"... who do you think the Independents will side with? Being fairly (can never say one is 100%) unbiased, you are perhaps in a better position than most to see which of the parties and their leaders is making the better pitch and has the better points."It's a difficult question. Julia Gillard appears to be presenting as a calmer, more rational, more open, amenable & cooperative negotiator. Tony Abbott began with a rather belligerent, tough, stance, but has had to quickly backflip on Treasury costings, and then provide plenty of spin for the news. Too many voters are sucked-in by 'spin'.
Tony Windsor, Bob Katter, Rob Oakeshott, and (likely) now Andrew Wilkie will not be taken in by the political & media posturing by either leader. Those performances are for public consumption & poll manipulation. The Independents want to look at treasury costings of both parties' policies, with treasury briefings. The first 3 mentioned have presented their 7-point wish-list, and been negotiating wit the leaders. They will be acutely aware that all members of the National Party, including leader Warren Truss, have been kept out of negotiations because of ongoing resentment by the Nationals about their leaving the National Party to become Independent MP's.
They are conservative MP's, some of whom view Julia Gillard's Labor Pary as left-wing. (it's members really mostly range from centre-left through centre to centre-right conservative)
Tony Abbott is a smart politician, but a political bully - he will reach a point in negotiations when he will not be able to help himself. I think that the only way the Independents will support Tony Abbott as PM is if he undertakes more, significant backflips on climate change, the National Broadband (optic fibre) Network, possibly the tax on super mining profits, reform of Question Time, and parliamentary accountability of Ministers. I suspect they will have some doubts about the economic nous of Tony Abbott et al. after treasury briefings.
My prediction: as much as they dislike Labor, I think they will support Julia Gillard as PM, because she will be less belligerent, and more agreeable, during negotiations. Labor's economic policies are largely conservative, but there will almost certainly requests to amend them. If Tony Abbott suspects he will lose, he will more strenuously strive for a fresh election &/or try to destabilize Parliament.