12/09/2008 - 12:17

End in sight over WA Nats' negotiations

12/09/2008 - 12:17

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Western Australia's Nationals say they are getting down to the "business end" of choosing whether to form a government with Labor or the Liberals as both parties submit their power sharing proposals.

Western Australia's Nationals say they are getting down to the "business end" of choosing whether to form a government with Labor or the Liberals as both parties submit their power sharing proposals.

Nationals leader Brendon Grylls and other parliamentary members will meet this afternoon before going into lockdown tomorrow as they deliberate over written submissions prepared by the two major parties.

The Nationals emerged as king makers after Saturday's state election left neither major party with enough seats to govern in their own right.

Mr Grylls today told reporters he expected the deliberations would not be easy.

"We're getting down to the business end of where we are," Mr Grylls said.

"My members are heading back from their electorates down to Perth. So I'll be seeing them for the first time this afternoon. We expect to have some proposals on the table by later this afternoon and then, basically, we go into lockdown by tomorrow morning."

Premier Alan Carpenter and opposition leader Colin Barnett have indicated they support the Nationals' demand for a "royalties for regions" plan, in which 25 per cent - or $675 million - of WA's mining royalties would be spent on regional services and infrastructure.

Mr Grylls said the Nationals would take into consideration the four to five per cent two-party preferred swing against Labor in their deliberations.

"We certainly take that into consideration. But the other thing we take into consideration is it looks like Labor and the Labor-leaning Independents will have more members of parliament than the Liberals and the Liberal-leaning Independents," he said.

Mr Carpenter today survived his first ALP cabinet meeting since the election, despite speculation he would be thrown out as leader over the party's poor showing on Saturday.

Meanwhile Mr Colin Barnett has delivered the strongest warning yet to the Nationals that their supporters will not tolerate a Labor-Nationals government.

Mr Barnett said a minority Labor government, supported by the Nationals, would go against the will of the people, who had rejected the ALP at Saturday's election.

Labor and the Liberals are each almost certainly unable to form governments after falling short of the majority they require in the 59-seat Legislative Assembly.

Both major parties have prepared submissions for Nationals leader Brendon Grylls on their power sharing plans with his party.

Mr Barnett told reporters the feedback he was getting from regional areas was that people voted for the Nationals, expecting them to get rid of Labor and install a Liberal government.

He said they had made a clear choice to throw Labor out of government and that a Labor-Nationals alliance would not reflect that decision.

"I am concerned about that because should that happen it would in my view be against the will of the voters of WA," Mr Barnett said.

"Bear in mind, the Liberal and National party combined vote ... 80,000 more people voted for that ahead of Labor.

"The Liberal party alone outpolled Labor.

"Clearly the will of the people was to reject Labor and I think all of us as elected members of parliament, our democratic duty is to respect the will of the people."

It was the strongest statement Mr Barnett has yet made in support of a Liberal-Nationals government.

Mr Grylls and other Nationals have criticised Mr Barnett and federal Deputy Opposition Leader Julie Bishop for saying National voters would expect the party to support the Liberals.

Mr Barnett said he had today sent Mr Grylls a three-page proposal for a Liberal and National party government.

"It was a brief letter, no shopping lists," he said.

"It was a matter of principles based around honesty, integrity and a commitment to working together to provide good government."

The letter also expressed a commitment to implementing the "royalties for regions plan", which Mr Grylls says is the bottom line of any deal with the Nationals.

Mr Barnett said the letter also outlined the possible arrangements for government in a Liberals-Nationals alliance, ranging from five National ministers in a formal coalition to a ministry for each of the three-member Nationals leadership team.

One minister could be appointed to oversee the royalties for regions plan, Mr Barnett said.

The outcome of the election hinges on the Nationals and several crucial seats.

Labor Party sources say both major parties are even in the seat of Albany. Yesterday afternoon, it was understood that Labor was ahead by just 20 votes.

Meanwhile the ALP say they are 90 votes behind in the seat of Riverton.

According to Liberal Party sources, they believe the party is 28 votes behind in Albany while strengthening its lead in the seats of Wanneroo by 277 votes and Riverton by 66 votes.

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