Australian political leaders agree on costing briefing for independents

14:32, August 27, 2010      

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Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard and Opposition Leader Tony Abbott on Friday agreed to amend caretaker government conventions, so that the three independent Members of Parliament can be given a Treasury briefing about the budget impact of Labor and coalition policies.

The independents - Bob Katter, Tony Windsor and Rob Oakeshott - on Wednesday asked for a Treasury briefing on the cost of all Labor and coalition policies over the next term as a prerequisite for talks about forming a minority government.

At a press conference, Gillard said the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet had advised her that Treasury briefing on the cost of campaign policies, would require caretaker conventions to be amended.

The prime minister and Abbott exchanged a number of letters on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday about the issue, before he agreed to the changes.

"I am pleased to report that Abbott has generally agreed that the independents should be able to get the material that they seek, " Gillard told reporters in Canberra on Friday.

"I welcome Abbott's general agreement to that."

According to The Australian newspaper, the move is a significant backdown for Abbott, who had told the country independents that he was not willing for Coalition policies to be cost by the bureaucracy.

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