the main focus will be on the defeat of Labor as, in fact, Ron Boswell emphasised himself.

CATHERINE JOB: Is John Howard going to wake up this morning to a sense of deja vu - it's the Queensland Nationals stymieing his chances again?

TIM FISCHER: No way. And, indeed, ever attempt by some elements to blow this up will be defeated because of the firm over all approach we have in the knowledge that there was, of course, no joint Senate ticket in Queensland for the last four or five elections at the Senate level. I wish there was, but that's not to be the case as things stand and we, therefore, just get on with the job and keep the main focus and fight on the Government and its atrocious record, particularly in regional Australia.

ELLEN FANNING: The National Party Leader, Tim Fischer.