Poll date surprise
PM Julia Gillard has stunned politics watchers by throwing away any element of surprise in this year's election date. Will the move help her, or haunt her?PT0M0S 620 349
JULIA Gillard has consigned Australians to something approaching a national pregnancy.
As quite a lot of people know, it can be a wearing time: the first flush of joy turning to great expectations, morphing to dreadful periods of tiredness, weird appetites and swelling annoyance. Not to mention morning sickness. And finally - and perhaps Ms Gillard and her courtiers didn't think about this - hard labour.
No prime minister in Australian history has dared to subject the nation to such a trial.
It will be hailed by believers as audacious, a demand that voters - who have all but shunned politics for many months now - focus on the big picture, which is to say, in Ms Gillard's case, the frightfulness that an Abbott government might represent.
Old stagers in the Labor Party, however, will need a stiff drink to get over the shock.
They would recall that Bob Hawke, riding high in popularity polls (Mr 75 Per Cent!), decided on a 10-week campaign in 1984, believing his government's fortunes would surf ever higher, crushing Andrew Peacock's opposition.
No one could remember a 10-week campaign - almost double the length of normal campaigns.
Voters tired of it early and grew tetchy and, to Hawke's horror, Labor suffered a 2 percentage-point swing against it and found its majority sliced from 25 to 16. No more long campaigns became the unbreakable mantra.
No one, of course, had imagined a 32-week ordeal.
Ms Gillard, nowhere near as popular as Bob Hawke and with no majority to lose, has managed to break another cardinal rule: elections must not be held during the footy finals lest it upset the punters. Last year she said she wouldn't consider such a thing.
Both the AFL and the National Rugby League will be into semi-finals on election day, September 14, and you would think it's a fair bet quite a lot of the fans won't be awfully impressed at politics interrupting their worship.
And what of the signs from the other prayerful world, given that any election requires a leap of faith?
September 14 this year happens to be, to those of the Jewish faith, the holiest day of the year, Yom Kippur.
To those not versed in Hebrew, it is known (gulp) as the Day of Atonement.
In Jewish tradition, God inscribes each person's fate for the coming year into the Book of Life and waits until Yom Kippur to ''seal'' the verdict. Believers hope that by the end of the Day of Atonement, they might be forgiven.
Ms Gillard, clearly, must hope the same thing.