Interesting offer: Conservatives may be able to legislate with Green and independent support

The Greens and the independents have offered Tony Abbott the opportunity to help govern from opposition, saying they would pass any policies with which they agreed, including paid parental leave, whether Labor liked it or not.

As the political establishment comes to grips with the concept of minority government, the Greens leader Bob Brown said the Parliament belonged to everybody, not just the government. "Please think about it," he said.

He was backed by the independent Tony Windsor, who suggested the Coalition tone down its venomous attacks on the government and independents. "There's good stuff that can come from anywhere and that's why the Liberals are silly to be running this sort of stuff," he told the Herald. "They can do things with us and the executive won't have the power to shut them down. The opposition can be part of the government, too."

The opposition childcare spokeswoman, Sharman Stone, was attracted to the idea of putting forward the Coalition's generous paid parental leave scheme which the Greens broadly favour. "Our lines of communication have always been open to anyone who wants to talk about helping to deliver our better policy," she said. The Greens senator Sarah Hanson-Young was keen to explore the idea.

Senator Brown suggested weekly policy meetings with Mr Abbott, as he will have with the Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, and mentioned possible policy deals on mental health, dental care and biosecurity.

The opportunity was offered as the Coalition abandoned Mr Abbott's pledge of a kinder and gentler polity and challenged the very legitimacy of the minority Labor government, saying it was unstable, unworkable and defied commonsense.

Ms Gillard governs with the bare majority of 76 seats, thanks to the support of the Greens MP, Adam Bandt, and the three independents, Mr Windsor, Andrew Wilkie and Rob Oakeshott.

The independents have agreed only to guarantee stability of tenure by supporting the government against reckless no-confidence motions and to ensure supply.

Mr Abbott attacked Ms Gillard, saying she was as illegitimate as her government because she had been installed by factions and then by independents. "It is a government that's utterly without a mandate," he said.

The Liberal senator George Brandis implied corruption by saying the government had "as much legitimacy as the Pakistani cricket team".


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