In making this unexpected announcement, Julia Gillard has relinquished one of the advantages of incumbency: the prerogative to select the election day but not reveal it until much closer to the time. Still, most expected the poll to come at the back end of the year, although no Australian prime minister has ever declared their intentions so early - 226 days beforehand.
Rather than embarking on the longest election campaign in history, Ms Gillard said that her intention was to allow businesses and consumers to better plan their year.
But no doubt she will be hoping that her announcement wrong-foots her main opponents: the conservative opposition leader Tony Abbott, and, to a lesser extent, the Labor prime minister she ousted, Kevin Rudd, who still harbours leadership ambitions.
Polls suggest repeatedly that her Labor minority government will be removed from office, even though Mr Abbott has struggled to win the affection of voters. As for a long, drawn-out election battle, Canberra has been in campaign mode pretty much since 2010's inconclusive federal election.