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Asia-pacific

Independents back Labor's Gillard to form government

Video by Siobhán SILKE

Text by Joseph BAMAT

Latest update : 2010-09-07

Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard has announced her intention to lead a stable minority government after winning the crucial support of two independent lawmakers.

Prime Minister Julia Gillard said Tuesday she was prepared to lead Australia after reaching an agreement with two independent MPs. Gillard’s Labor Party will enjoy a majority of just one seat in the new parliament.

"We are governing with a majority of 76. We are prepared to go forward to serve the Australian people," Gillard told reporters in Canberra. Her announcement capped more than two weeks of intense negotiations after an inconclusive Aug. 21 general election resulted in Australia’s first hung parliament in 70 years.

Independent lawmaker Rob Oakeshott and fellow "kingmaker" Tony Windsor both sided with Gillard on Tuesday rather than with Liberal/National coalition leader Tony Abbott.

France 24's Fanou Filali reports from Sidney, Australia, on Prime Minister Julia Gillard winning power to form a new government

Bob Katter, a cowboy-hat-wearing rural independent from Queensland, earlier threw his support behind Abbott, giving him 74 seats and breaking the declared alliance between the three country independents who had vowed to stand shoulder to shoulder.

"Labor is prepared to govern," Gillard said. "I believe the Australian people, given the closeness of this vote, want us to find more common ground in the national interest."

FRANCE 24 correspondent Fanou Filali said finding more common ground would require a sea change in Australia’s parliament. “One thing the independents did was secure a commitment form both major parties to parliamentary reform,” she said.

The reform, Filali reported, would include appointing an independent MP as the speaker of the house, shorter questions during question time, shorter answers, and in general, a more consultative government.

“These changes will give ordinary MPs more of a voice, and will strip away some of the control from the executive,” our correspondent added.

Independent streak

"I will... give confidence and supply to government, and in effect that means confidence and supply in Julia Gillard unless, and I emphasise unless, exceptional circumstances determine otherwise," said Oakeshott, the last of the three independents to declare his support for Labor’s minority government.

Oakeshott and Windsor said their desire for a stable government, one that would last as long as possible, was the main reason they had thrown their support behind the incumbent prime minister. But Labor offered enticing rewards and political concessions to secure the independents’ loyalty.

Gillard, who seized power in a party coup just 10 weeks ago before calling a snap election, announced an extra 9.9 billion dollars (7 billion euros) in funding for rural healthcare, in a bid to win over the independents.

Another key factor that swung in Gillard’s favour was Labor’s pledge to roll out a 31-billion-euro national broadband network for rural Australia.

Gillard said she expected to seek the endorsement of the governor general, the representative of British Queen Elizabeth II, to form a government later on Tuesday.

She added that she would swear in a cabinet next week and confirmed she had offered a position to former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, who won 2007 elections by a landslide but was axed by Labor’s coup in June.

 

Date created : 2010-09-07

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