Australia’s three serving independents, likely to hold the balance of power in the national parliament, will meet tomorrow to decide which party to support and whether to back a tax on mining company profits.
Robert Oakeshott, Bob Katter and Tony Windsor will meet after voters split the major parties 71 seats each in yesterday’s election. The result means either the ruling Labor Party or opposition Liberal-National coalition will need to woo support from independents to form government. Green lawmaker Adam Bandt was also elected to the House of Representatives while four seats are undecided, the Australian Electoral Commission said on its website.
The outcome leaves proposed Australian laws in limbo, including Prime Minister Julia Gillard’s planned 30 percent tax on iron ore and coal profits at mining companies like BHP Billiton Ltd. and a A$43 billion ($38 billion) high-speed Internet service. Labor’s mining tax is due to begin in mid-2012 and forecast to reap A$10.5 billion in its first two years.
“We will meet to go through the process of a hung parliament, who we will support, and what needs to happen constitutionally from here,” Oakeshott said by phone from the city of Port Macquarie north of Sydney without saying which major party he’ll back. “This is an historic moment for Australia’s democracy and we want to ensure stable government with quality outcomes.”
The three independents are former members of the junior coalition partner The Nationals. They wouldn’t reveal whether they would back coalition leader Tony Abbott. Newly-elected Greens member Bandt, who couldn’t be reached for comment, has signaled he’ll back Gillard.
“The three serving independents are yet to discuss who we will support and how we will behave as a group,” Katter, 55, said by phone from the northeastern state of Queensland today. “Improving the broadband services to rural Australia is very important.”
Katter, who wears a Stetson hat and has a cattle ranch, left the Nationals and became an independent at the 2001 national election because the party had “lost its connection with rural Australia,” he said.
Katter was a member of the Queensland parliament for the Nationals from 1974 to 1992, winning a federal seat in 1993 before turning independent eight years later. Issues affecting country voters, including fishing and hunting laws, and protecting the banana and other rural industries are his priorities, he says.
Oakeshott, 40, was elected as a Nationals member of the New South Wales parliament in 1996 and became an independent in 2003, winning his division at the next two state elections. In 2008 he won the national parliamentary division of Lyne, which runs along the New South Wales mid-north coast.
Oakeshott has three children and his wife expects their fourth on Oct. 2.
Tony Windsor, 59, has a farm in his northern New South Wales state electorate of New England. He’s a former state National party and independent lawmaker who won his federal seat as an independent in 2001. He wasn’t contactable by phone.
Bandt was last night elected to former Finance Minister Lindsay Tanner’s seat of Melbourne, becoming the first Greens party candidate to win a lower house seat in a general election.
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.