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Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard held a media conference in Canberra on Monday, declaring that an end to the country’s political deadlock may take some time.
Both Ms Gillard and Opposition Liberal Party leader Tony Abbott will hold talks over the coming days on forming a minority government with the support of three independents: Tony Windsor, Rob Oakeshott and Bob Katter, as well as the Greens Party, who will be represented in the Lower House for the first time by Adam Bandt.
The three independents are strong advocates for improved services to regional and rural Australia. Both Mr Windsor and Mr Oakeshott have called for an expansion of broadband internet services to regional towns. Mr Katter, nicknamed “The Force of the North”, is the most well-known due to outspoken views, particularly the rights of farmers, businesses and industries in northern Queensland.
Speaking about the election result, Mr Katter declared the days of the two-party system (the dominance of Labor and Liberal governments) “over”.
Ms Gillard has pledged to provide regular media briefings on the progress of talks with the independents. She also indicated that she is willing to talk with newly-elected National Party MP, Tony Crook, who held a press conference in Perth today.
Mr. Crook defeated Liberal Party stalwart Wilson Tuckey in the Western Australian seat of O’Connor.
Meanwhile, the election count is still too close to call, with Labor nominally ahead of the Coalition 73 seats to 69. Three seats listed as ‘doubtful’ are being called as wins for the Coalition at 5:00pm AEST. The crucial Western Australian electorate of Hasluck in suburban Perth also has the Liberal Party’s Ken Wyatt leading Labor’s sitting member, Sharryn Jackson.
Should Mr Wyatt emerge the winner, he will be Australia’s first Indigenous Australian to be elected to the House of Representatives, or Lower House. Both parties would be on 73 seats apiece.
With the election already deemed the tightest race in years, the Australian Electoral Commission (AEC) has said that it will conduct a recount of primary votes in the doubtful seat of Denison in Tasmania before distributing preferences. The Labor Party had been predicted to win the seat early Monday after seeing off a strong challenge from independent Andrew Wilkie. The final result may not be known for a fortnight, the AEC said.
Adding to an already eventful day, Australia’s Governor-General, Quentin Bryce, has said that she will seek legal advice regarding her role in the federal election to prevent any possible conflict of interest.
Ms. Bryce is the mother-in-law of the Labor MP Bill Shorten, a key figure in Ms Gillard’s elevation to Prime Minister.
A statement on the Governor-General’s website confirmed that the Governor-General is “seeking advice on concerns raised about her personal position in the current political circumstances.”