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Australian Opposition Leader Concedes to Independents' Demands


The head of Australia's conservative opposition coalition, Tony Abbott, has caved in to demands from three independent lawmakers that he submit his election promises to an analysis by the Treasury Department.

Prime Minister Julia Gillard had already agreed to the demand from the three rural lawmakers, who hold the balance of power after elections last Saturday left both major parties short of a majority.

The independents are requesting more information in a total of seven areas before they decide whether to support Ms. Gillard's Labor Party or Mr. Abbott's Liberals.

Mr. Abbott initially refused to permit the Treasury analysis of his promises, saying he feared the information might be leaked. But he relented on Friday after being assured that the results will not be shown to Ms. Gillard.

Australian news media have reported there is a $700 million discrepancy between Mr. Abbott's public positions and the actual cost of his promises.

Ballot-counting is expected to continue into next week. But the latest results Friday show Mr. Abbott's conservative coalition likely to win 73 seats in the 150-seat parliament, while Ms. Gillard will have 72 and the likely support of a single Green Party member.

That would leave the balance of power with four unaligned members of parliament, three of whom jointly submitted their requests for information earlier this week.

The three also have sought assurances that the next prime minister will serve out a full three-year term, rather than calling an early election in hopes of securing a majority. In that event, the independents' power to influence policy would be greatly diminished.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP and AP.

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