From the Sydney Morning Herald. What's interesting, though, is what Abbott is not willing to agree to:
They just had to ask. The three country independents got all they wanted from the PM. Tony Abbott's response was a little more qualified but they did well out of him too. There's nothing like desperation to make leaders generous to a fault to those whose support they need.
The most fundamental concession is that both Gillard and Abbott say they would not have an election before August 2013. Gillard is even willing to ''work with'' the independents in setting the precise date.
For those used to Victoria's fixed term, this mightn't seem much. But federally, terms are flexible and the PM's ability to decide election timing is an important power. Giving it away is no small thing.
Interesting. And the fact that Gillard has not resisted this doesn't exactly make Abbott look very good... but assuming some coalition appears, that won't matter (it will probably be forgotten by the time the next election rolls around in three years). I'm inclined to think Gillard will ultimately get the nod from the independents actually; despite being ex-Nationals, they seem to be on poor terms with their former colleagues. Also, a Labour government could accomplish much more than a Liberal-National one, because the Greens hold the balance of power in the Senate and thus a Liberal-National government would have a hard time getting legislation through the upper house.
The scrapping today, however, will be over what Abbott would not agree to - the independents want his promises officially costed.
It's not surprising he is resisting this. If Treasury/Finance found holes in them - as is very likely - this would undermine not just Abbott's credibility but his pitch to the independents.
The thing is, whoever does form the government will likely have a majority of one, which will make for some interesting times. If nothing else, MPs on both sides of the house are likely to have excellent attendance in the next three years...
A side note -- those unfamiliar with the quirks of Australia's political system may find the coverage of this minority parliament particularly confusing, because the possibility exists of the independents forming a coalition with the Coalition. The existence of a long-term coalition between the urban and rural right (the Liberals and Nationals respectively) seems to be made possible by instant-runoff voting; the Liberals and Nationals simply trade preferences, whereas they'd be spoilers for each other under FPTP.
And a further tangent from that -- how would IRV play out if introduced in this country? I'm not entirely sure. At the federal level I suspect it would lead to a lot of NDP-Liberal coalitions, though at the provincial level I could see the Manitoba Liberals supporting the Tories rather than the NDP.