Aust election: Gillard favoured to form next govt

Australia's kingmaker MPs have said they will announce today who they will back but warned, despite plans to vote as a bloc, they could still split and deliver a deadlock.

Labor leader Julia Gillard needs the support of two of the three rural independents - Tony Windsor, Bob Katter and Rob Oakeshott - to remain Prime Minister. Tony Abbott needs all three to get his coalition into office.

Windsor and Oakeshott said the trio was likely to vote as a bloc, although Windsor warned there was a risk the three could still split.

"That is what we will be talking about today. If that is the circumstance, what do we do about it? Do we go back to the polls or do we nominate one side and have a government?" asked Windsor.

Coalition MP Warren Entsch, though, predicted the three rural independents would back the formation of a Labor government.

With pessimism starting to take hold in the Liberal and Nationals ranks of the Coalition, the outspoken Liberal MP for Leichhardt said he believed the trio, all former Nationals, had made their intentions clear.

"I think they have painted themselves into a corner and their electors will judge them accordingly," he said.

He accused Gillard of making unrealistic promises to secure support.

"It seems to me that Julia Gillard will promise anything to get power.

"She'll promise them the bloody world, and then when she's in government they'll go feral, and she'll blame them and have that as a reason to go back [to the polls]."

Several newspapers yesterday also said unnamed conservatives were expecting Gillard to win over at least two independents to form a minority government holding 76 seats. Bookmakers are also tipping a Gillard Labor government.

Meanwhile, a poll in the Daily Telegraph newspaper showed 56 per cent of Australians now wanted another election, regardless of which party the independents decided to back, underscoring expectations that any new government will struggle to overcome ongoing instability with such a thin majority.

Windsor, though, said the aim of the negotiations was stability.

"The main game here has to be stability," Windsor told ABC Radio.

Oakeshott said: "There is a national interest issue in question about how we have a stable government over the next three years."

Windsor and Oakeshott both said they would consider changing their own vote to avoid a 75-seat tie and avoid another election.

Gillard and Abbott have been desperately wooing the independents for their support for a minority government since the August 21 elections delivered the country's first hung Parliament since World War II.

The three men had a "full spread" of political and policy views but were willing to put them aside in the nation's interest, Oakeshott said.

"It does look like we may have to make some choices about whether we stick together to get stable government or not," he said.

One of Oakeshott's considerations was the fact that the Australian Greens would hold the balance of power in the Senate next year, a party Labor was working with well.

"The reality is the Greens are in the house," he said.

"That is a pragmatic reality we all have to get used to - like it or not."

Meanwhile, Labor and the Coalition last night agreed to reforms that mean Parliament would have an independent Speaker and question time would be overhauled.

Oakeshott said an agreement had been reached on the reforms, which focused on the relationship between the executive and Parliament and improving the role of MPs.

"The Australian political system up until now has been overly dominated by the executive and the Parliament has played a secondary role to the executive, the ministry and, in the last Parliament, the gang of four," he said.

"This is going to change."

He said individual MPs would have a greater role and the committee process expanded to ensure greater checks on legislation.

WHAT THEY NEED

Labor - 2 seats

It won 72 seats at the election but has already enlisted the support of another independent, Andrew Wilkie, and the sole lower chamber member from the Greens party, Adam Bandt.

Coalition - 3 seats

Tony Abbott's Liberals-led Coalition picked up 73 seats in the election.

- AGENCIES

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