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Julia Gillard will lead Labor into a second term of government, following the decision by Tony Windsor and Rob Oakeshott to support the ALP.

Rob Oakeshott

Oakeshott and Windsor have just spoken to a packed press conference in Canberra. Windsor announced his decision first, speaking for around five minutes. Oakeshott spoke for 17 minutes.

With the support of the independent member for Denison, Andrew Wilkie, and the Greens member for Melbourne, Adam Bandt, the ALP will form a minority government with control of 76 votes in the 150 member House of Representatives.

After providing a Speaker, Labor will have a one-vote majority of 75-74 on the floor of the House.

Tony Windsor said the duo’s priority was for stable government and a government with longevity that can last a full three years.

The decision by the two independents followed Bob Katter’s announcement nearly two hours earlier that he would be supporting the coalition.

The historic decision brings to an end the inconclusive 2010 federal election held seventeen days ago on August 21.

Listen to the Windsor-Oakeshott press conference in full (50m)

Watch the press conference speeches (27m)

As published by The Age, this is an edited transcript of Rob Oakeshott’s statement on his decision to support a minority Labor government.

Thank you to everyone for giving us the grace of what are we up to, 17 days of trying to work out a wicked dilemma for Australia. And like Tony I would also like to very much thank the good faith and good nature of the negotiations that have taken place between Julia Gillard, Tony Abbott and Tony Windsor, myself and Bob Katter.

They would both be good Prime Ministers, there is no question about that. And if anything that has made this decision all the more difficult for me and I think on behalf of both of us and for Bob as well, a more difficult decision.

They both, in this parliament where it will be a different parliament, will contribute fantastic things for this country. And I hope whichever way this ends up going that they renew their friendship, they talk and they do work together as much as possible in the national interest. It does matter.

Also can I say some thanks for some other people who’ve been involved, Bob Brown, Nick Xenophon, various senators have been involved. New colleagues in the lower house Andrew Wilkie, Adam Bandt and Tony Crook. This will be a different parliament. They all have contributed in various ways and even some long-term members and senators, I’d even thank Bill Heffernan today. He is a good man fundamentally.

And again that’s what makes the journey of the last 17 days tricky and the decision we’ve had to make, difficult.

This is not a mandate for any government. We should have a great big swear jar for the next three years and if anyone uses that word mandate they should have to chip in some money. No one party has dominance over the executive or the parliament, that is the reality of the way we’re going to do business of the next three years and that is a good reality.

Nor is it an endorsement of any philosophy, of any brand, of any campaign. In fact in the discussions we’ve had over the last few weeks, I think I can speak on behalf of the three of us, now two of us, that we have generally come to a pretty similar conclusion that I suspect that plenty of people that went into the ballot box on August 21st and that was being thoroughly unimpressed with the state of play of major party politics in Australia today. We are no different in that. And again this has made this a difficult decision to make.

We are all proud and strong independents and in fact that’s why there’s all this interest in us. We do value our vote in the parliament and our communities recognise that and we will commit to maintaining as much as possible full voting rights on all issues before the parliament. That is important to us and the way we represent our community and represent our country through the parliament.

I would hope that over the next three years that regardless of this juicy and sexy decision that everyone’s waiting on that there is this recommitment to the 150 members of parliament, the role that they play and the importance as the foundation blocks of our democracy and all the support we can give to people if at times that they need to break ranks with their political parties, to achieve what they believe is in their community’s or in their country’s best interest.

So what this is, is a hard decision, there is no question about that. And at my end it’s been an absolute line ball, points decision, judgment call, six-of-one, half-a-dozen-of-the-other, this could not get any closer.

In fact, what I think you’ve seen this afternoon where we’ve dropped one of the three amigos exemplifies just how tight this election has been and how tight this decision is for the country.

I’ve got splits in my community, I’ve even got splits in my own family, my four-year-old and six-year-old are split on this decision.

When the gong is given at the end of these words, there’s a job to do and a first job to do for a new prime minister and to some extent the opposition leader, and that is to bring Australia together.

It has been 17 days where there’s been lots of interest in this creeping number count, it has engaged the Australian community. Australia is engaged but Australia is also divided. And so I would plea that the first job is not to have a unity government, but if we can have a country that, as much as possible, unifies on the back of this decision, then that is a good first job done.

This two-and-a-half-week period has really asked me to drill down on my own comments as to what I mean by this best interest test and that has required a lot of thought. It is not shaped around this political party prism, that I continue to see some media outlets report. It is something a lot deeper than that. And it is back to those words I think around stability and outcomes. That is the best interest test of this decision.

Which of the parties will try and keep this parliament running for as long as possible? If we are talking about stability that has been a key consideration at my end as to how we can do our bit for the Australian people and keep this parliament alive for as close to three years as possible.

I did not try and just make it all about today and my wants and needs. This was a decision through what I call the “eyes of my children” test. This is the 20-year decision.

Through the negotiations I think we’ve got a good local package for a local member to go home and talk to his electorate about. That’s good.

We’ve also got I think a regional Australia package that has never been seen before and will turbo-charge regional Australia.

It has been good work by Tony, by Bob, by others in pulling together a really important package for this country. And as Tony said, we’re not asking for over and above, no one in any city needs to be scared. We are asking for equity. Equity has not been delivered to regional Australia for too long and that is now about to change.

There has been an offer come in to drive that at a different level and whilst no decisions have been made about that and I have wanted to keep that separate from any decisions today. I do want to go home tonight to my wife and kids and actually talk it through over the next couple of days but that is there for open scrutiny for all. So that will be considered over the next few days.

We’ve grabbed this opportunity … to achieve a couple of cracking outcomes. We have now got a tax summit that this country needs. By June 2011, we’ve got a commitment to have the Henry Tax review thrown into the public domain with full recommendations from government and a fair-dinkum open debate in this country.

That is a good and big outcome from this process, and one that hopefully demonstrates this is not going to be a weak parliament, this is going to be a strong parliament. This will drive outcomes for this nation over the next three years that are better than ever done before.

We’ll see a referendum question put at the next election on Indigenous recognition in the constitution. Something that is part of the social fabric of this country that has been left behind for too long.

The big sticking point for us in regional areas were the broadband issue, and the climate change issue and a crisis in regional education in Australia today. It is a disgrace that regional education has been left behind in this country.

We think there would be less interest in a Labor minority government going back to the polls quickly than there would be for a coalition minority government going back to the polls quickly. I don’t think it matters who would win as a consequence of going to the ballot … they are two different things in my thinking.




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Malcolm Farnsworth
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