Minor parties prepare for election campaign

The Australian Democrats and the Greens have welcomed the announcement of a federal election on October the ninth.

The Democrats leader, Andrew Bartlett, says he is pleased Mr Howard has ended months of speculation and unofficial campaigning by the major parties.

“The key issue for the Democrats will be that the choice people make on polling day for the Senate is just as important as who ends up Prime Minister. The Prime Minister has said that the election is about trust, I agree with him. And the fact is that many people do not trust Mr Howard and do not trust Mr Latham, and that’s why you need a strong Senate.”

Mr Howard says the Senate will sit on Monday and Tuesday, although the House of Representatives will not return before it is dissolved.

The Greens leader, Bob Brown, has questioned the timing of the announcement, coming amid renewed questions over the Prime Minister’s credibility.

“I think it’s been far too long. I think John Howard’s let it go, and now the election campaign is too long. He’s timed it badly. The Senate will sit tomorrow and Tuesday, there’s no doubt there will be an inquiry, or a reopening of the inquiry into the Children Overboard affair, and the Senate can if necessary come back and deal with that matter during the period between now and the election.”

Senator Meg Lees, whose Progressive Alliance Party will contest its first election, says the minor parties will play an important role in scrutinising the government’s work.

“Our focus will be on the fact that there are two elections and that people actually have two votes, one for the house of representatives, and one for the senate. I think there are still a lot of Australians who don’t realise how important the Senate is, and the fact that if anything has to be done by legislation, then they need the senate, and they need one that is prepared to work, not one that is simply obstructionist and blocks everything.”

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