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Chill, says PM. It's not about me and it's not about Rudd

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Poll date insult?

There are precedents for Julia Gillard's setting the election date many months beforehand, but she still might upset some sticklers for protocol.

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Prime Minister Julia Gillard has denied her decision to announce the election months in advance is about protecting her leadership from a Kevin Rudd challenge.

Ms Gillard shocked politicos and punters on Wednesday by setting an election date – September 14 – seven and a half months ahead of time.

Whatever to the flibberty gibbet politics that goes on. Nothing about this decision is in any way related to [Kevin Rudd]. 

This follows a belief in the Rudd camp that the Prime Minister's intervention in the preselection of Nova Peris had played badly for her and could have led to a revival of Mr Rudd's chances.

Called the election ... Prime Minister Julia Gillard.

Called the election ... Prime Minister Julia Gillard. Photo: Alex Ellinghausen

On Thursday, Ms Gillard dismissed suggestions that her decision to announce the election was also to shore up her leadership from a second Rudd challenge.

''Whatever to the flibberty gibbet politics that goes on,'' she told Channel Nine.

''Nothing about this decision is in any way related to that [Kevin Rudd]. We decided that last year.''

Ms Gillard, who will visit flood-affected areas of Queensland including Bundaberg on Thursday, also reassured voters that the September 14 announcement did not herald a marathon election campaign.

''Relax, relax, relax, this is not day one of the election campaign,'' she told the Nine Network.

Ms Gillard said she had wanted to get rid of all the ''silly nonsense'' that comes with speculation with her early announcement.

On Wednesday, when the election was announced, Mr Rudd was helping flood victims in his local Brisbane area, responding to calls for assistance and calling on people he had previously visited. He plans to do the same on Thursday and Friday.

Mr Rudd said on Thursday it was up to the Prime Minister when to call an election.

"So I respect the Prime Minister's prerogative, she's obviously made this judgment based on all factors available to her and reached a decision," he said.

"My job as a local member of parliament is to get out there and to continue to work hard and to explain to people how we've changed the community for the better."

He brushed off claims that Ms Gillard announced the election date because his supporters were readying for another leadership bid. Mr Rudd pointed to his previous statements that he would not challenge again.

"Oh, look, I made my position absolutely clear on that in February of last year when there was a ballot to resolve the leadership of the Labor Party, I made my position clear then," Mr Rudd said.

"I think everybody is just rallying behind the flag to fight what's going to be a very tough election for the Australian Labor Party and the Australian Labor government to win."

Ms Gillard's early poll move was welcomed by Labor frontbenchers Nicola Roxon, Peter Garrett and Simon Crean on Thursday morning

But shadow treasurer Joe Hockey described the announcement as ''trickery''. ''It's more about consolidating her leadership within the Labor Party,'' he told ABC Radio.

''I just don't get the argument that they're putting up that they don't want a campaign, that they're [not] starting a campaign eight months early. It just turns her from being the Prime Minister into being the leader of the Labor Party campaigning for re-election eight months out. Frankly, it colours everything that the government says and does now.''

On Wednesday Labor strategist Bruce Hawker  – who helped Mr Rudd with his February challenge last year – said that leadership considerations were irrelevant.

''This has got nothing to do with who will be the leader at the next election,'' he told ABC TV.

He said he was unaware of any prospect of a leadership change within Labor. ''I think it is getting less and less likely that we are going to see a change at the top.''

Although the Prime Minister's election announcement does not prevent a challenge, supporters of the former prime minister have conceded any further leadership come back was already unlikely.

"The decision [about whether to challenge] has now been locked in,"  one MP said on Wednesday, adding it was all but impossible for any leadership action to be taken.

Opposition Leader Tony Abbott has his turn at the National Press Club in Canberra, where he will deliver a major address.

With Daniel Hurst, Stephanie Peatling and AAP

Follow the National Times on Twitter

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