Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard has announced that elections will be held on September 14, announcing the date early to give "shape and order" to the year.

"It gives shape and order to the year, and enables it to be one not of fevered campaigning, but of cool and reasoned deliberation"

- Julia Gillard, Australian PM

Australians usually know only weeks before when an election will be held, but the Labour leader, whose minority government holds power by only a narrow margin, surprised pundits on Wednesday by giving close to nine months' notice.

"I do so not to start the nation's longest election campaign, quite the opposite," Gillard told the National Press Club in Canberra during a speech setting out the priorities for Labour in the year ahead.

"It should be clear to all which are the days of governing, and which are the days of campaigning."

Gillard, who is tipped to lose the election to conservative opposition leader Tony Abbott, said announcing the date of the polls would give individuals, businesses and investors the ability to plan ahead.

"It gives shape and order to the year, and enables it to be one not of fevered campaigning, but of cool and reasoned deliberation," she said.

Parliament will be dissolved on August 12. 

Source: Agencies