Australia’s leadership battle rages on

Australia’s caretaker Prime
Minister Julia Gillard has won the support of the Green party in her bid to
form the next government.

But the backing of the party’s one
MP still does not give her an overall majority in the lower house of the
Australian parliament.

All eyes are on the four
independent MPs who hold the balance of power.

They have been negotiating with
both sides and receiving briefings from government bureaucrats.

With Australia’s political deadlock
midway through its second week, Ms Gillard has sought to strengthen her chances
of remaining as the country’s prime minister by agreeing to a pact with the
Greens.

During last month’s election, the
party achieved its strongest ever showing and managed to secure its first ever
MP in the lower house of parliament.

But 76 seats are needed to form a
government, and, even with the support of the Greens, Ms Gillard’s Labour party
only has 73.

That is the same number held by the
conservative opposition, led by Tony Abbott, who now prefers to call his MPs
the “government in waiting”.

But the choice of who becomes prime
minister still rests with a small handful of independent MPs, mainly from rural
constituencies.

There are four of them in total and
three have been working in concert.

Dubbed the “three amigos”,
they have spent the past few days receiving briefings from Canberra bureaucrats
on key policy areas like the budget and the environment,

The independents are certainly
living up to their name.

Despite all talking about the need
for political reform and a better deal for the Australian bush and outback,
they have given no outward indication of who they will support, and indicated
they might not even decide until early next week.

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