Abbott makes plea in Australia political impasse

Abbott makes plea in Australia political impasse Sydney: Australia's conservative chief Tony Abbott told three minority lawmakers who will decide if he should become prime minister that he offered a "fresh start" in an eleventh-hour plea for their support.

Last month's inconclusive elections left both Abbott and Prime Minister Julia Gillard short of the 76 seats needed to claim victory, and the question of who will govern rests with three independent rural MPs.

The undecided trio, Rob Oakeshott, Tony Windsor and outspoken maverick Bob Katter, are due to make their final decision within days, and Gillard boosted her case today by signing off on a request for political reforms.

But a defiant Abbott warned the men that a vote for Gillard's ruling Labour party was "endorsing factional warlordism and ... incompetence," referring to Gillard's ruthless axing of former PM Kevin Rudd shortly before the polls.

"Fourteen million Australians have given the (opposition Liberal/National) coalition the most seats and the most votes," Abbott wrote in an open letter published by the Sunday Telegraph newspaper.

"But the election now turns on the decision of just three independent MPs."

Abbott touted his party as more sympathetic to the needs of people in rural electorates, despite reports that Windsor backed Labor's plan to build a high-speed National Broadband Network.

Labour frontbencher Anthony Albanese accused Abbott of trying to bully the independents, and said they were "people of integrity" who would make a decision in the national interest.

"The coalition has become increasingly shrill, have increasingly gone from a position of talking about parliament being a more gentle place and there being more co-operation, to one of almost trying to intimidate people into making a decision in their favour," Albanese told commercial television.

Abbott staged a dramatic comeback at the polls and needs three seats to fall over the line; Gillard has won over the lone Greens lawmaker, Adam Bandt, and another independent, Andrew Wilkie, and needs just two.