2 Independents Help Australian Prime Minister Form A Government

Australians woke up Wednesday from an 18-day political nightmare after two independent lawmakers threw their support behind Prime Minister Julia Gillard, giving her Labor Party the parliamentary votes necessary to form the country's first minority government since World War II. Rob Oakeshott and Tony Windsor, who both represent rural districts, attributed their decision to Labor's climate-change efforts and its promise to fund education and broadband access outside of urban centers. "Labor is prepared to govern," a jubilant Miss Gillard said following the lawmakers' nationally televised announcement. "Ours will be a government with just one purpose, and that's to serve the Australian people." The lawmakers' action gave Labor the 76-vote majority needed to form a government. Though Miss Gillard declared that "Labor is prepared to deliver, stable, effective and secure government for the next three years," it remains far from certain that her government — vulnerable to a single defector — will last that long. "If I were to guess, I'd say that there will be an election sooner rather than later," said Alan Tidwell, director of Georgetown's Center for Australia and New Zealand Studies (CANZ). "Right now the independents have made promises of supporting the government in confidence and supply [finance] votes. Those agreements can always be broken down the track. Given the tenuousness of the situation, I think it unlikely that everybody will see eye-to-eye for the next three years. "This is uncharted territory," said Patricia O'Brien, also a CANZ professor. "Julia Gillard now has to appease people who really span the political spectrum, from the Greens … to the two independents who have conservative electorates. Nobody really knows whether her government is going to be able to get anything done". Miss Gillard's Conservative Party challenger, Tony Abbott, said Tuesday he has no intention of stepping down as opposition leader despite the setback.