Australian PM surprises with early election date
Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard surprised voters by setting a national election for September 14, in her first major political speech for 2013.
Elections must be held in Australia by the end of the year, but Gillard said she wanted to end political uncertainty by setting the date now.
"Today I announce that I will advise the Governor-General to dissolve the House of Representatives and to issue writs on Monday the 12th of August for an election for the House and half the Senate to be held on Saturday the 14th of September. I do so not to start the nation's longest election campaign or to cause anxiety and health reactions amongst journalists I can assure you of that. I do so not to start the nation's longest election campaign, quite the opposite. It should be clear to all which are the days of governing and which are the days of campaigning. Announcing the election date now enables individuals and business, investors and consumers to plan their year but the benefit of fixing the date now is not just the end of speculation about election timing. 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 to the National Press Club.
Gillard's minority Labour government holds a one seat majority with support from a group of independents and the Greens, and polls suggest the Liberal opposition would easily win office if an election were held now.
The election will decide whether Australia keeps its controversial carbon tax, and a 30 percent tax on coal and iron ore mining profits, which the conservative opposition has promised to scrap it if wins power.
But apart from these two policy differences, the government and opposition differ little on domestic issues, and both firmly support greater involvement with China, the country's biggest trade partner.
Gillard said the governor-general would dissolve the current parliament on August 12, giving the government two more sessions of parliament to pass laws and deliver its May budget.