Australian PM poised to call August 28 election
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Last Updated: Friday, July 16, 2010, 12:05
  
Sydney: Australia's new Prime Minister Julia Gillard is poised to call a general election for August 28, the ABC said on Friday, bidding to legitimise her rule after being catapulted to power in a party coup.

Gillard, who became the country's first woman leader after ousting her predecessor Kevin Rudd just three weeks ago, was expected to call on the country's governor general early Saturday to set the poll date, the ABC said.

"Labor sources have told the ABC Ms Gillard is expected to visit Governor General Quentin Bryce in Canberra tomorrow morning to set an August 28 election date," the public broadcaster said.

The ABC and Sky News said the Prime Minister would return to Canberra from the island state of Tasmania to ask Bryce to dissolve Parliament and issue writs calling for an election. No official confirmation was available.

As a constitutional monarchy, Australia's electoral system requires the Prime Minister to ask the governor general -- official representative of Queen Elizabeth II -- to formally call an election at least 33 days before the polling date.

The general election, in which voters will select members of the lower House of Representatives and half of the Senate, will see flame-haired Gillard go up against conservative opposition leader Tony Abbott for the nation's leadership.

Gillard promised polls this year after taking over from Rudd, who was toppled less than three years into his first term following the spectacular collapse of his popularity ratings and support from Labor Party colleagues.

Since being sworn in, she has been frantically trying to clear the decks of thorny policy issues that could cost her government re-election, including a disputed mining tax and how to stem an influx of boatpeople that has angered the public.

Gillard has been anxious to call a poll to defuse concerns over the legitimacy of her rise to power, after Rudd was ruthlessly axed by party powerbrokers as his popularity dipped over a series of policy missteps.

After being elected as the new Labor leader, Gillard, who had been Rudd's deputy, said she would not move into the official prime ministerial residence until she had been elected by the people in her own right.

Analysts have speculated for weeks that Gillard was likely to call a poll for August 21 or 28 in order to cash in on an opinion polls "bounce" her party has enjoyed since ejecting Rudd.

The straight-talking former industrial lawyer has been scrambling to tackle the core issues that led to Rudd's implosion: the controversial 40 percent mining tax, refugee arrivals and how to tackle climate change.

But while she quickly struck a deal with major miners on a new and less onerous tax, her bid to tackle the asylum seeker issue backfired amid confusion over where a mooted regional processing centre would be based.

The Prime Minister is also expected to unveil her plans for fighting global warming, after Rudd's government fatefully shelved plans to introduce a carbon emissions trading scheme in the face of staunch opposition from Abbott.

Welsh-born Gillard, 48, is a self-confessed atheist and is seen as a liberal on social issues, a political pragmatist and consensual leader, while devout Catholic Abbott is a social and political conservative known for his gaffes and colourful language.

Bureau Report


First Published: Friday, July 16, 2010, 12:05


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