The support of sole Green MP Adam Bandt and four independent MPs pledge will determine if sitting Labour prime minister Julia Gillard or Liberal Party opposition leader Tony Abbot forms the next government after this month’s (August) election left the parties all but tied with some 11 million votes so far counted.

Both parties are wooing the five kingmakers, Melbourne’s Mr Bandt, three rural independents Tony Windsor, Bob Katter and Rob Oakeshott and a fourth independent, Andrew Wilkie.

Ms Gillard, 48, the country’s first woman prime minister, has pledged Labour can deliver “stability and continuity” in minority government and rejected calls for a fresh election.

She said: “The Australian people voted for this parliament, our job is to make it work.”

Meanwhile, Mr Abbott, 52, is bullish about his prospects of forming the next government.

He told a meeting of shadow ministers in Canberra: “We are no longer an opposition, we may very well be a government in waiting. The caretaker government has no mandate, it has no legitimacy.”

Ten days after the August 21 election Mr Abbott’s centre-right liberals have 73 House of Representative seats to centre-left Labor’s 72.

A party needs 76 seats to form a government meaning both parties are shy of the necessary majority.

The Greens and independents are in discussions with Ms Gillard and Mr Abbott about forming a minority government.

Three of the four independents have banded together in an informal alliance and plan to back one candidate together making their role crucial.

So far they appear in no rush to decide the country’s fate though political pundits expect a result by early next week.

Ms Gillard is conscious voters’ patience for an outcome is waning. “I appreciate the Australian people want a resolution to this election,” she said. “They want to know who their next government will be.”

Hung parliaments are rare in Australia. The last was in 1940. Australian law requires parliament to meet within 30 days of electoral officials confirming the names of all elected candidates.

David Gibbs

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