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Row could prompt Australian poll

AUSTRALIAN Prime Minister Kevin Rudd yesterday pushed key work laws through a hostile upper house after compromising with opponents, skirting the first in a series of Senate roadblocks that could prompt early elections.

Rudd and his deputy Julia Gillard struck an 11th-hour deal with two key independent senators to pass unfair dismissal laws promised after Rudd's 2007 election victory, but in a phased introduction guarding jobs ahead of a widely expected recession.

"All this speculation about an early election, that's clearly starting to recede," Monash University political analyst Nick Economou said after the deal was reached during a special extended sitting of the parliament.

The center-left government controls the lower house but needs the support of the opposition conservatives, or the backing of five Green senators and two independents to pass laws.

The Senate had earlier rejected the government's laws, prompting a warning from Rudd that he expected the parliament to "respect the will of the Australian people, who voted absolutely clearly at the last election."

Rudd can call an early election for both houses if any laws are rejected twice by the Senate.

The next scheduled election is in late 2010.

With even bigger battles ahead for the government over a planned carbon emissions trading scheme, opposed by most lawmakers and business, Economou said Rudd still faced significant hurdles that could prompt an early poll.


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