Australian `kingmaking` MP declines ministerial post

Rob Oakeshott has turned down an offer to become regional affairs minister.

Last Updated: Sep 10, 2010, 15:30 PM IST

Sydney: An independent Australian politician whose support was crucial to keeping Prime Minister Julia Gillard in power on Friday knocked back an offer to become a minister in her minority government.

Country lawmaker Rob Oakeshott, one of the three independents dubbed "kingmakers" after polls gave neither Gillard or the opposition enough seats to govern, said he had turned down an offer to become regional affairs minister.

On Tuesday, the 40-year-old handed power to Gillard, the nation`s first woman leader, after 17 days of deliberations during which he and fellow independents Tony Windsor and Bob Katter were frantically wooed by both sides.

Oakeshott said his decision to back Gillard had angered some parliamentary colleagues, and he knew this would make it difficult to deliver the USD 9.0 billion package for rural Australia the independents had negotiated with her.

"If I was to take this portfolio, I think there are some organisations still in Parliament that may want to bring the package down," he told reporters.

"I`m hoping it can be bought home by someone with potentially less thorns on them, at the moment, than me," he added.

Australia`s August 21 polls delivered a deadlocked Parliament -- the first in 70 years -- with voters disaffected with Gillard`s centre-left Labor but opposition conservative leader Tony Abbott unable to win enough seats to rule.

After more than two weeks of negotiations, Gillard added the support of Oakeshott and Windsor to give her the 76 seats needed to form government in the 150 seat House of Representatives, while Katter sided with Abbott.

Bureau Report