Return to power within grasp for Australia's Gillard

Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard came within grasp of a return to power today after one of four "kingmaker" MPs backed her Labor Party's bid to form a minority government following last month's dead-heat elections.

Labor has promised to introduce a new tax on mining profits and a $38 billion (£22bn) broadband project if it wins a second term over the opposition conservatives, as well as a price on carbon to curb one of the world's highest per-capita levels of emissions.



Independent Andrew Wilkie's decision to back Gillard means Labor can now claim 74 seats in the 150-member lower house of parliament, still two short of the number needed to rule.



The conservatives now have 73 seats, but could still win the race to form a government if the three remaining rural-based independents line up behind its leader, Tony Abbott. Their decisions may not come until early next week.



"I have judged that it is in fact (Labor) that best meets my criteria that the next government must be stable, must be competent and must be ethical," Wilkie told reporters at parliament in Canberra.



Labor, he said, would have his support only on legislative votes affecting budget supply and defeating no-confidence motions launched by the conservatives in the fractured parliament.



Bookmakers immediately reversed their odds on Gillard forming a government, with the conservatives sliding behind for the first time since the inconclusive August 21 vote delivered the country's first hung parliament since World War Two.



Wilkie had demanded curbs to limit the amount people can lose on gaming machines. A gambling crackdown would affect stocks like Tabcorp Holdings, Tatts, Crown and Aristocrat Leisure.



Gillard agreed to look at putting smart-card technologies to monitor slot machines use in pubs and casinos in a nation where $9.3 billion (£5.4bn) was gambled away in the year to June 2009, he said.



"These are ways of individual gamblers being recognised by the machines and by the network of the machines, which is a very effective way ... to rein in problem gambling," Wilkie said.



The government also agreed to release extra money for public health and hospitals.



Wilkie said he also wanted Australia's richest companies to pay more tax on their profits, although Gillard's planned 30 percent profits-based tax on coal and iron ore companies needed tweaking before it would get his support. Labor's proposed tax would hit miners Rio Tinto, BHP Billiton and Xstrata.



"The concept I'm not at odds with. But I think the current version has many faults, and I'm not comfortable with the way it was negotiated with only three miners," he said.



The conservatives also came under pressure on Thursday to explain a $9.6 billion (£5.6bn) hole in their election manifesto costings, putting at risk talks with the undecided independents.



One of the "kingmakers", Tony Windsor, said that while the error was not a deal breaker, Abbott's pre-election refusal to have the costings verified by Treasury department officials had fostered suspicion his coalition had something to hide.



"What we're after - well, I'm after - is a judgment on two different teams that want to be the government. So one of those things that we have to establish is trust in what they're actually saying," Windsor told Australian television.



So far financial markets have not been ruffled by the political uncertainty. Investors are more focused on the risk that economic weakness in the United States and Japan could spill into Australia, undermining its relatively robust growth.



Nevertheless, the Australian economy remains in rude health. Data released on Wednesday showed that the country's gross domestic product (GDP) rose by 3.3 per cent in the second quarter from the same period in 2009.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Office Assistant

£12675 - £16000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Office Assistant is required...

Recruitment Genius: Lead Software Developer

£35000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an excellent opportunit...

Recruitment Genius: Trainee Case Handler / Probate Assistant

£15000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Trainee Case Handler/Probate ...

Recruitment Genius: Outbound Telesales Executive - OTE £30,000

£16000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This precious metal refining co...

Day In a Page

Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

Climate change key in Syrian conflict

And it will trigger more war in future
How I outwitted the Gestapo

How I outwitted the Gestapo

My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
The nation's favourite animal revealed

The nation's favourite animal revealed

Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
Is this the way to get young people to vote?

Getting young people to vote

From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot
Poldark star Heida Reed: 'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'

Poldark star Heida Reed

'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'
The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
Families clubbing together to build their own affordable accommodation

Do It Yourself approach to securing a new house

Community land trusts marking a new trend for taking the initiative away from developers
Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

Money, corruption and drugs

The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

150 years after it was outlawed...

... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

You won't believe your eyes

Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
Ian Herbert: Peter Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

The England coach leaves players to find solutions - which makes you wonder where he adds value, says Ian Herbert
War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn