Australians will go to the polls on September 14 after Julia Gillard fired the starter's gun for what looms as the longest election campaign in the nation’s history.
Speaking at the National Press Club today, Ms Gillard took the unprecedented step of revealing the election date months out to avoid the traditional speculation over when it would be held.
Opposition Leader Tony Abbott was on a plane out of Melbourne when Ms Gillard named the election date.
The election will be for House of Representative and for half of the senate.
She said announcing the date would allow voters to focus on national issues and deliver confidence to business rather than be distracted by “petty politics”.
“I do so not to start the nation’s longest election campaign, quite the opposite,” Ms Gillard said.
“It should be clear to all which are the days of governing, and which are the days of campaigning.”
Ms Gillard said she would ask the Governor-General to issue the writs on August 12.
The final sitting day for the current parliament is scheduled for June 27.
The poll date avoids a clash with the AFL and NRL grand finals and school holidays. It will coincide with the second week of the AFL finals.
Ms Gillard said there was no cause for alarm for footy fans, with the AFL traditionally scheduling games for the Friday and Saturday nights.
As part of her negotiations to form government, Ms Gillard promised to set the election date for September or October in consultation with the crossbenchers.
Key crossbencher Rob Oakeshott welcomed the PM’s announcement.
“This Parliament will run its full term, and the election will be held as agreed,” he said.
“There are nine more important sitting weeks of this Parliament, and the challenge now is for this time to be spent focused on the ongoing policy and reform detail – such as the Gonski reforms in education – that many Australians want to see delivered before the year is over.
“Campaigning and electioneering throughout these nine final sitting weeks, while this detailed work is being done, should be seen for what it is – serving the interests of political parties, not the interests of the nation,” Mr Oakeshott said.
Federal NSW Independent MP Tony Windsor agreed revealing the election date so early would provide certainty.
“In the past, Australians have been frustratingly on ’election alert’ for long periods of time and, in this ’hung’ parliament, on the brink of an election from day one if you believe the Opposition Leader and some sections of the media,” he said.
Ms Gillard said Australians weren't interested in campaigns without content, or platitudes devoid of purpose.
“There is now clearly the time and certainty necessary for the people and parties contesting the election to lay out their fully detailed, costed plans for the timely consideration of voters,” she added.