Greens back Australian Labour Party
Australia's Labor Party won the backing of a Greens party politician in its bid to form the country's first minority government in nearly seven decades, while other independents said they were close to deciding which party they would support.
Greens member Adam Bandt is the first of five politicians from outside the major parties to announce which side he will back following the August 21 elections, which ended with no party winning a majority.
His support gives Prime Minister Julia Gillard's centre-left Labor Party control of 73 seats in the 150-seat House of Representatives, the same as opposition leader Tony Abbott's conservative Liberal Party-led coalition.
Labor ruled for three years until the elections and remains in charge of the caretaker government until Ms Gillard or Mr Abbott can strike a deal with independents to command 76 seats. If neither leader can command a majority, new elections will be called.
Ms Gillard won Mr Bandt's support by agreeing to a range of Greens demands, including the formation of a committee to investigate how Australia could introduce a tax on greenhouse gas emissions and allowing a parliamentary debate on the future of Australia's 1,550 troops in Afghanistan.
Mr Bandt, who won his seat in last month's elections, is the Greens' only representative in the House.
Still pivotal in the quest to rule are three rural independents who are all former members of a conservative party and are negotiating with the two sides as a bloc.
Ms Gillard said she did not believe the early deal with the left-wing Greens would affect Labor's chances of winning the support of the rural independents. She said she had forwarded each of the independents details of the pact.
"They understand that anybody seeking stable and effective government in these circumstances is going to be talking to a range of people," she told reporters.
Mr Abbott said the Labor-Greens deal meant that a Labour government would impose a carbon tax on Australians, increase taxes on mining profits and reduce government funding for private schools.