Let the sun shine in: Gillard

Last updated 06:37 08/09/2010
Julia Gillard
Reuters
FOLLOWING THROUGH: The broadband scheme was one of PM Julia Gillard's main election promises.

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Australia

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Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard says her minority government will be held to higher standards of accountability as a result of the deal struck with the independents.

Ms Gillard thanked all of the independents, including Bob Katter who decided to back the Coalition, for the "tone and tenor" of their negotiations.

She had no inkling of the independents' decision and only learned that Tony Windsor and Rob Oakeshott would back her to form government by watching their live press conference.

"So let's draw back the curtains and let the sun shine in, let our Parliament be more open than it was before," she said.

Ms Gillard thanked the Opposition Leader Tony Abbott for the "common courtesy" of phoning her after Mr Windsor and Mr Oakeshott made clear they would back Labor - giving it the 76 seats required to govern.

"Ours will be a government with just one purpose, and that's to serve the Australian people," she said.

"We will be held to higher standards of transparency and reform and it's in that spirit I approach the task of forming a government."

Ms Gillard said it was likely she would be in a position early next week to swear in a new ministry.

Former prime minister Kevin Rudd would be offered a senior portfolio but she declined to say if he would get foreign affairs.

INDEPENDENTS' DAY

''I gave Kevin Rudd a commitment that he would be a senior member of my ministerial team, a cabinet minister, as he will be,'' she said.

When it came to deciding the date of the next election, Ms Gillard said she would work with Mr Oakeshott and Mr Windsor.

''I would be hoping we could make that date transparent well in advance of it coming on,'' she said.

As part of the agreement with the independents, Ms Gillard has promised to give regional Australia ''its fair share''.

''The next round of health and hospitals funding will be focused and dedicated to regional Australia,'' she said.

''So will the next round of funding from the education investment fund.''

The government will ensure its national broadband network will have uniform wholesale prices across the country, while regional Australia would also be given priority as the network rolls out.

Labor will dedicate A$800 million to a priority regional infrastructure program, while A$573 million of the regional infrastructure fund will be spent with the guidance of regional development officers.

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Ms Gillard said those commitments came on top of Labor's general commitment to the A$6 billion regional infrastructure fund and the tele-health and building better cities programmes outlined during the election campaign.

''In total this means, for regional Australia, they can look forward to benefits in the order of A$9.9 billion,'' she said.

''But that's a fair share, it's been worked through with Mr Oakeshott and Mr Windsor and I thank them for working through that with me and (Treasurer) Wayne Swan.''

Ms Gillard said A$2 billion of the A$6 billion in revenue coming from Labor's proposed minerals resource rent tax would flow to Western Australia.

About half a billion dollars would be specifically allocated with the advice and assistance of regional development authorities.

The revenue from the mining tax was brought into question today, with a report revealing a multibillion dollar shortfall.

Mr Swan said the regional infrastructure fund was in place earlier this year before any of the political events unfolded.

He said it was part of the response to mining boom ''mark two''.

''And the regional infrastructure fund is a very, very important part of all of that," he said.

Mr Swan, who had been at the forefront of the negotiations, said Labor's success reflected Ms Gillard's consensus-building style of leadership.

Labor would govern in the best interests of the Australian people, Ms Gillard said.

"I know that if we fail in this solemn responsibility, we will be judged harshly when we next face the Australian people at the next election," she said.

Ms Gillard reached out to Mr Abbott and Nationals leader Warren Truss, saying the closeness of the election showed voters wanted all parties to find more common ground.

Ms Gillard said Mr Oakeshott was the only crossbencher to be offered an executive position.

She said the MP had the interests of the regions at heart, and could serve them from the crossbenches.

''Another way of doing it of course is to determine that you will at least for some purposes serve in executive government,'' she said.

''That's an offer that is there, it's there for Mr Oakeshott to consider.''

- with AAP

- Sydney Morning Herald

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