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Lawmaker to Back Australian Government in Hung Parliament

Associated Press

Last Updated: July 07, 2016, 14:20 IST

Lawmaker to Back Australian Government in Hung Parliament

Post the meeting with Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, Maverick independent lawmaker Bob Katter said that he had agreed to support the government if it fell short of a majority.

Canberra: Australia's conservative government tightened its slim grip on power on Thursday as it increased its narrow lead in election vote counting and as an independent lawmaker agreed to support the ruling party if it does not win a majority.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull travelled to the east coast city of Brisbane for talks with maverick independent lawmaker Bob Katter to discuss what demands Katter might make in return for supporting a minority government if the count from the weekend election ended with only Australia's third hung parliament in more than a century.

"I am very confident, very confident indeed that we will form ... a majority government in our own right, but I am, of course, talking to the crossbenchers as well," Turnbull told reporters in Katter's home state of Queensland, referring to the independent and minor party lawmakers who could hold the balance of power in a divided parliament.

"But so far the counting trends are very positive from our point of view," he said.

Katter said after the meeting that he had agreed to support the government if it fell short of a majority.

He gave few details but said the agreement had yet to be confirmed in writing.

"I do so with no great enthusiasm," Katter said. "I will maintain my right to change at any point of time in the future." Katter said he agreed to support the government because he did not believe the opposition center-left Labor Party could form a minority government and he did not want to force Australians to go back to the polls.

The uncertainty surrounding the election prompted rating agency Standard & Poor's to downgrade Australia's coveted AAA credit rating from "stable" to "negative."

The agency said Australia needs "more forceful fiscal policy decisions" to reign in debt and believes such tough measures could be postponed by the new Parliament.

Turnbull said the credit rating decision was a reminder that tackling the deficit "must be a very high priority" for the next Parliament.

He described his discussion with Katter "very good and constructive."

Turnbull's Liberal Party-led coalition needs at least a 76-seat majority in the House of Representatives, where it had controlled 90 seats before the election.

The Australian Electoral Commission put the coalition ahead in 74 seats, Labor in 71, and the minor parties and independents in five.

Mail-in and absentee votes that are still being counted days after Saturday's vote are favouring the conservatives.
first published:July 07, 2016, 14:20 IST
last updated:July 07, 2016, 14:20 IST