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Shadow Minister's public rejection of the Government's proposed legislation on Mabo may threaten his Cabinet position

RICHARD PALFREYMAN: Just a short time ago, Fran Kelly spoke to the Shadow Minister for National Development, Ian McLachlan, in Perth.

FRAN KELLY: Ian McLachlan, are you threatening to vote against your Coalition colleagues if they support the Keating proposed legislation on Mabo?

IAN McLACHLAN: What I'm saying is that I can't support the sort of legislation that Keating has outlined that he will bring down on Mabo and I will be voting against it. Now, that is, if I lose and I want to maintain that position publicly, which I'm sure I will, then I won't be able to stay in the Shadow Cabinet, there's absolutely nothing new about that, that has always been the circumstances everybody faces.

FRAN KELLY: So you're prepared for the fact that you may be out of the Shadow Ministry, Shadow Cabinet, if you hold firm to your beliefs?

IAN McLACHLAN: Absolutely. I mean everybody's in that circumstance. We make decisions in the Shadow Cabinet - you win some, you lose some - but if you are going to take a public position against that combined .. party room decision it is in fact, against that party room decision then obviously you have to take a walk.

FRAN KELLY: Are there others within the Shadow Ministry who you would expect to do the same?

IAN McLACHLAN: No I don't know that. I mean, I don't know that but I decided that there was a lot of pressure on people like Richard Court's position, there are a lot of interests at stake in Australia and whilst some people took the view that we should wait for the Party decision, I didn't need to wait, I'd made my mind up - in fact I've held this view as John said, I've held this view for a long time. I've always felt that the Mabo decision would turn out to be unworkable; it has turned to be that way already and makes my position quite firm and quite clear.

FRAN KELLY: You've also said Richard Court deserves more support and should have had more support. What kind of support should the Liberals be giving him?

IAN McLACHLAN: Well it's one of the reasons I came over here was to, to make sure that people who live on this side of the country didn't believe that they were the only ones on that side of the debate. I mean, we have like interests - South Australians and Western Australians - and also to ascertain how strong was the feeling in Western Australia and to tell them that I really thought there was a touch of hypocrisy in the fact that really the Victorians and those who live in Melbourne and Sydney have little to lose in this whole debate and it was easier for them to make a decision about acquiescing to native title than it was for other people in the country.

FRAN KELLY: So you think Jeff Kennett and John Fahey have sold out?

IAN McLACHLAN: Well, I was talking about Victorians in general. If you live in Melbourne or you live in Sydney, you will have, there will be no direct claim against anything that you have an interest in under the Mabo decision. If you happen to live in Kununurra or Carnarvon or other places you are much more vulnerable and that is a circumstance that many people haven't understood.

FRAN KELLY: Some comments you made last night clearly put you at odds with Coalition policy - well at least with John Hewson's position - in terms of, I think you said that the High Court decision will necessarily need to be overturned eventually. You also said that a referendum would probably, will be necessary if the Government legislation is to go ahead in its current form. Do you stand by those two statements?

IAN McLACHLAN: I believe that and I also believe that, which I know to be true, that the Federal Liberal Party has more or less endorsed that position on the subject of the referendum in this particular context; that what it said, if the Federal Government goes ahead with arrangements which in effect remove the control of the management of the land from the States, we may have to go as far as a referendum to establish, re-establish that position. That's the Liberal Party, Federal Liberal Party's resolution at the August Council meeting and that resolution was passed 60 votes to two.

FRAN KELLY: So you're putting the referendum in the distant option category, not the near option category?

IAN McLACHLAN: Absolutely, nobody has ever put the referendum in the new option category, not anybody. I mean it's the last option. But I ... the reason that I raise it simply is to say that if all other moves fail to get this unbelievable Mabo mess sorted out, and Mr Keating won't do it, then it is the last option and it is in no other context.

FRAN KELLY: Ian McLachlan, thank you.


RICHARD PALFREYMAN: Liberal frontbencher, Ian McLachlan.