CANBERRA (Reuters) - Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard's grip onpower has been weakened over the past month after independentSpeaker Peter Slipper stood aside due to a sexual harassmentaccusation, cutting her ability to command a majority Inparliament. Gillard's government has also been weakened after her ruling LaborParty suspended one member of parliament, Craig Thomson, who isunder investigation over his union expenses from before his time inparliament, although Thomson continues to vote with the government. Government is formed by the party which controls a majority in the150-seat lower House of Representatives. But a bill must also passthe 76-seat upper house Senate to become law. Gillard's minority government relies on support from one Greenmember of parliament and three independents, including Thomson. |
Thegovernment can guarantee 74 votes instead of 75 after one membertook over as acting speaker. Parliament's speaker does not vote on legislation, but does cast adeciding vote in the event of a tie. Slipper's decision to standaside temporarily means he cannot vote at all, while Gillard'sLabor must lose a vote as one of its members becomes actingspeaker. The opposition can muster only 73 votes in the lower house, butcould attract unaligned independent Andrew Wilkie, meaning a votecould be tied at 74-all. Acting speaker, Labor's Anna Burke, wouldthen have a deciding vote.
In the Senate, the government can pass bills with the support ofthe Greens, giving the government 40 of the 76 votes. The Greens and independents who support Gillard have only committedto support the government on budget bills and no-confidencemotions. They are free to vote as they choose on other matters, sonumbers can vary. Following is a breakdown of seats by party, following Thomson'ssuspension and shift to be an independent. HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES 150 Gillard's Labor Party 70 Greens 1 Independents 3 Total for government 74 Labor acting speaker (casting vote only) 1 Non-aligned independent (Andrew Wilkie) 1 Liberal/National opposition 71 Country Liberal 1 Independent 1 Total for opposition 73 Independent speaker (stood aside) 1 SENATE 76 Gillard's Labor Party 31 Greens 9 Unaligned independent 1 Democratic Labor Party (DLP) 1 Liberal/National opposition 34 (Reporting by James Grubel ; Editing by Robert Birsel ).
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