The West

Independent MPs and the Greens have welcomed Prime Minister Julia Gillard's surprise early announcement of the federal election date.

Lower house independents Rob Oakeshott and Tony Windsor say the September 14 date is in keeping with the agreement they made for a September or October election with Ms Gillard after the 2010 election.

The Greens, who are calling for fixed-term elections, have made known their preference for having plenty of notice of election dates.

Some Liberals are concerned the date will fall on Yom Kippur - the most solemn and sacred day of the Jewish year.

Opposition communications spokesman Malcolm Turnbull has tweeted he is “deeply disappointed that Julia Gillard chose to hold the election on Yom Kippur - the most solemn and sacred day of the Jewish year”.

Influential Liberal MP Josh Frydenberg echoed the concern, taking to Twitter to say “this disenfranchises many Jewish Australians and is incredibly sloppy work”.

Mr Windsor believes the early announcement will help provide certainty and stability to all sectors of the community but probably most importantly to business, which often puts off decisions due to not knowing when an election is to be held”.

But Mr Windsor also expressed concern the next eight months might see both major parties in campaign mode while there was still a lot of work to be done by the parliament.

Mr Oakeshott agreed the challenge would be to spend the remaining nine sitting weeks focused on policies like the Gonski education reforms.

“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,” he said in a statement.

The Greens say they will seek a multi-party commitment to adopt fixed-term elections. Opposition Leader Tony Abbott's office has yet to respond to the announcement.

But shadow treasurer Joe Hockey is concerned about the state of the budget which a coalition government might inherit. “Election on Sept 14 is before the final budget outcome is revealed for the current year,” he tweeted.

Mr Hockey also tweeted: “Julia Gillard is giving herself certainty about the election date but won't give Australian families certainty about *savings' impacts”.

A spokeswoman for Mr Abbott says he is “in a private engagement“ and his office had no further comment at this stage.

ACTU president Ged Kearney said voters are concerned about pay rates, job security and unfair rostering and they want to know where Mr Abbott stands on worker's rights.

“That's what people will want to know,” she said in a statement.

“Will their jobs support them, their families and their future? That's what the discussion about secure work entails; ensuring fair pay, conditions and career opportunities.”

Independent Senator Nick Xenophon says Ms Gillard's decision to name the election date is a win for democracy.

“We all now know when we will be put out of our misery and that's September 14th,” he said.

Labor frontbencher Bill Shorten said the early date meant “no surprises and no excuses”.

“It means all parties will have ample time to release their policies and have them fully costed so they can be considered by voters,” he said during a live chat on the Herald Sun website.

Mr Windsor and Mr Oakeshott both had a heads-up from Ms Gillard on Tuesday night to let them know about her announcement.

They had also had some general discussion about election dates with the prime minister over lunch a few weeks ago.

“There's been a rolling conversation so I appreciate the heads-up,” Mr Oakeshott said of the phone call.

ABC election analyst Antony Green said he didn't believe an election had been announced this far ahead before in Australia.

“Prime Minister Menzies announced ... an election three months ahead of the date in 1958 and 1961,” he said.

“To my knowledge that's the longest we've seen.”


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