Impasse threatens Australian PM Gillard's rule

06/10/2010 16:20

SYDNEY — Australian leader Julia Gillard moved into the prime minister's official residence Sunday, but a political standoff threatened to derail her fragile rule just two days before parliament was due to storeGillard, Australia's first female prime minister, seized the leadership in a party coup 13 weeks ago but refused to move into The Lodge until she'd been elected prime minister in her own right. She scraped back into office after last month's vote produced the closest election in 70 years, forcing Gillard to seek a tenuous coalition with four minority MPs. The unmarried former lawyer and her ex-hairdresser partner Tim Mathieson finally took residence in the official home gifts on sale But Gillard's time at the helm could be short-lived, with conservative opposition leader Tony Abbott threatening to walk away from a deal on parliamentary numbers which would have secured her a two-seat voting majority. "It's deeply disappointing that Mr Abbott would say yes to parliamentary reform... then trash it when it doesn't suit him," Gillard told commercial television. "He's acting like a bull in a china shop, thinking his job is to smash everything he sees up."cheap toys on sale Under the agreement Abbott would have forfeited one of his lower house votes to compensate for the vote Gillard loses by having to appoint someone from her ruling Labor party as Speaker. The Speaker is not allowed to vote except in the event of a tie, leaving Gillard with an effective one-seat majority of 75 to Abbott's 74 which will make it difficult to pass legislation. "We can't just go to the (lower) House of Representatives and say 'here is the Government's position' and five minutes later it's passed by the House," Gillard said of the very real potential for cheap gifts "That's not the circumstance we find ourselves in." Deputy conservative leader Julie Bishop defended Abbott's position, saying the opposition had been pressured to green-light the reforms to resolve the fortnight of uncertainty which followed last month's hung poll. "There was so much pressure over those few days to enter into this parliamentary reform document," Bishop told state television. Since then, she said, legal advice had shown the deal to be constitutionally unsound. But Gillard said she was still hopeful that Abbott would come good on the reforms before parliament sits for the first time on cheap toys "We're looking to honour the agreement as best we can in circumstances where Mr Abbott says 'my job is to be a wrecker'," the prime minister said. "I want us to make this parliament work. I will be asking myself everyday what we can do." Labor will introduce more than 40 pieces of legislation in the first week of parliament, and Gillard indicated Sunday that she would allow a conscience vote on euthanasia laws as requested by the minority left-wing Greens party. "I find it very hard to conceptualise how we could have the sort of safeguards that we would need if we did say that euthanasia was legal," Gillard said. "I?m conflicted on it in that sense. I think it's a very difficult question."Moncler Greens MP Adam Bandt forms a critical part of Gillard's coalition government, and she has already agreed to a parliamentary debate on Australia's involvement in Afghanistan to win his party's support.