Key Lawmaker Withdraws Support For Aussie Gov't

Published January 21, 2012 5:36AM (EST)

CANBERRA, Australia (AP) — Prime Minister Julia Gillard's tenuous grip on power weakened on Saturday when a key independent lawmaker withdrew his support for her minority government.

Lawmaker Andrew Wilkie announced he had ended his 17-month-old agreement with the center-left Labor Party government after Gillard broke a promise to him to introduce legislation that would create new controls on slot machines.

His defection leaves Gillard with control of 75 of the 150 seats in House of Representatives, the lower chamber where parties form governments. This means Gillard could lose power if Labor loses a single by-election and the opposition unites lawmakers outside her coalition.

Wilkie wants legislation that would force gamblers to set a limit on how much they are prepared to lose before they start playing slot machines. The aim was to reduce the loses of gambling addicts.

Gillard announced Saturday that she does not plan to introduce the new slot machine technology until 2016 — two years later than she had promised Wilkie.

By Salon Staff

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