Independent Wilkie boosts Australia PM Julia Gillard

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Media captionAndrew Wilkie: "A future Julia Gillard/Labor government will have my vote"

One of four key independent lawmakers has pledged support for Prime Minister Julia Gillard, leaving her just two seats short of the majority needed to form the next Australian government.

Andrew Wilkie, who represents Denison in Tasmania, said Ms Gillard's Labor party was most likely to deliver stable government.

Three other independents have yet to decide who to back.

They have been in talks with both Ms Gillard and her rival, Tony Abbott.

Almost two weeks after the 21 August elections, neither the ruling Labor party nor the Liberal-led coalition has managed to form a government.

After Mr Wilkie's decision Labor can now count on support from 74 of the 76 seats needed, with the coalition narrowly behind on 73.

"I have judged that it is the Australian Labor Party that best meets my criteria that the next government must be stable, must be competent and must be ethical," Mr Wilkie told journalists.

He said Ms Gillard had agreed to a number of requests, including funding for the Royal Hobart Hospital and restrictions on poker machines, ABC news reported.

The three independents who remain undecided, Rob Oakeshott, Tony Windsor and Bob Katter, are continuing to hold talks with both blocs.

They have asked the coalition to explain what the Treasury says is a US$9.6bn (£6.2bn) hole in its election manifesto costings.

Mr Wilkie urged them to act quickly.

"I hope that this sends a signal to the other three independents and they move as soon as they can to make their decisions, and to decide to support a party or parties in a way that will bring stability to the parliament," he said.

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