CANBERRA, Australia - Prime Minister Julia Gillard surprised Australians on Wednesday by announcing that elections will be held Sept. 14, in a country where governments have traditionally given the opposition little more than a month's notice to keep a strategic advantage.
In a speech to the National Press Gallery, 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.
Gillard's centre-left Labor Party narrowly scraped through the last elections on Aug. 21, 2010, to form a minority government with the support of independent legislators and a lawmaker from the minor Greens party.
She said she had consulted on her decision on the date with Deputy Prime Minister Wayne Swan and senior colleagues. Independent lawmakers who support her government, Rob Oakeshott and Tony Windsor, said they were informed of the date Tuesday night.
Gillard said that 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. Gillard had to set a date between August and the end of the year. Sept. 14 had been touted by commentators as a likely date.
Oakeshott and Windsor said Gillard had agreed in 2010 to hold the next election in September or October.