Asia-Pacific

Australia election: Independents seek budget clarity

Independents Tony Windsor (L), Rob Oakeshott (2L) and Bob Katter (R) talk together with Greens MP Adam Bandt in Canberra on 25 August 2010
Image caption Both main parties need the independents in order to form a government

Three independent lawmakers who may hold the balance of power in the wake of Australia's inconclusive election have asked to see costings for pre-election promises.

Neither the ruling Labor party nor the opposition Liberal-led coalition won a majority in the poll.

Both need the support of independents to form a government.

But the trio - who say they will try to negotiate as a bloc - say they need to look at the parties' budgeting plans.

"We do think this is about the economy, and we do think the next three years need some consideration of things such as election promises and election commitments," said independent Rob Oakeshott.

Fellow independent Tony Windsor said they had to establish "what the budget bottom line is".

"What are we talking about here, in terms of the promises that were made by the political parties on both sides?" he said.

Both parties have accused the other of understating the cost of their policy proposals.

The three independents were due to hold talks with both Prime Minister Julia Gillard and opposition leader Tony Abbott on Wednesday.

Seven demands

Counting is continuing in three seats in the wake of the 21 August poll.

According to an ABC News count, Labor and the Liberal-led coalition have both won 71 seats, five short of the 76 needed for a majority.

Independents have secured four seats and the Greens one seat. Counting is continuing in three seats, and in two of these candidates are separated by less than 1 percentage point.

Three of the independents - Mr Windsor, Mr Oakeshott and Bob Katter - have emerged as key figures in the formation of the next government.

They say they have a list of seven demands that they want to discuss before making a decision and of these, the economy is the priority.

They have invited the fourth independent, Andrew Wilkie, to negotiate with them.

Greens lawmaker Adam Bandt has offered conditional support to Labor.

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