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Australian Independents Could Split, Windsor Says

Julia Gillard, Australia's prime minister. Photographer: Carla Gottgens/Bloomberg
Julia Gillard, Australia's prime minister. Photographer: Carla Gottgens/Bloomberg

Sept. 6 (Bloomberg) -- The three independent lawmakers courted by Australia’s two major parties after the closest national election in 70 years could split their support, giving neither the 76 seats needed to form a government and forcing another ballot, one of the independents said.

“There is a possibility here that we end up with 75-all,” Tony Windsor told Australian Broadcasting Corp. radio. “We’ll make a determination, probably tomorrow morning.”

Windsor, Robert Oakeshott and Bob Katter have been briefed by officials about each major party’s plan to manage the A$1.2 trillion ($1.1 trillion) economy, including the impact of Prime Minister Julia Gillard’s planned mining tax and expansion of Internet services. Oakeshott late today said the independents reached an agreement with the Labor Party and the Liberal-National coalition to change parliamentary procedures so that individual members would have more power.

With 87.5 percent of the vote from the Aug. 21 ballot counted, Gillard’s Labor Party holds 71 seats, according to the Australian Electoral Commission website, and has declared victory in the division of Corangamite in the state of Victoria. Labor last week won the support of Greens Party member Adam Bandt and independent lawmaker Andrew Wilkie, while Tony Abbott’s Liberal-National coalition has 73 seats.

Should two of the three lawmakers opt to back the coalition or remain non-aligned, neither Gillard nor Abbott would have a majority in the 150-member House of Representatives and Australians would have to vote again.

Voters Losing Patience

“There’s three of us with a full spread of political views, policy views,” Oakeshott told reporters in Canberra today. “It does look like we have to make some choices about whether we stick together to get stable government, or not.”

One issue the three independents agreed on was the need for parliamentary reform. Under the agreement brokered with the two main parties, independent lawmakers will be given more time to speak and propose their own legislation. An independent speaker was also backed.

“We’re having some final meetings tonight,” Oakeshott told reporters after the announcement on parliamentary reform. “By the end of tonight I think our positions will be pretty much cemented.”

Voters want a new election to break the deadlock, an opinion survey by Parker and Partners in the Daily Telegraph newspaper today showed. Some 56 percent of the 1,006 people surveyed want a new election, according to the online survey on Sept. 2-4 which had a 3.1-percentage-point margin of error.

Political Consensus

Australia’s AAA/A-1+ foreign and local currency sovereign credit ratings were affirmed today by Standard & Poor’s with a stable outlook as talks to form government entered a third week.

There is “political consensus on fiscal, monetary, and exchange-rate policies,” S&P said in a statement. “A strong political commitment to fiscal consolidation, including return to budget surpluses by about 2013, will continue regardless of which major party leads the government,” S&P added.

The Aussie dollar traded at 91.71 U.S. cents at 3:31 p.m., off a post-election low of 87.71 U.S. cents on Aug. 25.

Windsor indicated during the weekend that he backs Labor’s plan for an A$43 billion broadband network developed by state-owned NBN Co. rather than Abbott’s A$6.3 billion proposal that would be built by public and private operators.

A poll in the Australian newspaper Sept. 4 showed voters preferred Labor to form a minority government.

About 47 percent of 1,134 voters surveyed between Aug. 27 and Aug. 29 want Gillard returned to power, with 39 percent supporting Abbott and 14 percent undecided, according to the Newspoll survey conducted for the Australian newspaper.

To contact the reporters on this story: Marion Rae in Canberra at Jason Scott in Perth at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Iain Wilson at

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