The Prime Minister Julia Gillard made the surprise announcement in Canberra setting the election date for eight months' time.
Ms Gillard says it will give certainty to the public and business.
Correspondent: Karon Snowdon
Speaker: Julia Gillard, Australian Prime Minister; Tony Abbott, Opposition Leader; Nick Xenophon, Independent member of Parliament; Peter Anderson, Chief Executive, Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry
SNOWDON: The Prime Minister made the unexpected announcement during a speech in Canberra, taking even some of her cabinet by surprise.
GILLARD: Today, I announce that I will advise the Governor-General to dissolve the House of Representatives and to issue...(fades)
SNOWDON: Julia Gillard says she chose the date to allow Parliament to see out its full 3 year term and to eliminate speculation around the timing of the must-have election this year.
GILLARD: .... (an election) to be held on Saturday 14th of September. I do so not to start the nation's longest election campaign. Announcing the election date now enables individuals, business, investors and consumers to plan their year.
SNOWDON: Opposition leader Tony Abbott welcomed the election announcement.
ABBOTT: The Coalition is ready. We are so ready that we have already launched our real solutions plan and we are already campaigning on it - with the carbon tax abolished, with the mining tax abolished.
SNOWDON: The minority Gillard government has at times struggled to get its agenda through a difficult parliament, having to rely on keeping several independents on side.
Independent member of Parliament Nick Xenophon welcomes the advance notice.
XENOPHON: Its good for independents and minor parties I guess but it also gives some certainty instead of having months of speculation, as to when the election will be held and I think that's probaly a good thing.
SNOWDON: So far there's been little criticism of the far off election date, despite the risk of an eight month long election campaign.
The business group the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry wants both the government and opposition to put forward strong policies.
The Chamber's Chief Executive Peter Anderson was at the National Press Club for the announcement.
ANDERSON: It was a surprise and it was met with an audible gasp from the couple of hundred people present. But from the business community point of view what's much much more important is what both the Gillard Government and the Abbott oppositon plan to do for industry and jobs and growing a stronger more competitive economy.
SNOWDON: ABC election analyst Anthony Green says its rare a government goes full term, plus its an opportunity for the Opposition to show what it's got.
GREEN: The government will be hoping I'm certain it puts pressure on the Opposition to start releasing some policies and to not keep putting everything off until the never never.
SNOWDON: The Chamber of Commerce and Industry's Peter Anderson says key business issues for the election include better infrastructure, workplace productivity, changes to the fair work laws, plus tax and finance reform.
ANDERSON: Absolutely clear that Australia needs to improve the competitiveness of our economy because we have become a high cost country, perhaps the most obvious of those is the imposition of a carbon tax on Australian production which is not a tax that is also borne by our low cost international competitors.
SNOWDON: Do you think that the Opposition with the promise of eliminating the carbon tax will get the support of business in this election?
ANDERSON: I think business will be more than interested than in a one-trick policy or a one-issue policy. We will be wanting to look across all of the policy framework of the government and the opposition.
SNOWDON: One of the big headline policies that the Gillard government has put forward recently was the Asian Century White Paper. What would you say about that, in terms of benefit for Australian small and medium businesses - is that laying good groundwork?
ANDERSON: It is but it needs to be accompanied by a suite of policies that allow the Australian economy to be competitive with Asia. And I think that's the real challenge in this election year. The vision of Australia taking full advantage of our position (in Asia) is a very real and noble vision for Australia but it does need to be accompanied by an Australian economy that is fully capable of competing inside Asia. We've seen ourselves lose competitiveness against even countries like New Zealand let alone some of the lower cost Asian countries and that is a trend we need to address.