Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard surprised citizens on Wednesday by announcing that elections will be held September 14, in a country where governments have traditionally given the opposition little more than a month’s notice to keep a strategic advantage.
But the announcement particularly amazed members of the Jewish community, as the elections fall on Yom Kippur – the holiest day on the Jewish calendar.
The Australian newspaper reported that opposition communications spokesman Malcolm Turnbull was among the first to voice his disappointment on Twitter, saying: “Deeply disappointed that Julia Gillard chose to hold the election on Yom Kippur – the most solemn and sacred day of the Jewish year.”
Liberal MP Josh Frydenberg tweeted that the election timing “disenfranchises many Jewish Australians and is incredibly sloppy work.”
The Australian PM responded to the complaints, saying that she had no other choice but to hold the elections on the announced date, the Australian reported. She said she had always intended to serve a full term and, given the football finals, there were only a limited number of dates available.
“I do understand the significance of the day in question for the Jewish community. But there would be many of my Melbourne Jewish friends who would also understand the significance of AFL grand final day,” Gillard said.
She added that anyone unable to vote on Election Day should cast a pre-poll vote.
A Labor backbencher has already announced that he will not take part on the Federal Election day because it clashes with Yom Kippur.
Victorian Michael Danby said Labor had to make special voting arrangements for the nation’s 107,000-strong Jewish community or lose support from voters.
But director of the Executive Council of Australian Jewry, Peter Wertheim, said the majority of Australia’s Jews would not be fussed about the date.
“To be absolutely truthful, it is not a major issue for us, because every election takes place on the Jewish Sabbath,” he told news.com.au.
Other Jewish officials also noted that postal and pre-votes would be used in place of in-person voting.
Opinion polls suggest the conservative opposition coalition led by Tony Abbott is likely to win the elections convincingly.
Abbott welcomed the announcement on the date. He said the elections would “be about trust,” echoing his Liberal Party’s campaign theme during its last successful election campaign in 2004.
“The choice before the Australian people could not be clearer,” he told reporters. “It’s more tax or less, it’s more regulation or less, it’s less competence or more, it’s less freedom or more.”
Abbott has promised to remove the carbon tax that Australia’s biggest polluters pay, as well as the tax paid by coal and iron ore miners. Both taxes were introduced in July.
Gillard’s center-left Labor Party narrowly scraped through the last elections on August 21, 2010, to form a minority government with the support of independent legislators and a lawmaker from the minor Greens party.
Source: Ynet News