Poll date insult?
There are precedents for Julia Gillard's setting the election date many months beforehand, but she still might upset some sticklers for protocol.PT2M10S http://www.dailylife.com.au/action/externalEmbeddedPlayer?id=d-2dmb9 620 349 January 31, 2013
AUSTRALIANS will go to the polls on September 14 after Prime Minister Julia Gillard revealed the election date 7½ months out in a bid to reboot her political prospects and wrongfoot the opposition.
The bold play caught Opposition Leader Tony Abbott off guard and was not known even to many in cabinet, although Ms Gillard had told key ministers as well as the Green and independent MPs whose support allowed her to form government in 2010.
However, the move carries big risks for the embattled Prime Minister, including the prospect of near-constant electioneering throughout autumn and winter and deep into the AFL and NRL finals.
The election day also clashes with the most holy Jewish day of the year, Yom Kippur, prompting anger in sections of the Jewish community.
Ms Gillard said her aim was to end the uncertainty of election speculation and allow her to concentrate on governing until the official campaign began.
''I today announce that later this year I will advise the Governor-General to dissolve the House of Representatives with writs to be issued on Monday the 12th of August for an election for the House and half of the Senate, to be held on Saturday the 14th of September,'' she told the National Press Club in Canberra.
The break with tradition was backed by the independents and brought a call from the Greens to make the arrangement permanent by introducing fixed terms for governments, as is the case in most states.
Independents Tony Windsor and Rob Oakeshott received warning of the election date on Tuesday night, having signed an agreement with Ms Gillard in 2010 to run for a full term.
Mr Windsor said Australians otherwise would have endured "mini-campaigns and speculation up until the prime minister of the day saw a political opportunity to call the election''.
However, the move was criticised by the opposition as ''a triumph of tactics over strategy''.
A clearly unprepared Mr Abbott, flanked by campaign manager Brian Loughnane, told reporters he was ready for an election but refused to take questions.
He said he would have more to say at his National Press Club appearance on Thursday.
Channelling his mentor, former prime minister John Howard, from a 2004 speech, Mr Abbott declared the key issue for voters would be trust.
''This election will be about trust,'' he said. ''Who do you trust to reduce cost-of-living pressures? Who do you trust to boost small business and to boost job security, and who do you trust to secure our borders?
''That's what this election will be all about.''
Privately, Coalition strategists claimed they were delighted, insisting Ms Gillard had miscalculated and condemned the country to an unpopular extended election campaign.
But the Prime Minister said her decision would actually free her up to govern.
''I do so not to start the nation's longest election campaign, quite the opposite,'' she said.
''It should be clear to all which are the days of governing and which are the days of campaigning.''
Turning more than a century of political orthodoxy on its head, Ms Gillard said that beginning the year with the date already set would ''enable individuals and businesses, investors and consumers, to plan their year''.
''It gives shape and order to the year and it enables it to be one not of fevered campaigning but of cool and reasoned deliberation,'' she said.
She said the fixed date also removed any excuses for Mr Abbott not releasing fully costed election policies until just before the election.
''I do believe that, particularly having made an $11 billion error last time, it is incumbent on the opposition to put forward detailed costings this time,'' she said.
''They have two things the opposition never had before to enable them to do that: one, they've got the benefit of the fixed election date with several months' notice.
''Two … they've got more resources available to them than any opposition has had before in the history of our nation to produce proper costings.''
But Mr Abbott's strategists said they would not be pressured into changing their campaign or policy timetable by their opponents.
In later television interviews, Mr Abbott promised to continue his already well-honed approach. ''Between the budget and polling day, we will be releasing all our costings,'' he said.