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Australian Greens Win First Seat in National Election

The Australian Greens won its first lower house seat in a general election as support for the party surged almost 50 percent, making it a potential power broker for the nation’s next government.

The election is Australia’s closest in almost five decades, with Prime Minister Julia Gillard and opposition leader Tony Abbott vowing to fight to form the next government after their parties failed to win a majority.

“It’s clear the Greens will have the balance of power in the Senate,” party leader Bob Brown said late yesterday after Adam Bandt took the seat of Melbourne from Labor. “In the lower house, results also show we’ll bring both the major parties into the 21st century. People have endorsed greater action on climate change.”

The Greens were boosted after Gillard delayed plans to set up a market mechanism to put a price on carbon to tackle global warming in the world’s driest inhabited continent until after 2012. Bandt ended more than a century of Labor control in Melbourne and joins at least three independent lawmakers in the House of Representatives being wooed by Abbott and Gillard as they try to establish a majority.

Labor Punished

“The government has been punished for its denial on climate change,” Bandt told supporters in televised comments as he claimed the district previously held by retiring Finance Minister Lindsay Tanner. “People have delivered a resounding verdict on climate change. We are opening up a new prospect in the parliament to take definitive action.”

Bandt was an industrial and public interest lawyer and a partner at Slater & Gordon in Melbourne, the law firm where Gillard also worked before becoming a lawmaker.

With 74.7 percent of the vote counted on a two-party preferred basis, Labor and the Liberal-National coalition were tied on 71 seats each in the 150-member House of Representatives, according to the Australian Electoral Commission as of 8:35 a.m. Seventy-six seats in the lower house are needed to form a government. The electorate also voted for 40 of the 76 seats in the upper house Senate.

The Greens won 11.4 percent of the national vote the commission’s website showed. That compares with 7.8 percent in 2007, according to the Australian Broadcasting Corp.

Labor has vowed to cut carbon emissions by 5 percent from 2000 levels by 2020 and generate 20 percent of the nation’s energy from renewable sources by the same year.

The coalition wants to set up an A$1 billion fund to encourage companies to reduce emissions and establish a 15,000-strong “green army” to repair environmental damage.

The Greens previously won the seat of Cunningham, located south of Sydney, in a by-election in 2002. It was reclaimed by Labor in the 2004 election.

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