by editor | 7th September 2010 9:15 am
Labor’s Julia Gillard to form minority government in Australia
Labor wins backing of two independent MPs, allowing Gillard to remain as prime minister
Labor’s Julia Gillard will form a minority government in Australia after gaining the support of two independent MPs today. Labor won the backing of Tony Windsor and Rob Oakeshott, while Bob Katter came out for Tony Abbott, the Liberal leader who hoped to lead a conservative coalition.
This gave Gillard the support of 76 MPs, which will allow her to form a minority government and give Labor a second three-year term. Seventy-four MPs now back the opposition.
The closely contested 21 August federal elections failed to give any party a majority for the first time since 1940.
Gillard, who was born in Wales, became Australia’s first female prime minister in June when Labor overthrew Kevin Rudd, who had lost the support of his party.
Last week, another independent, Andrew Wilkie came out for Labor. He had negotiated separately from the three MPs from rural areas who announced their support today. Gillard signed a deal with the Greens on climate change policy in exchange for their support.
Climate change policy has dogged Labor since Rudd was unable to get his emissions trading scheme through parliament, marking the start of his fall in popularity.
Both Labor and the Liberal/National coalition won 72 seats in the election, leaving the parliament deadlocked until today.
Gillard can now continue with her plans to introduce a 30% tax on iron ore and coal miners’ burgeoning profits and make Australia’s biggest polluters pay for carbon emissions.
Windsor and Oakeshott, who have both championed better communications infrastructure for rural areas, said Labor’s plan to introduce a A$43bn (£25.6bn) high-speed optical fibre national broadband network was a major factor in their decision.
Abbott’s Liberal party had promised a smaller, slower A$6bn network with a range of technologies including optical fibre, wireless and DSL.
“What this is is a hard decision,” Oakeshott told reporters. “There’s no question about that. And, on my end, it has been an absolute line-ball, points decision, judgment call; six of one, half-dozen of the other. This could not get any closer.”
Windsor said he believed Gillard was more likely than Abbott to work constructively with the independents and govern for a full three-year term rather than call an early election.
During intense negotiations with the independents, both Gillard and Abbott had promised that, if they could form a minority government, they would not later call an early election in the hope of winning an outright majority.
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