Prime minister Julia Gillard has surprised Australians by announcing a general election for September 14, ending the tradition of giving little more than a month's notice to keep the opposition guessing.
In a speech to the National Press Gallery in Canberra, Ms Gillard said she wanted to create an environment in which voters could more easily focus on national issues by removing uncertainty around the timing.
"I reflected on this over the summer and I thought 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," she said, referring to her holiday break during the current southern summer.
Opinion polls suggest the conservative opposition coalition led by Tony Abbott is likely to win convincingly.
Ms Gillard's centre-left Labour Party narrowly scraped through the last elections in August 2010 to form a minority government with the support of independent MPs and a politician from the minor Greens party.
She said she had consulted deputy prime minister Wayne Swan and senior colleagues over her decision to name the date. Independent MPs who support her government, Rob Oakeshott and Tony Windsor, said they were informed of the date yesterday.
Ms Gillard said given the poll date certainty, the opposition would have no excuse to delay the release of the details and costs of their campaign platform.
While the announcement was a surprise, the date was not. Ms Gillard had to set a date between August and the end of the year and September 14 had been touted by commentators as a likely date.
Mr Oakeshott and Mr Windsor said Ms Gillard had agreed in 2010 to hold the next election in September or October.