In a live press conference, New South Wales Independent MPs Rob Oakeshott and Tony Windsor announced that they were entering into an agreement with the Labor Party leaving Queensland MP Bob Katter as the only Independent to join the Coalition.
This leaves Labor with a one seat majority in Parliament, with 76 votes to 74 votes. Also joining the Coalition was Greens MP Adam Bandt and Tasmania Independent Andrew Wilkie.
With the decision, Prime Minister Julia Gillard avoided the embarrassment of a political lifetime by being able to retain power and keep her job as the first elected woman Prime Minister of Australia. She was able to get the reins of premiership after a midnight coup within the Labor Party ousted Kevin Rudd from the position a few months back.
On the Coalition side, standard bearer Tony Abbott said that “this was a disappointing day and a disappointing result.” He added that “The longest election is finally over. The Coalition won more seats and more votes than our opponents but unfortunately we did not get the opportunity to form government.” He hoped for the good of the country, with the hope that the second term of Labor being “better than the first.”
The next step now is the formation of a cabinet. Ms. Gillard declared that Labor is “prepared to govern.” She added that, “We will govern in the best interests of the Australian people. If we fail in this solemn responsibility, we will be judged harshly when we next face the Australian people at the next election.”
“There’s no walking away, no attempt to in some way not understand, the message from the result in the election. The Australian people have sent me, sent the Labor Party, sent this parliament a message. (I’ve) heard that message loud and clear.”
Kevin Rudd, the popular former Prime Minister, was the factor that tipped the balance in favor of Labor, is being eyed to a high profile position in government such as foreign affairs. A new finance minister, defense minister would also be named.
MP Oakeshott has been offered a regional ministry in the new cabinet. The deal for Oakeshott’s support includes a Aus$10 billion regional sweetener and a Aus$1.8 billion dollar increase in the Health and Hospitals Fund for regional Australia. There is also Aus$800 million fund earmarked for regional infrastructure programs, part of it to be used for guidance of regional development officers.
The most pressing issues though that face the new government are the campaign promises made. These include the immigration issue in light of the latest violence in the detention centers and the national broadband network to be established and the pricing scheme. Also to be addressed is the funding for these programs because of the mining tax issue that headlined the days prior to the campaign and elections.