Prime Minister Julia Gillard has taken the extraordinary step of announcing the date for the federal election more than eight months out.
Ms Gillard announced the federal election would be held on Saturday, September 14 during an address to the National Press Club at lunchtime today.
"Time is not for wasting. So decisions have to be made about how we use our time this year," Ms Gillard said.
The nominated date is well before the latest possible election date for the House of Representatives of November 30, 2013.
The writs for the election will be issued on August 12, setting up a short parliamentary year until the election. This will see the House of Representatives dissolved and half the Senate up for re-election.
The Prime Minister said that last year Australians' patience was tried by "months of boiling hot political debate with most of it somewhat ironically about global warming".
"In 2013, I am determined their patience is not tried again," she said.
Ms Gillard said that not everything about the "tenor and temperature" of the debate in the coming election year was in her control.
"But I can act to clear away the carry-on that comes with speculation about when the election will be held," she said.
"I can create an environment in which the nation's eyes are more easily focused on the policies, not the petty politics. I can act so Australia's Parliament and government serves their full three-year-term."
Mr Abbott made a short media statement at Parliament House on Wednesday afternoon, in which he told reporters the election would be about trust.
"The Coalition is ready," he said. "We are so ready that have already launched our 'Real Solutions' plan and we are campaigning on it."
Mr Abbott said that the choice between the two major parties "could not be clearer", describing the 2013 election as a choice between more tax or less, more competence or less, and more freedom or less.
The Opposition Leader did not take questions, explaining that he was addressing the National Press Club on Thursday and would answer questions then.
Ms Gillard's announcement has been welcomed by key rural independent MPs Rob Oakeshott and Tony Windsor, who were told of the date ahead of Ms Gillard's announcement.
"The early announcement of the federal election date of September 14 is good for the nation," Mr Windsor said.
"I congratulate the Prime Minister on her decision to provide the Australian people with some direction and certainty as to when they will go to the polls."
Greens leader Christine Milne said everyone knew an election would be held this year but the announcement would put an end to speculation about exactly when.
"It's going to be a great year; it's going to be an exhausting year for everyone in the political process," she said.
Independent South Australian senator Nick Xenophon also welcomed the announcement.
"This is a quasi-fixed term parliament now. I think it is a good for democracy. We all know now when we'll be put out of our misery," he said, adding that it was good for independents who did not have big party machines to back them.
Tasmanian independent Andrew Wilkie said the early announcement was a positive development but cautioned it would be wasted if it meant there was a seven and a half month campaign.
"Yes, let's talk about the election, but not forget there's still a significant period of this parliament left to run," he said in a statement.
Mr Abbott was in Melbourne this morning, continuing his "mini-campaign". He visited a cancer centre in East Melbourne and attended a community morning tea in Sunbury.
Since the hung parliament in 2010, he has repeatedly called for another election.
Shadow Treasurer Joe Hockey responded to the news by noting on Twitter: "Election on Sept. 14 is before the final budget outcome is revealed for the current year."
Also on Twitter, Queensland Labor MP Graham Perrett greeted the news with enthusiasm.
"Bring it on. Bring it on. Bring it on!" he posted.
His colleague, NSW Labor MP Stephen Jones observed that: "the 2010 election campaign didn't really end. We've had a 2 year campaign already."
Scott Prasser, executive director of the Australian Catholic University's Public Policy Institute, said Ms Gillard's "unprecedented" move would benefit the government because it could keep campaigning with government resources.
"Normally when you announce the election, you go to the Governor-General and enter caretaker mode,'' he said.
''By doing it this far out she can run more of a de facto election campaign with all the resources at her back and grind down Tony Abbott.
"By making this announcement it will change the tenor of all debates between now and September."
Professor Prasser said it was an attempt to more proactively set the agenda for the year, but it also removed the opportunity for Ms Gillard to use the element of surprise to call an election at any time.
He said he believed the move would put pressure on the opposition to spell out more detailed policies.