Election 2013

Prime Minister Julia Gillard caught the pundits by surprise yesterday when she announced 14 September as the date for this year’s election. In doing so she has surrendered the incumbent government’s traditional advantage of surprise, stating that she felt this would bring more certainty to business, investors, individuals and consumers by allowing them to plan their year and that “It should be clear to all which are the days of governing and which are campaigning.” The Prime Minister went on to say, “I will ask Australians to endorse my aim to build a strong, smart, fair Australia.”

Independents Rob Oakeshott and Tony Windsor were consulted beforehand and have declared themselves happy with the long lead time to polling day, with Tony Windsor stating, “This is as close to a fixed term as you can get”.

Opposition Leader Tony Abbott said that he welcomed it and the election would be ‘about trust’. He would not, however, answer any other questions, saving his responses for his speech due to be delivered at the National Press Club today.

Former Opposition Leader, Malcolm Turnbull, was ‘deeply disappointed’ that the date selected is a significant Jewish day, the 40th anniversary of Yom Kippur.

Watch ABC TV footage of the election announcement and follow-up comments

Opinion – Off and running

Well this was a surprise that the supposedly well-informed Canberra Press Gallery did not see coming. None of us did, really.

So what does it mean for the 6.5 million Australians aged 50 or over? Will we have a long, draining, acrimonious slanging match for the next 32 weeks? Or is this too long a period even for our pollies to sustain the insults?

On a lighter note we can certainly predict more neon vests for action-man Tony as he ‘fights’ fires, ‘drives’ trucks and tries to hold back floodwaters. No doubt no baby or school child will be safe from drop-in visits from the PM and her army of minders.

On a more serious note, there is much at stake as we consider which party deserves our support for the next three-year term of government. As always, economic management will rate high on the list of concerns. It surprises me that there seems to be a widespread perception that we are facing an economic crisis, when, by any measure, Australia is one of the few stable economies in the developed world. Sure, we need to plan for the future, but we are not going to hell in a hand basket just yet.

Education and the proposed National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) will also get a lot of airtime – and rightly so. But health care should also be high on the agenda and it will be interesting to hear the specifics of how both parties (and the Greens) will approach health care, including dental care, and how they will fund their initiatives. Another area of concern for those approaching or already in retirement is superannuation. The rules on super have been changed thousands of times by both Liberal and Labor governments. Such chopping and changing hardly inculcates confidence in this pillar of retirement income, so we will be watching with interest to see whether we have to deal with more uncertainty regarding our private savings or if we will see some real incentives to save harder for our later years.

Whatever the hot issues are in this campaign, let’s hope the negativity and personal abuse of last year is put aside in favour of genuine debate on policies.

I suspect I’m dreaming, but wouldn’t it be great if this came to pass?

What about you? Is the long election campaign a good idea? Or does this mean a long horrible period of nasty political argy-bargy?

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