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  • Business confidence up for now

    Business confidence in Australia hit a two-year high on the change of federal government in September.

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    But it is not clear how much that will have been dented by the political shenanigans in the United States over the past two weeks that saw a debt default only just avoided.

    The political standoff that started with the failure of the US Congress to pass its budget at the end of last month, resulting in a partial shutdown of government, has already taken its toll on consumers' post-election confidence in Australia.

    The deadlock was only resolved on Thursday with a deal to lift the $US16.7 trillion ($A17.53 trillion) debt ceiling for now, and only hours before the world's largest economy would have sunk into technical default.

    The deal will allow the government to be funded until January 15 with the debt ceiling raised until February 7 to allow its budget negotiations to resume.

    "It will be essential to reduce uncertainty surrounding the conduct of fiscal policy by raising the debt limit in a more durable manner," International Monetary Fund managing director Christine Lagarde said in a statement after the agreement was passed by Congress.

    But Westpac economist Elliot Clarke believes US budget concerns will linger.

    "At this point, the only thing that is certain is that this crisis has had a material impact on (US December quarter) activity and, more importantly, on the confidence of business and consumers," he said in a note to clients.

    He expects US growth in the quarter will have been cut in the region of 0.5 percentage points.

    However, relief that a deal had been struck, however temporary, helped to lift share prices in the Asia region, while the Australia dollar remained steady at around 95.50 US cents.

    Meanwhile, the National Australia Bank quarterly business survey - a broader report than its monthly surveys - found confidence recovering close to its long-run average since 1989.

    NAB Group chief economist Alan Oster said this improvement in the September quarter likely reflected a number of factors - an improving housing market, the weaker Australian dollar, better consumer confidence and lower interest rates.

    "Fundamentally, however, it appears to reflect a reaction to the political change," he said.

    However, actual business conditions weakened further to a four-year low, pointing to below-trend growth in the overall economy.

    Mining conditions were particularly weak at a fourteen and a half year low, reflecting slowing Chinese economic growth weighing on commodity prices and receding mining investment.

    Economists will be hoping Reserve Bank of Australia governor Glenn Stevens will give his take on recent events on Friday when he delivers his first speech since July.

  • Aussie clothes importers urged to join Bangladesh accord

    (Transcript from World News Australia Radio)

    Critics describe it as industrial homicide, and some of the world's leading multi-national retailers are accused of being complicit.

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    This is because they're sourcing clothes made by garment workers in Bangladesh who are sometimes paying with their lives so Westerners can buy cheap clothing.

    Over the past 12 months, more than a thousand workers have perished in clothing factory accidents in a country that's become the second largest exporter of garments after China.

    Greg Dyett reports.

    (Click on audio tab above to hear full item)

    The clothing export industry is worth $20 billion to Bangladesh, by far the country's biggest source of export income.

    In recent years, big brand Western retailers have turned to Bangladesh for raw materials and finished clothing because the cost of production is now cheaper than China's.

    But critics say it's a lethal trade, where workers are exploited and corruption is rife.

    Undercover investigations by journalists have found some factories forcing workers to do 19 hour shifts.

    They're locked inside the buildings which have become deathtraps when a fire breaks out.

    In April, more than 11 hundred people died in the collapse of the Rana Plaza factory in Dhaka - the country's worst industrial accident.

    Many other clothing workers have died in fires and other accidents.

    Western clothing retailers are now being put under pressure by activists and trade unions to do more to prevent such deaths.

    Michele O'Neil is the National Secretary of the Textile, Clothing and Footwear Union of Australia.

    "Bangladesh has grown because it's so much cheaper than China, as has Cambodia, as has Sri Lanka, as has India so those four countries are all significantly cheaper to manufacture garments in now than China but we still have a problem across the globe so it is important to not just think this is a Bangladesh issue, it's an issue about trying to lift the standards of the workers that make our clothes around the world."

    Michele O'Neil's union is encouraging Australians to put pressure on retailers to get them to sign what's known as the Bangladesh Accord on Fire and Building Safety.

    She says if retailers are going to source from one of the cheapest places in the world, they have to take responsibility for the supply chain.

    The accord provides for sanctions for non-compliance.

    "It's enforceable by law in that countries of origin of those companies that are actually signatories to it, so it's not relying on a corrupt legal system in Bangladesh. It's also genuinely multi stakeholder so it has the involvement of trade unions both in Bangladesh and globally. It involves the businesses, it involves civil society organisations and community campaign organisations in supporting it also and has ILO involvement so it is important because it has those characteristics, sometimes companies make commitments or sign on to codes or deeds or the like that aren't worth the paper they're written on, we think this accord has some substance to it."

