'Kingmaker' MPs hold key to Australian government

Three “kingmaker” independent MPs had final meetings with Australia’s rival political leaders today before they decide who to elect prime minister of the nation’s first minority government in nearly 70 years.

Two of the three – Tony Windsor and Robb Oakeshott – said the trio was likely to vote as a bloc, giving prime minister Julia Gillard’s centre-left Labour Party a two-seat majority, or conservative opposition leader Tony Abbott a single-seat majority in the 150-seat House of Representatives.

“The main game here has to be stability,” Mr Windsor told Australian Broadcasting Corporation radio.

Both said they would consider changing their own vote to avoid a 75-seat tie and avoid another election, after the August 21 vote failed to give any party a majority.

Mr Windsor and Mr Oakeshott said the three, including independent Bob Katter, would probably announce their decisions later today or tomorrow.

Australia last had a minority government in 1943.

Labour won 72 seats at the election, one fewer than Mr Abbott’s coalition. But Ms Gillard has already enlisted the support of another independent, Andrew Wilkie, and the sole lower chamber MP from the Greens party.

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