Much to the surprise of the media, the Opposition and most of her own party, Julia Gillard took a tactical gamble yesterday by announcing the election date, September 14.
While business, the public service and the public will likely appreciate knowing the date, much has been made of Gillard giving up the incumbent's prerogative - to announce the election date - so early in the year. Critics and opponents have labelled it a blunder because it gives the Opposition more time to organise its campaign.
Gillard evidently decided these losses were outweighed by the benefits: the opportunity to take charge; to reset the tone of the political year; to short-circuit media speculation about election timing; to make leadership challenges less likely (on both sides of Parliament); and, fundamentally, to expose Abbott and the Opposition to a longer period of scrutiny.
According to polls, incumbent governments in Australia have traditionally gained ground during election campaigns. Gillard is betting that a longer campaign will mean gaining more ground.
Abbott will respond today at the National Press Club.
Nick Feik Politicoz Editor
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