Newspaper article International Herald Tribune

Australia Elections Slated for Autumn ; Political Stability Is Goal of Early Announcement, Prime Minister Says

Newspaper article International Herald Tribune

Australia Elections Slated for Autumn ; Political Stability Is Goal of Early Announcement, Prime Minister Says

Article excerpt

Prime Minister Julia Gillard insisted that she was aiming for political stability in her unusually early announcement that elections will be held in September.

Prime Minister Julia Gillard announced Wednesday that national elections would be held in September, ending speculation over the vote's timing with an unusually early announcement that will begin what is sure to be a bruising campaign season of almost nine months.

Ms. Gillard, the country's first female prime minister, has led a tenuous minority Labor Party government since a disappointing election in 2010, which saw her parliamentary majority severely diminished. In setting the elections for Sept. 14, Ms. Gillard insisted that she was aiming for political stability and not the start of the nation's "longest election campaign." Australia's campaigns are usually about a month long.

"Time is not for wasting. So decisions have to be made about how we use our time this year," she said in a speech to the National Press Club in the capital, Canberra. "It gives shape and order to the year, and enables it to be one not of fevered campaigning, but of cool and reasoned deliberation." Ms. Gillard was required to call an election by Nov. 30.

The announcement comes after a particularly tough year for the prime minister in 2012, even by the standards of Australia's raucous political culture. In February, Ms. Gillard fended off a very public leadership challenge by her former foreign minister, Kevin Rudd, who was her predecessor as prime minister. In November, the opposition leveled allegations of corruption stemming from Ms. Gillard's past work as a young labor lawyer, leading to vitriolic and deeply personal arguments on the floor of Parliament.

Ms. Gillard acknowledged in her speech Wednesday that Australians' patience had been seriously tried by "months of boiling hot political debate."

"In 2013, I am determined their patience is not tried again," she said.

The leader of the opposition Liberal-National coalition, Tony Abbott, who was traveling in Melbourne on Tuesday, said at a hastily assembled news conference that his team was ready for the contest. …

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