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Katter the toast of New York (Times)

WE tip our woefully undersized hats to Bob Katter, who has made it to the front page of The New York Times.

Tony Crook will stand by demands

WEST Australian Nationals MP Tony Crook will not support Tony Abbott or Julia Gillard unless his demands for regional WA are met.

Mr Crook said yesterday his two core election promises of $850 million in extra funding for regional areas and the dropping of the new mining tax, worth billions, were non-negotiable.

He conceded that the Prime Minister's refusal to back down on the mining tax might have ruled her -- and some say him -- out of the negotiations to form a government, but said he was happy to speak to her if that changed.

But he said this did not mean he would support the Opposition Leader, who rang him yesterday with congratulations.

"I'm clearly an independent. I can sit on the crossbenches quite comfortably," he said.

Mr Crook, who claimed victory yesterday in the seat of O'Connor held by Liberal stalwart Wilson Tuckey for 30 years, said he was keenly aware his vote could become pivotal.

"If the numbers fall in the final wash-up that I hold the balance of power, I will be using my position to deliver," he said.

"But I will not be drawn into a bidding war on specific policies. My campaign platform was clear."

The new MP dismissed calls from one of the Nationals' biggest donors, Queensland billionaire Clive Palmer, for him to support Mr Abbott.

Mr Crook said the campaign funds donated by Mr Palmer had "no strings attached" and he felt under no obligation. He said no one should be surprised by his independent stance.

But Mr Palmer was openly sceptical when contacted by The Australian, and said he did not believe the WA Nationals would do anything to stop a conservative government being formed.

"The particular electorate that Tony Crook represents is one which has long been a conservative one, and he stood as a conservative candidate," Mr Palmer said yesterday.

"It's very important he does get fully the best that he can for his electorate, but at a time of national crisis we've all got to pull together."

WA Nationals leader Brendon Grylls, who was kingmaker to Colin Barnett forming a minority state government in 2008, said Mr Crook was absolutely right, and his win was a "one-in-100-year opportunity" for the Nationals to get a better deal for regional WA.

"For years we've watched federal elections come and go, with promises like a new multi-billion-dollar railway in Sydney, promised on the back of an envelope," Mr Grylls said.

"Western Australia is what the economy is built on, and we now have a unique opportunity to drive investment here."

He said Mr Abbott and Ms Gillard had a historic opportunity to deliver to the region.

Mr Grylls urged political analysts to stop counting Mr Crook with the Coalition when calculating seat numbers in the battle to form government.

"We're certainly not in the tent of the federal Coalition," he said.

"We should definitely be in the independents column."


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