Australian elections set for Sept. 14

Updated 31 January 2013
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Australian elections set for Sept. 14

CANBERRA, Australia: Prime Minister Julia Gillard surprised Australians yesterday by announcing that elections will be held Sept. 14, in a country where governments have traditionally given the opposition little more than a month’s notice to keep a strategic advantage.
In a speech to the National Press Gallery, Gillard said she wanted to create an environment in which voters could more easily focus on national issues by removing uncertainty around the timing of the elections.
“I reflected on this over the summer and thought it is not right for Australians to be forced into a guessing game, and it is not right for Australians to not face this year with certainty and stability,” she said, referring to her holiday break during the current Southern Hemisphere summer.
Experts disagreed about whether Gillard’s unconventional move would give her an advantage in the elections. Some said voters would embrace her for making the early announcement on the date, while others suggested that Gillard had above all created a grueling eight-month election campaign instead of the usual five-week campaign.
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 is more tax or less, it is more regulation or less, it is less competence or more, it is 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 Aug. 21, 2010, to form a minority government with the support of independent legislators and a lawmaker from the minor Greens party.
She said she consulted with Deputy Prime Minister Wayne Swan and senior colleagues to help her make the decision on the date. Two independent lawmakers who support Gillard’s government, Rob Oakeshott and Tony Windsor, said they were informed of the date Tuesday night.


Toronto: Bodies and debris scattered over mile-long strip

Updated 52 min 34 sec ago
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Toronto: Bodies and debris scattered over mile-long strip

  • At least 10 people have died in the attack officials called “deliberate” but not linked to national security concerns
  • Toronto police have the suspect after a confrontation

TORONTO: The crime scene seems to go on forever, a taped off stretch of street scattered with bodies under orange sheets, urban debris and a pair of abandoned shoes.

Toronto police have arrived, and a suspect is under lock and key, but no one yet knows why the driver of a white rental van spread death and destruction under the warm spring sunshine.

“I heard screaming, yelling. I turned back and saw this truck going that way. He was going in and out, back and forth, zigzagging. He just kept on going,” said 42-year-old Rocco Cignielli.

There was nothing the customer service worker could do. Emergency services were on the scene quickly, but in some cases their efforts were in vain.

At least 10 people have died in the attack officials called “deliberate” but not linked to national security concerns.

“I saw there were people lying on the ground. I saw they were doing heart compression, and I saw two people dying right here in front of me,” Cignielli told AFP, pointing at the bodies.

It was shortly after 1 p.m. (1700 GMT) on a working Monday when the speeding van hit this commercial thoroughfare in a district of high-rise residences in the north of Canada’s biggest city.

A pale but cheery sun shone after a long and grim final winter stretch even by the region’s standards. Many local people were out and about.

Nana Agyeman Badu, a 56-year-old taxi driver, saw the van heading south toward central Toronto, where ministers from the G7 world powers were holding a security conference. Then the van swerved onto the sidewalk.

“I thought maybe he was making a delivery. But I was thinking, ‘Why would he drive in the pedestrian walkway like that?’ Very fast. Then I saw he had already run over some people,” the witness said.

“A lady was walking toward the car close to a bus shelter. The truck pinged the lady through the bus shelter and she fell back and all the broken glass fell onto her,” he added.

“I stopped and ran out to help her. The truck continued going and going and going.”

The truck smashed a yellow fire hydrant, a few newspaper dispensers and there, a bit further, lie a pair of sneakers.

“They belong to a victim,” a police officer said.

Some in a crowd that gathered by the police tape as dozens of rescue vehicles were deployed were dumbfounded. “It is a dangerous crossroads,” one woman suggested.

“Oh, it was no accident,” declared another passerby.