Australian political limbo to stretch into third week: MPs

SYDNEY, Sept 3, 2010 (AFP) - Australia's political paralysis will stretch into a third week with three "kingmaker" MPs still undecided Friday about which party to hand power in the first hung parliament in 70 years.

Rob Oakeshott, one of the trio being courted by the major parties after August 21 polls, said he would not make an announcement until at least Monday, extending the deadlock.

"I will be giving my views hopefully on Monday, if not by Tuesday," he told reporters in Canberra. "I quite genuinely and quite honestly have not drawn conclusions."

Fellow independent Tony Windsor said the three, who are negotiating as a bloc, were nearing the "pointy end" of negotiations with Prime Minister Julia Gillard and opposition leader Tony Abbott.

"I think we're getting to the pointy end of the deal," Windsor told Sky News. "We've garnered a lot of information and now it is time to actually sit down and make a decision."

Gillard received a significant boost on Thursday when she won the support of Tasmanian independent Andrew Wilkie, taking her centre-left Labor party's tally to 74 seats -- two short of a parliamentary majority.

But Abbott's conservative Liberal/National coalition is still in the hunt on 73 seats, needing the backing of all three remaining "kingmakers" to end Gillard's brief rule.

The third of the "kingmakers", farm-focused renegade Bob Katter, released a 20-point "wishlist" after Wilkie's decision was eased with sweeteners of extra hospital funds and a pledge to address problem gambling.

Katter's list includes scrapping plans for a pollution-controlling carbon trading scheme, which is opposed by the agricultural lobby, and improving food security.

Gillard, Australia's first woman prime minister, ousted elected leader Kevin Rudd in June and failed to back strong action on climate change, turning off voters who returned the first hung parliament since 1940.

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