Premier Gillard calls August 21 election

Premier Gillard calls August 21 election

Australia’s Prime Minister Julia Gillard has announced a general election for August 21. She told reporters today the election would allow voters to choose their prime minister.

Her Labour Party elected her three weeks ago after dumping her predecessor Kevin Rudd.

Opinion polls point to Labour winning a second three-year term.

Ms Gillard said she was honouring a pledge she made after she grabbed power to quickly allow voters to choose the prime minister and government they want.

“Today, I seek a mandate from the Australian people to move Australia forward,” she told reporters at Parliament House.

“I’ll be asking Australians for their trust so that we can move forward together ... with plans to build a sustainable Australia,” she added.

Analysts expect a tight contest against a resurgent conservative opposition led by Tony Abbott although Ms Gillard leads in the opinion polls.

Ms Gillard was previously Mr Rudd’s deputy. Mr Rudd became a Labour Party hero when he led it to a crushing election victory in November 2007 after 11 years in opposition.

He remained one of the most popular prime ministers in modern Australian history until he made a series of unpopular political moves earlier this year, including shelving a key pledge to make major industries pay for the carbon gas that they emit.

Mr Abbott led an attack on the government over its AUS$52bn (€35bn) economic stimulus spending that helped Australia scrape through the global economic recession with a single quarter of mild economic contraction in late 2008.

Mr Abbott told a conservative party meeting in Queensland, a key state to the outcome of the next election, the government wasted money and the leadership change from Mr Rudd to Ms Gillard was a “seamless transition from incompetence to incompetence”.

The government under Mr Rudd this year abandoned a AUS$2.4bn (€1.6bn) free home ceiling insulation programme after four workmen died and scores of house fires were blamed on sloppy installation.

A AUS$16bn (€11bn) programme to build a new hall in every school produced scores of examples of inflated construction contracts.

“The people of Queensland won’t be conned by a prime minister who is now running to the polls before she has established her credentials to lead our nation,” Mr Abbott said.

Ms Gillard promised to return Australia to a surplus budget in three years.

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