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Julia Gillard to lead government in Australia

P.S. Suryanarayana

Labour to govern with 76 seats in 150-member House

- PHOTO: AFP

WAFER-THIN MAJORITY: Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard is all smiles at the Parliament House in Canberra on Tuesday, as Opposition leader Tony Abbott applauds after she finally secured enough independents to form a new government.

SINGAPORE: Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard on Tuesday won a 17-day political marathon to lead a minority government in a hung parliament.

Ms. Gillard stays at the helm with support from three Independents and a first-ever Greens member in the House of Representatives, being formed after the August 21 snap general election. She called the election shortly after toppling Kevin Rudd as Prime Minister in a political coup within the ruling Australian Labour Party.

After two Independents — Tony Windsor and Rob Oakeshott — announced support for her on Tuesday, Ms. Gillard declared, during a televised press conference in Canberra, that Labour would now govern with 76 seats in a House of 150 members. She promised “a stable and effective government” for the full three-year term of the new House.

Alluding to her wafer-thin majority in the country's first hung parliament in nearly seven decades, Tony Abbott, Leader of the Opposition Liberal-National Coalition, said he would “ferociously” hold the new government to account. The Opposition, with its tally of 74 seats, would in fact function as “a credible alternative government,” said Mr. Abbott.

The highlight of Tuesday's political denouement was the joint press conference at which Mr. Windsor and Mr. Oakeshott cited their independent reasons for backing Ms. Gillard. Another Independent, Bob Katter, who formed a trio by teaming with the other two in exploring which side to support, cast his lot with the Coalition.

On previous days, Ms. Gillard secured the support of another Independent, Andrew Wilkie, and the Greens Representative Adam Bandt.

While Mr. Windsor now cited Labour's national broadband project as the key factor that shaped his decision, Mr. Oakeshott assigned the pride of place to Ms. Gillard's willingness to chart a new path in governance.

She said Mr. Oakeshott was being offered a place in her new government. This would be “an unusual arrangement” in which he could “help drive reforms for regional Australia.”

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