The Opposition spokesman on industry and commerce, Ian McLachlan, has won a large defamation settlement from Rural Press Limited.
Mr McLachlan began action in the ACT Supreme Court after the now-defunct Australian Rural Times asserted in August, 1990, he had shown a confidential letter on Liberal party policy to the then Labor Minister for Primary Industry, John Kerin, and that Mr McLachlan was known as the Labor Member for Barker.
It is understood the case has cost Rural Press about $250,000 in legal fees and the settlement, leaving Mr McLachlan around $80,000. These figures, however, would not be confirmed because the settlement was not to be disclosed.
However, it is known that Mr McLachlan only wanted an apology, but it was refused so it took legal action.
Mr McLachlan is related by marriage to John Fairfax, the chairman and major shareholder Rural Press. Mr McLachlan’s wife is the sister of Mr Fairfax’s wife.
Mr McLachlan got his apology. The latest issue of The Land, another Rural Times publication, says the article had inferred Mr McLachlan was a political traitor and should never have been published.
The article was run at the time when the Liberal Party was supporting the Government’s move to change the wool floor-price scheme to make it more free market. The various state National Parties were opposed.
Over the course of two years half a dozen interlocutory hearings were held.
Last week Mr McLachlan issued another writ for defamation in the ACT Supreme Court against John Fairfax Group Ltd over an article in The Australian Financial Review. (Mr John Fairfax no longer has any interest in the company.)
The article was on the National Farmers’ Federation involvement in a meat company’s fight against union demands. It made an assertion about part of the NFF fighting fund being used to get Mr McLachlan into Parliament which Mr McLachlan says is untrue. He has demanded an apology.