    In the case of Australia, Michele O'Neil says five companies have signed on: Target, K Mart, Cotton On, Forever New and the Speciality Fashion Group which is Katies and Millers.

    Woolworths is not among the signatories - at least not yet.

    Woolworths, which owns Big W, provided this statement to SBS.

    "Big W and Woolworths is committed to ensuring the factories with whom we work with provide safe working conditions for their employees. We have strict sourcing guidelines in place around ethical sourcing. All factories in Bangladesh from which BIG W sources products have been audited over the last 12 months.We have been working through a number of issues with (our) industrial (department) and on the proposed implementation of the Accord in Bangladesh. We support the aim of the Accord and have already indicated our intention to sign in the near future."

    Associate Professor of International Business at RMIT University in Melbourne, Sharif as-Saber is a native of Bangladesh.

    He says one of the critical issues is governance.

    "Companies will need to maintain efficiency but they need more profit, they need quality products but that should not be at the expense of workers rights that should not be at the expense of human rights and that needs to be assured and that insurance should be provided not only by the government of Bangladesh, that insurance should be provided by other governments linked to the product and marketing and the markets and also on United Nations agencies including International Labour Organisation."

    Professor as-Saber says while maximising profits companies will always be the overriding objective of business, he's convinced the Western multi-nationals will recognise the benefits of improving the lot of the garment workers.

    "I think in the longer term it is very much to their benefit because they're securing a market, they're creating a market, they're building a market more sustainable in nature and at the same time people are benefiting and they're also benefitting and the outrage among the population globally will be minimised and they will be regarded as sustainable producers and suppliers."

     

  • Detroit beat Boston to level MLB series

    Detroit's reshuffled lineup erupted for five runs in the second inning on Wednesday en route to a 7-3 victory over Boston that knotted baseball's American League Championship Series.

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    After the Tigers' potent offence combined for just six runs over the first three games of the best-of-seven series, manager Jim Leyland reshuffled his batting lineup and saw the move pay off, with the Tigers levelling the set at two games apiece.

    "I didn't know what else to do," Leyland said of the shake-up, which was welcomed by Torii Hunter.

    Hunter replaced struggling Austin Jackson in the leadoff spot and contributed a two-run double.

    Jackson, who had been batting .091 in the playoffs until Wednesday, was demoted to eighth in the batting order and went 2-for-2 with two walks, two runs-batted-in and a run scored.

    "I think it just helped me relax," Jackson said of the move. "I think that was the goal, and I just wanted to go up and be patient and get a pitch to hit."

    Slugger Miguel Cabrera, batting second instead of third, also had two hits, drove in two runs and stole a base for the reigning American League champions, who host game five on Thursday.

    The winners of the series will take on the National League champions in Major League Baseball's World Series.

    St. Louis lead Los Angeles 3-2 in the NL Championship Series after the Dodgers clawed back a game on Wednesday.

    Adrian Gonzalez clubbed two homers and pitcher Zack Greinke was effective through seven innings as the Dodgers won 6-4.

    Gonzalez's 428-foot blast in the third inning was the first home run of the National League Championship Series for the Dodgers.

    The playoff now shifts to St Louis for game six on Friday. The Cardinals need to win one of the next two to reach their second World Series in three years.

    The Dodgers played like a desperate team on Wednesday, busting out of their hitting slump by belting four home runs in game five. Heading into Wednesday's game they were batting just .223 as a team.

    Carl Crawford and AJ Ellis also hit homers for the Dodgers, who finished 11 games ahead of Arizona to win the NL West Division this year.

    Greinke appeared to be in for a short outing as he loaded the bases in the first inning in front of a crowd of 53,183 at Dodger Stadium.

    But the 29-year-old Greinke worked through it and eventually got Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina to hit into a double play to end the inning, stranding the three baserunners.

    Greinke allowed two runs on six hits and struck out four in seven innings. He also chipped in at the plate with an RBI single in the second inning. It was one of two runs the Dodgers got in that inning to open the scoring in the contest.

    The Dodgers are trying to become just the second team in NLCS history to rally from an 0-2 series deficit to win. The Cardinals did it in 1985 against Los Angeles.

  • Furloughed US govt workers return to work

    The US federal government is back open for business.

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    The Obama administration changed the government's status to "open" early on Thursday, more than two weeks after a partial shutdown took hold when funding from Congress ran out.

