PRIME Minister Kevin Rudd has announced the Australian federal election will be held on September 7.
After speculation circulated around Canberra in recent days, Mr Rudd announced the election date at a press conference in the nation's capital today.
Mr Rudd said the country needed fresh investment in agribusiness to meet increasing challenges in food production, and that the budget would need to be "responsibly" returned to surplus.
On the economy, he said with the end of China resources boom "we can no longer afford to have all our eggs just in one basket."
"For the future we must broaden the economic base, diversify the economy.
"That is why we need fresh investment in agribusiness, because there are rich opportunities for Australia in satisfying the new food demands of Asia.
"That is why we also need the great new economic enabling power of the National Broadband Network to help lift our national competitiveness even further."
He said Opposition leader Tony Abbott's plan for the country was a "$70 billion slash-and-burn austerity drive" and called for a debate with Mr Abbott every Sunday leading up to the election to clarify policy issues.
Mr Rudd said it was a pity the local government referendum cannot now take place, but there was little point anyway given the Coalition is divided on the issue and a positive outcome was unlikely.
This date leaves voters 33 days to evaluate the performance of a Prime Minister only recently returned to the top job after a political coup saw his replacement, Julia Gillard, leave not only office but also Cabinet.
The September 7 poll date means Foreign Minister Bob Carr will now attend the G20 meeting in St Petersburg instead of Mr Rudd.
Senator Christine Milne, leader of The Australian Greens, said The Greens offered "a clear alternative" to the major parties on September 7 and emphasised their recent focus on a "reinvigorated relationship" with rural and regional Australia. She said food labelling laws and sustainable production were important to all Australians.
"While Kevin Rudd and Tony Abbott continue to fight each other in a face to the bottom on important issues like climate change and asylum seekers, the Greens are standing up for what matters," Senator Milne said, calling on people to vote for a "caring and sustainable Australia and to vote against cruelty and environmental destruction".
Mr Abbott said the choice was now between The Coalition's positive plans or "more of the same" from Labor, saying he would scrap the carbon and mining taxes, build infrastructure and "stop the boats".
"At last the choice is yours. It's not the choice of the caucus, it's not the choice of the faceless men."
Mr Abbott made a promise not to do deals with Independents or minor parties: "There will not be a minority government led by me".
"It's all very well to talk about productivity - you've got to have a plan to deliver it, and the Coalition does," he said. He did not mention any policies specific to agriculture or rural and regional Australia.
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