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Independents meet in Canberra -

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KERRY O'BRIEN, PRESENTER: Here is a story about the drama that's consuming Australian politics,
with Labor losing electoral ground today.

We'll be updating the count in vital seats with Antony Green in a moment, but the three independent
MPs whose place in the Parliament is already assured today began fleshing out what they'll seek
from their negotiations with Julia Gillard and Tony Abbott.

Tony Windsor, Rob Oakeshott and Bob Katter held talks in Canberra late today as a precursor to
their first face-to-face meeting with the two leaders tomorrow. But one of the independents, Rob
Oakeshott, tonight predicted it might take weeks, not days to settle the make-up of a minority

Political editor Heather Ewart reports.

HEATHER EWART, REPORTER: These are strange times in Canberra. The independents who have long
struggled to have their voices heard in the House of Representatives and the brand new Green member
who's yet to even sit in the chamber suddenly find they're the stars of the show.

Everyone wants to talk to them and it seems their every utterance is scrutinised.

ADAM BANDT, GREENS: We don't wanna be going the polls again some time soon. I think it is important
to have a stable government that will last the full term.

HEATHER EWART: Greens member Adam Bandt is maintaining he wants to work with a minority Labor

With votes still being counted in undecided seats, what worries Independent Robert Oakeshott is
that the first party able to put together 76 MPs to support it may not be a stable minority

ROB OAKESHOTT, INDEPENDENT: I am concerned about 76 being the highest number I can see anyone
getting to. I think that's a by-election away from trouble over the next three years, which is why
I'm doing this pitch at the moment on the processes of government, on the real message of last
Saturday and trying to get the party leaders such as Julia Gillard and Tony Abbott to think outside
the box for once.

HEATHER EWART: But what exactly does that mean and how would it work? As the major parties sweat on
every word spoken by the independents, Robert Oakeshott is suggesting they canvass consensus
politics. This is not how Canberra does business.

ROB OAKESHOTT: I know that Julia Gillard and Tony Abbott are friends and it might be about time for
a few phone calls between those two in the interests of the nation to take place so that we can
just at least explore some of the multi-party options that could form an executive and get us
beyond 76, which is a very tricky figure, for the next three years.

JOURNALIST: You're saying you would like to see Malcolm Turnbull serve with a Gillard Government or
Kevin Rudd serve in an Abbott - for example?

ROB OAKESHOTT: Yeah, and they're the two examples I've been publicly throwing out there, and I know
I'm being cheeky.

HEATHER EWART: Cheeky? Or just plain unrealistic? Neither Julia Gillard nor Tony Abbott are going
to pounce on that idea. But this is the sort of unfamiliar and unpredictable territory we're now in
and who knows what other ideas might float to the surface in the days ahead.

As the independents began their first round of talks at Parliament House late today, the Member for
New England Tony Windsor threw this warning into the mix in his stated desire for stable

TONY WINDSOR, INDEPENDENT: If I feel that that can't be reached, that it's untenable, I won't be
supporting either side. And that may well mean, if others were to do the same thing, that we might
return to the polls. So there's gotta be good will here expressed from both leaders to actually
want to move forward and get something in place that will actually work. If they're just trying to
set up a few dummy months here and there to go back to the polls early, they may as well go back

HEATHER EWART: As for Queensland member for Kennedy, Bob Katter, who flew in this afternoon in his
trademark hat, he still seemed to be nursing long-held grudges against the Coalition he'd fled.

BOB KATTER, INDEPENDENT: Tony's mob were in there for 12 years. At the end of the 12 years, there
was a farmer was committing suicide every four days in this country. You know, if they were good
for the bush, I'm a Martian astronaut.

JOURNALIST II: Warren Truss says that he wants you and him to forgive and forget and be best
buddies. Can you see that happening?

BOB KATTER: (Laughs). He shoulda thought of that before he shot his mouth of the other night,
shouldn't he? He's obviously had his backside well and truly kicked.

HEATHER EWART: That would not appear to be a positive sign for Tony Abbott's negotiations. But
then, senior Opposition figures point to the make-up of the three independents' regional
electorates. In Robert Oakeshott's seat of Lyne, the National's presence remains reasonably strong,
and Labor support at the election stands at only 13 per cent. It's a similar story in Tony
Windsor's seat, where Labor support was just eight per cent. In Bob Katter's electoral though, the
percentage of Labor voters is higher than in the other two seats.

BOB KATTER: It's never been a conservative electorate. It's always been a Labor electorate, except
for my family. When my father died, it went immediately over to the Labor Party. Four of the six
seats inside my electorate are Labor seats.

HEATHER EWART: That means he won't necessarily be listening to the Liberal argument that it would
be risky for the independents to go with a minority Labor government and anger their largely
conservative electorates.

While Julia Gillard lay low today, Tony Abbott called a news conference to start this sales pitch.

TONY ABBOTT, OPPOSITION LEADER: A half a million more people voted for the Coalition than voted for
the Labor Party in the election on Saturday. I want to make the point that a government which was
incompetent and unstable before an election, when it had a majority, is highly unlikely to be
stable and competent after an election when it doesn't have a majority, particularly given the
civil war which has now broken out inside the Labor Party.

HEATHER EWART: "Civil war" might be stretching the point a bit, especially since the critics of
Labor's campaign now seem to have been silenced, but Tony Abbott will no doubt hammer the same
message in his negotiations with the independents.

The renowned parliamentary warrior has also apparently changed his tune to address the
independents' complaints about the way Parliament operates.

TONY ABBOTT: I think we can have a kinder, gentler polity. I think we can be a more collegial
polity than we've been. I think that the spirit of Parliament has been needlessly confrontational,
especially over the last three years.

HEATHER EWART: You never know: there might be more transformations in store as the independents
play their upper hand in this unfolding saga.

KERRY O'BRIEN: Political editor Heather Ewart.