    Minutes after President Barack Obama signed a hard-fought deal struck in congress, the White House directed all agencies to reopen promptly and in an orderly fashion. Furloughed federal employees across the country are expected to return to work on Thursday.

    "In the days ahead, we will work closely with departments and agencies to make the transition back to full operating status as smooth as possible," said Sylvia Mathews Burwell, director of the Office of Management and Budget.

    Unless they are told otherwise, all employees should return to work on their next regularly scheduled work day, the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) said. For most workers, that means they'll be expected to clock in on Thursday morning.

    But the administration also said agencies are strongly encouraged to be flexible where they can, including by allowing telework, flexible scheduling and excused absences in cases of hardship. Many federal workers may be unable to return to work on such short notice.

    The White House encouraged federal workers to check OPM's website for additional instructions about returning to work.

    Hundreds of thousands of workers have been furloughed since the shutdown started on October 1. The measure Obama signed on Thursday restores government funding through January 15. It also extends the nation's borrowing authority through February 7, averting a potential default.

  • Genia responds to Wallabies pay cut call

    Wallabies halfback Will Genia says he understands a middle ground may have to be found following calls for the cash-strapped code to slash player payments.

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    A new Collective Bargaining Agreement is set to end the days of Australian rugby players earning a guaranteed $14,000 per Test win, loss or draw.

    The ARU board meets on Monday to discuss ongoing negotiations with the Rugby Union Players' Association, after the code posted a $19 million deficit in the past two years.

    The Wallabies' dismal results this year, winning just three of their nine Tests to drop to No.4 in the world, have impacted on attendances and sponsorship.

    One of the ideas floated has been to introduce an incentive-based pay system, with former World Cup-winning skipper Nick Farr-Jones claiming Wallabies should be paid far less for defeats.

    While Genia said he didn't have an opinion on the matter either way; he conceded there may need to be an element of give and take.

    "With the things the way they've gone at the moment, the pressure is obviously building, building and building," said Genia, who has stood in as Wallabies captain on occasions.

    "You've got to find a middle ground in between. And it adds pressure when the team isn't doing so well."

    Genia, who will play his 50th Test for the Wallabies in Saturday's third Bledisloe Cup match in Dunedin, said he hoped any discussions would be held in good faith.

    "We've just got to understand, if it is to take pay cuts, or get paid less based on performance, you do it because you are all driving in the same direction," he said.

    "Those conversations obviously have to be had, and whatever it is we just deal with it."

  • Noordin laptop videos show bomb planning

    Indonesian police have released a series of files from slain terror leader Noordin Mohammed Top's laptop showing detailed and chillingly nonchalant planning behind the July bombings in Jakarta.

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    Videos on the computer seized in the Central Java raid this month that killed Noordin, 41, show suicide bombers and other militants discussing and making preparations for the July 17 attacks, which killed seven people.

    In one video, the two suicide bombers, Dani Dwi Permana, 18, and Nana Ikhwan Maulana, 28, are seen doing stretches near an empty lot in front of the targeted JW Marriott and Ritz-Carlton hotels.

    In another video, the bombers and hotel florist Ibrohim -- who police say helped stage the attack from the inside -- picnic on biscuits and apples on the grass in front of the hotels.

    Syaifudin Jaelani, a fourth militant still on the run from police, says off camera: "America, destroyed; Australia, destroyed; Indonesia, destroyed."

    In yet another clip, teenage bomber Dani is seen in front of the hotels saying: "This is not suicide, this is a good deed."

    "We see how they are preparing themselves, how they have filmed their plans and their surveys of targets through their own eyes," police spokesman Nanan Soekarna told reporters.

    "We see how they really did prepare themselves, that this isn't just something the police have been saying."

    "We found the laptop on Noordin's back," he said.

    Other files found on Noordin's laptop included videos showing shopping and discussions of the impending attacks, as well as letters by Jaelani intended for his family that describe the operation's organisational structure.

    "We're an organisation with efficient leadership, there are administrators, those who manage funding... those who look after the families of holy warriors, those who find transport, look for explosives, look for weapons, handle internal and overseas affairs," Jaelani wrote.

    Detective Tito Karnavian said police still regard the network Noordin built as a potent threat despite his death.

    "This network has the capability to build new cells -- for example, Syaifudin's (Jaelani's) cell, which has not been destroyed yet," Karnavian said.

    "The targets previously were the far enemy (such as the United States and Australia) but now they are also targeting the Indonesian government which they say is promoting democracy, which is being pushed by the West," he said.

