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Julia Gillard announces election date ... 9 months early

AUSTRALIANS will be subjected to the longest election campaign in the nation's history after Prime Minister Julia Gillard took the extraordinary step of revealing that voters will head to the polls on September 14.

Ms Gillard dropped the bombshell at the end of her address to the National Press Club on Wednesday, arguing it would bring "transparency" and "good governance" to the chaos of an election year.

In doing so she surrendered what is considered to be one of the greatest tactical advantages of incumbency - the element of surprise.

The Prime Minister revealed will make the traditional trip to visit the Governor-General on August 12 to have writs issued for an election.

Ms Gillard said she was motivated by a desire to give "shape and order to the year".

"I have always said the Parliament would serve full-term," Ms Gillard said.

"I reflected on this over the summer and thought that it's not right for Australians to be forced into a guessing game and it's not right for Australians to not face this year with certainty and stability."

Ms Gillard said it was not her intention to kickstart the "nation's longest election campaign".

She hoped revealing the date would allow people and businesses to plan their year and have the effect of defining "which are the days of governing and which are the days of campaigning".

Noble though this might be the reality is bound to be different as voters face 226 days of campaigning.

Prior to Wednesday the most notice a prime minister had given of an election was three months - twice by Robert Menzies in 1958 and 1961.

Ms Gillard told the National Press Club she had consulted Treasurer Wayne Swan and a "few senior colleagues" prior to Wednesday's announcement.

But she also confirmed she had informed key independents Rob Oakeshott and Tony Windsor of the decision by phone on Tuesday night.

On Sky News Workplace Minister Bill Shorten said he had not been consulted.

The Labor backbenchers contacted by APN Newsdesk said they too had been taken by surprise.

Greens Leader Christine Milne told reporters her office was informed of the decision about 30 minutes before the speech.

In fact the independents were so prepared they had media releases ready to go straight after Ms Gillard's shock announcement.

Both men, who will face a struggle to retain their seats, welcomed the decision.

Part of their agreement with Ms Gillard was for the Parliament to run full-term, which will now be achieved.

Mr Oakeshott, who will announce in March whether he intends to recontest Lyne, said revealing the election date would "protect the economy from an election year".

The decision also drew praise from Tasmanian independent Andrew Wilkie and Senator Milne.

Earlier Ms Gillard used her speech to flag the government's priorities for the year, including the cutting of "wasteful programs", the implementation of the National Disability Insurance Scheme and education reforms.

She said she will use the Council of Australian Governments meeting in April to push for the Gonski reforms to be delivered.

"Across all our schools, over more than a decade, we have been slipping behind the education standards of the region and the world," she said.

"Changing that is the crusade which defines this term of my prime ministership."

Wondering how long exactly until the election is over? Someone has already created a countdown timer - see it here.

Topics:  editors picks, federal election, julia gillard




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