Greek Australian politicians are putting their campaign hats on, with this election period expected to be the longest yet.
The date’s been set. Australians will be going to the polls on September 14. It’s become the earliest announcement of the election date in history, prompting speculation that voters will be bombarded with campaign messages much earlier than expected.
Prime Minister Julia Gillard has pushed aside the issue of timing and said the announcement was to help put things in perspective.
“The benefit of fixing the date now is not just the end of speculation about election timing. It gives shape and order to year,” she said.
She denied that the announcement will prematurely start campaigns, telling politicians they should not neglect their governing jobs.
“It should be clear to all which are the days of governing, and which are the days of campaigning,” she said.
For Greek Australian politicians, the election date announcement has come at a good time.
Most expected the election to be called in September and have welcomed the transparency.
“I think it is a good for democracy,” Independent Senator Nick Xenaphon said.
“We all know now when we’ll be put out of our misery.”
MP Steve Georganas believes that in an election year, the campaign will always start early.
“When you’re leading into an election year, the campaigning starts anyway,” he told Neos Kosmos.
“In my case my campaigning started the day after the last election,” he says.
For many politicians, it’s too early to start campaigning, with many of them going on with their work as normal.
MP Maria Vamvakinou says the election doesn’t serve as a distraction for her work in representing her electorate.
“It’s still early days although I don’t expect major distractions. I will continue to work in the same manner I intended before the election date was called,” she told Neos Kosmos.
For many voters, the thought of another election campaign is daunting. After petty bickering, multiple scandals and politicians that wont say anything without a PR team behind them, many have lost faith and interest in their leaders. Political apathy is at its highest it’s ever been and both parties will need to find new ways of campaigning, rather than resting on tired tactics.
Liberal MP Sophie Mirabella says the election is a time to give people a chance to chose a new political platform and move away from the bickering.
“The unusually dysfunctional nature of a minority government and the scandals, it really has dragged down the respect of politics and the tolerance of politics,” she told Neos Kosmos.
“They want to know that those in government have got the national interest, not their own interest at heart”.
Opposition leader Tony Abbott has labeled this election as one of “trust”. His new tagline for the Liberal campaign has changed slightly to “hope, reward, opportunity”, calling for a positive future for Australia by channeling the catchphrases of the popular Howard era.
”Who do you trust to reduce cost of living pressures?” Mr Abbott asked in response to the election announcement. ”Who do you trust to boost small business and to boost job security? And who do you trust to secure our borders?”
Bookies have already started to take punts and it seems the odds are in the coalition’s favour. Just as Julia Gillard announced the date, Labor’s odds drifted from $3.75 to $4.15, while the Liberal’s odds shot up to $1.22, from $1.26.
No safe seat
The national political fatigue many voters are feeling means no seat can be considered safe.
A poll released this week by the Financial Review indicates Mr Georganas’ seat in the South Australian electorate of Hindmarsh might be in trouble with the swing every increasing. Mr Georganas has brushed off the speculation as nothing new.
“Polls come and go,” he says.
“All I can say is Hindmarsh has always been a battle ground, I’ve fought some very tight elections, it’s no different this time. You just can’t take anything for granted; you have to work your but off.”
The last sitting in Parliament is in June.
1st page photo, Steve Georganas