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Updated: September 6, 2010 18:02 IST

Lawmakers meet with Australia's potential PMs

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Australia Prime Minister Julia Gillard during a press conference in Canberra. File Photo
Australia Prime Minister Julia Gillard during a press conference in Canberra. File Photo

Three kingmaker independent legislators are set to announce on Tuesday whom they will elect prime minister of Australia’s first minority government in almost seven decades after their final meetings with the rival political leaders.

Three lawmakers, Tony Windsor, Robb Oakeshott and Bob Katter, hold the key to whether Prime Minister Julia Gillard’s center—left Labour Party governs for a second term, or is replaced by opposition leader Tony Abbott’s conservative coalition after the August 21 elections failed to deliver any party a majority for the first time since 1940.

They met with both leaders at Parliament House on Monday and signed off on reforms to parliamentary rules that reduce governments’ dominance.

Their final obstacle to making a decision was resolved late on Monday when maverick conservative lawmaker Tony Crook confirmed that he would support Mr. Abbott’s coalition, but as an independent rather than as a part of the government.

Without Mr. Crook’s support, Mr. Abbott could not form a government even with the three independents on side. The lawmakers had earlier indicated they wanted to know his decision before they made theirs.

Asked whether a coalition government was a possibility, Mr. Windsor said- “All bets are on.”

Mr. Windsor, Mr. Oakeshott and Mr. Katter said they expected to announce their decisions on Tuesday and all have said they are hoping they will come down on the same side.

With Mr. Crook’s support, Mr. Abbott would need all three nonaligned independents to gain a majority of 76. Ms. Gillard needs only two independents. If neither leader gets to 76, another election will be called.

Labour won 72 seats at the election, one fewer than Mr. Abbott’s coalition. But Ms. Gillard has already enlisted the support of another independent, Andrew Wilkie, and the sole lower chamber lawmaker from the Greens party.

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