    Noordin, a Malaysian who headed a violent splinter faction of the radical Jemaah Islamiyah network, was killed along with three of his militants during a September 17 raid on a village house outside Solo city.

    Noordin headed an organisation he dubbed "Al-Qaeda in the Malay Archipelago" and was one of Asia's most wanted men for allegedly masterminding attacks including a 2003 bombing of the Marriott that killed 12 people.

    He was also wanted for the 2004 bombing of the Australian embassy in Jakarta and 2005 attacks on tourist restaurants on the holiday island of Bali.

  • Gates makes surprise visit to Afghanistan

    US Defence Secretary Robert Gates flew into Kabul for talks with Afghan President Hamid Karzai and commanders about Washington's new strategy to send 30,000 extra troops to fight the Taliban.

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    It is the first official US visit since President Barack Obama last week announced he would boost the the US deployment in Afghanistan to 100,000 to counter an increasingly virulent Taliban insurgency.

    The Pentagon has said the first wave of 1,500 extra US Marines will begin arriving in southern Afghanistan next week as the top military officer said there was a short window to seize back the initiative from the Taliban.

    Open to talks

    "We want to talk with President Karzai and (Defence) Minister Wardak about the president's decision and the implementation of that decision, how we will use our troops and the additional troops from our allies in partnership with the Afghan national security forces," Gates told journalists.

    The Pentagon chief said he would raise the issue of stepping up the training and retention of Afghanistan's fledgling army and police, a cornerstone of Obama's strategy which hopes to bring a quick end to the war.

    In an interview with CNN, Karzai said Afghans wanted to be in charge of security "sooner, rather than later" but said it would take two years to train Afghan forces to the point where they can lead operations in many areas.

    Concerns mount for Afghan youth

    Experts warn that Afghanistan lacks literate young men, veterans with leadership skills, facilities for training and money for weapons.

    A senior NATO commander has warned that the current police force of around 68,000 is prone to corruption. Out of 94,000 soldiers trained so far, 10,000 have defected and 15 percent of the armed forces are drug addicts.

    Obama's plan to start withdrawing US troops in July 2011 has sparked major concern in Afghanistan and neighbouring Pakistan that the Taliban could sit out the surge, regroup and attack a pared down US force in 18 months' time.

    Gates said he was seeking to reassure Kabul of the long-term US commitment, despite strenuous domestic opposition to the war back home.

    "Another major message will be the importance of a long-term relationship between the United States, ISAF (the NATO-run multinational force based in the country) and Afghanistan," he told reporters.

    Karzai delayed cabinet

    Karzai, who faces huge pressure to form a transparent government after his fraud-tainted re-election in August, has postponed the unveiling of his long-awaited cabinet until Saturday at the earliest, a parliament spokesman said.

    Washington has warned Karzai to fight corruption or see his cabinet bypassed in favour of lower level officials to provide services to Afghans as part of the sweeping new war strategy.

    Gates emphasised "the importance for us of capable, honest ministers in areas that are critical for our success, such as defence and interior" -- calling both the current incumbents "very capable people".

    The Pentagon chief will also hold talks with top US and NATO commanders, but not the overall commander on the ground, US General Stanley McChrystal, who is due to appear before Congress in Washington later Tuesday.

    NATO boosts troops

    NATO allies have agreed to support the US surge by dispatching another 7,000 troops, which are expected to swell the ranks of foreign forces in Afghanistan next year to 150,000.

    With military commanders, Gates is due to discuss the logistical challenges facing the influx of reinforcements after signing deployment orders for the first wave of 17,000 more US troops that will arrive early next year.

    "It's going to require a lot of efforts," Gates told reporters.

    Gates' visit to Kabul comes four days after more than 1,000 US Marines, British troops and Afghan forces launched a major offensive in the southern province of Helmand, a Taliban heartland and primary opium-growing area.

    Most of the first wave of extra US troops will be going to Helmand and neighbouring province Kandahar, the spiritual capital of the Taliban and the scene of the worst fighting since the 2001 US-led invasion ousted the Taliban.

    Soaring violence has made this year the deadliest since the Taliban fell from power, killing record numbers of civilians, Afghan and foreign troops.

  • Cardinals rally around Pope at Easter

    Pope Benedict XVI steered clear of the paedophile priest scandals rocking the Roman Catholic Church in his high-profile Easter speech, while top prelates closed ranks around him.

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    "The people of God are with you and do not allow themselves to be impressed by the idle chatter of the moment," said the dean of the Vatican's College of Cardinals, Angelo Sodano.

