Conservatives defy Australian `kingmakers`

Tony Abbott and PM Julia Gillard are trying to woo the unaligned MPs.

Sydney: Independent lawmakers key to resolving Australia`s political logjam on Thursday asked if conservative chief Tony Abbott had something to hide after he refused to submit election promises for costing.

Both Abbott and Prime Minister Julia Gillard are trying to woo the unaligned MPs after failing to win an outright majority at Saturday`s polls, leaving the nation facing its first hung Parliament in 70 years.

The four kingmaking parliamentarians on Tuesday issued a seven-point "wishlist" to guide negotiations, including a request for a briefing on the feasibility of both sides` election promises from the Treasury.

Gillard said she was "predisposed to assist" with the request but Abbott flatly refused to hand over his policies, saying he did not trust the Treasury and believed his plans were too complex for public servants to digest.

Abbott failed to submit his plans for costing during the election campaign and instead had them assessed by an accounting firm linked to his party after leaks showed an AUD 800 million (USD 700 million) black hole in his promises.

Bob Katter, one of the four kingmakers, accused Abbott of "intransigence" and game-playing.

"If he looks so bad and he`s got something to hide, it makes it much more difficult for us to give him the gong to become prime minister," the feisty Katter told the ABC state broadcaster.

"If you think the Australian people are going to put up with this sort of tomfoolery, you got another thing coming."

Another of the independents, Tony Windsor, said Abbott`s offer of a briefing from the Liberal/National coalition`s accounting firm was not acceptable.

"I think it`s appropriate that both sides be costed by the same person," Windsor said. "I think Tony Abbott will probably reverse this decision, and he`d be pretty silly if he didn`t."

Abbott has also refused a request that government departments brief the independents on how his plans would be implemented over the next three years.

The stand-off comes as counting draws closer to a hung parliament, with the ruling Labor party closing the gap in two of the three undecided seats, meaning it will have 73 seats to the coalition`s 72.

Both will fall short of the 76 seats required to form government and need to broker a deal with the independents -- Katter, Windsor, Rob Oakeshott and Andrew Wilkie -- as well as Greens MP Adam Bandt, who will likely side with Labor. Formal negotiations are due to start by September 03.

Bureau Report

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