    The unusual gesture just before Benedict began celebrating Easter mass in St Peter's Square echoed the embattled pope's own remarks a week ago when he urged Christians "not be intimidated by the idle chatter of prevailing opinions."

    The pope, in his much-anticipated "Urbi et Orbi" (to the city and the world) message on Sunday, made no mention of the scandals.

    Humankind is in a 'profound crisis': Pope

    However the pontiff made a broad call for a "spiritual and moral conversion" and said humankind was in a "profound crisis, one which requires deep change, beginning with consciences."

    In contrast, leading bishops in both Belgium and Germany issued forthright condemnations of the Church's role in covering up for predator priests.

    Belgium's Andre Joseph Leonard, archbishop of Mechelen-Brussel, said in his Easter homily that the Church had mismanaged the crisis "with a guilty silence."

    Freiburg Archbishop Robert Zollitsch, for his part, said: "Today particularly we must set out together and examine inconceivable events, awful crimes, the Church's dark aspects as well as our shadowy sides."

    Concerns mount over scandal

    Vatican expert Bruno Bartoloni said the Church was going through its "hardest period since the publication (in 1968) of the 'Humanae Vitae' (Of Human Life)" -- a papal encyclical by pope Paul VI that attacked use of the birth control pill as a mortal sin.

    "At that time the crisis was as deep, with personal attacks against the pope and the Church in general," Bartoloni told AFP.

    Many of the pilgrims among the tens of thousands huddled under umbrellas for the rain-drenched Easter mass here defended the pope.

    Edgar Meier of Germany accused the media of blowing up the affair, saying: "It's not a typical thing of the Church. Journalists are making it something bigger than it really is."

    Calls for resignation

    But another German in the crowd, Claudia Binion, said the pope "should resign because he is too implicated" in the crisis, which she called a "huge problem."

    "For those who have these tendencies, the Church is the best place to go because they are with children and are hidden and protected," she charged.

    The US group Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP) said the victims still seek concrete action from the pope.

    "When we speak up and tell how our childhood innocence was shattereed by sexual assaults by priests it is not 'petty gossip'," said SNAP president Barbara Blaine. "Lofty statements from Vatican officials do not change the facts."

    Easter mass at Dublin's Pro Cathedral did not go as smoothly as protesters hung pairs of children's shoes on the railings to represent the victims of predator priests.

    Abuse survivors heckled Archbishop Diarmuid Martin as he went inside, and protesters held placards reading: "Hypocrites for Jesus. Catholic Church rapes, abuses, destroys children and covers it up, covers it up, covers it up."

    In his homily, Martin said: "The spotlight of media and public opinion is focused on the failures and the betrayals of Church leaders and a damaging culture which has grown up in the Church.

    "The truth will set the Church free, even if the truth is hard to digest," he said.

    Scandals trace back to 1930s

    Predominantly Catholic Ireland has been rocked by three judicial reports in the past five years detailing child sex abuse and cover-ups going back to the 1930s.

    The pope last month addressed a pastoral letter to Irish Catholics expressing "shame and remorse" over predator priests in Ireland and chided Irish bishops for making "serious mistakes" in responding to allegations.

    The scandals have cast a pall over Easter, normally the most joyous day in the Christian calendar, commemorating the day when Jesus Christ is believed to have been resurrected.

    In the United States on Saturday, fresh allegations emerged in court documents that Cardinal William Levada -- now the head of the Vatican department in charge of disciplining predator priests -- had reassigned an alleged child molester in the 1990s without warning his parishioners.

    The pope headed the same department -- the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith -- from 1981 to 2005, and himself faces allegations that he helped to protect predator priests both in that role and when he was archbishop of Munich.

  • Who are the independents?

    With a hung parliament looking likely the 'gang of five' -- four independents and a Greens MP, are crucial to any attempt at forming government.

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    Who are they and what are their issues?

    After voting failed to deliver a majority Labor or Coalition government, four independent MPs and the first elected Greens MP have been thrown into the spotlight.

    INDEPENDENTS:

    * Bob Katter, MP for Kennedy, Queensland

    * Rob Oakeshott, MP for Lyne, NSW

    * Tony Windsor, MP for New England, NSW

    * Andrew Wilkie, likely independent MP, Denison, Tasmania

    GREENS:

    * Andrew Bandt, Greens MP, Melbourne

    Sunday morning, there were still 80,000 uncounted votes in four seats - with two tipped to go to Labor, and two to the Coalition - likely leaving both unable to hit the 'magic number' of 76.

    With pundits forecasting a hung parliament - where a potential government would have difficulty passing legislation - four independent MPs and a lone Greens MP could find themselves very popular.

    Independents to hold talks in Canberra

    The prospect of a hung parliament has been welcomed by Independent MP Rob Oakeshott.

    "It's a very exciting and enlightening moment," he told Sky News on Sunday. The NSW MP intends travelling to Canberra later on Sunday for talks with two other independents Tony Windsor (NSW) and Bob Katter (Qld).

    Oakeshott says they'll have to take into account the make-up of the Senate, in which the Australian Greens are expected to wield significant power. Oakeshott was re-elected to the seat of Lyne with a big increase in votes.

    In Tasmania, Independent Andrew Wilkie looks set to take Denison in Tasmania after preferences go his way.

    Oakeshott, Windsor and Katter were all once Nationals, while Wilkie won headlines as the Iraq war 'whistleblower', as well as running as a former Greens candidate.

    On top of that, Andrew Bandt has become the first Green elected in a general election, after he took Melbourne from Labor. He has said he would be most likely to support Labor's attempts to form a government.

    Destinies uncertain

    But for the independents, it is unclear who they may support.

    Bob Katter says 'the gong goes' to whoever will help rural Australia, while

    Mr Katter says he expects to meet within the next two days with fellow independents Rob Oakeshott and Tony Windsor. He said they'd worked together well in the past and that should continue.

    "... we get on very well together, we work very closely together, we have similar backgrounds and we've simply agreed that we'll walk in a room, close the door and not be taken advantage of by all you cunning media people," Mr Katter told the ABC.

    "(We will) determine a responsible course of conduct to which we can move forward."

    Mr Katter said he'd not yet decided where his support would go but pointed to continuing issues with former Nationals colleagues.

    "Warren Truss was the leader and he attacked me personally last night," Mr Katter said. "And (Nationals Senate Leader) Barnaby Joyce in a similar piece of incredible unfortunateness."

    Mr Katter refused to divulge if he'd been contacted by Julia Gillard or Tony Abbott, saying only that he'd received phone calls

    from "very powerful people" who could influence the course of events.

    He said improving the ethanol industry and broadband infrastructure were high on his agenda.

    "A privatised broadband, I mean, please, don't even talk about it, privatised Telstra has been absolutely disastrous for rural

    Australia," he said.

    Stability, health, broadband, water, rewnewables

    Wilkie has said he wants 'stable, competent, and ethical' government.

    Oakeshott wants stable government and a parliament that 'can deliver outcomes'

    Mr Windsor said he had received a phone call from Ms Gillard and Liberal frontbencher Joe Hockey, both congratulating him on his win in New England. Windsor told the ABC that the potential stability of a new government would be the most important factor for him in deciding where to go from here. He then listed health, broadband, water and renewable energy as other crucial issues.

    He said his discussions with Oakeshott and Katter would try and find what common ground there is, while they may also have to seek advice on the constitutionality of each scenario.

  • At-a-glance: UK emergency budget

    Here are the main points from Britain's emergency budget, presented by new finance minister George Osborne to the House of Commons Tuesday:

    - Structural deficit set to be eliminated within five years

    - Seventy-seven percent of this change will come through spending cuts and 23 percent through tax increases

    - Welfare cuts worth 11 billion pounds (13 billion euros, 16 billion dollars) by 2014-15, including child benefit frozen for three years, caps on housing benefits and a tougher assessment for disability allowance

    - two-year pay freeze for public sector workers

    - Government accelerating moves to raise the state pension age to 66

    - Most government departments face cuts of around 25 percent over four years, an overall figure of 17 billion pounds by 2014-15

    - Payments to Queen Elizabeth II for carrying out royal duties frozen this year and subsequently facing a shake-up

    - Value-added tax (VAT), a form of sales tax, to rise from 17.

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    5 percent to 20 percent from January 2011

    - Corporation tax to be cut next year to 27 percent and then by one percent annually for the next three years, giving Britain what Osborne said was "the lowest rate of any major economy"

    - Capital gains tax for higher earners to increase from 18 percent to 28 percent

    - Growth forecast lowered from 2.6 percent to 2.3 percent next year and set to rise back to 2.7 percent in 2014 and 2015

    - In a joint move with France and Germany, government introducing bank levy covering British banks and the British operations of foreign banks, which is expected to raise two billion pounds annually

    - Unemployment expected to peak this year at 8.1 percent and then fall each year to reach 6.1 percent in 2015