on August 21, Prime Minister Julia Gillard has announced.
"This election, I believe, presents Australians with a very clear choice," Ms Gillard told reporters in Canberra on Saturday.
"This election is about the choice as to whether we move Australia forward or go back."
Ms Gillard says moving forward requires conviction and confidence.
It also requires a willingness to embrace new ways of thinking, acceptance of new challenges, listening and learning, and to embrace new solutions.
"Moving forward with confidence also requires a strong set of convictions and a clear set of values," she said.
Ms Gillard said she had been driven through her adult life by a clear set of values.
"And over the last few weeks I have had the opportunity to share those values with the nation," she said.
"I believe in hard work. I believe in the benefits and dignity of work. I believe in what comes as an individual when you do your best and you earn your keep."
Ms Gillard said there was no challenge Australia could not conquer if the country worked together.
"So in this, the forthcoming election campaign, I'll be asking the Australian people for their trust," she said.
"I'll be asking Australians for their trust so that we can move forward together."
Ms Gillard said moving forward meant plans to build a sustainable Australia, "not a big Australia".
"Moving forward means making record investments in solar power and other renewable energies to help us combat climate change and protect our quality of life," she said.
Budget surpluses and a stronger economy would offer Australians the chance "to get a job, keep a job, learn new skills, get a better job and start your own business".
Ms Gillard said she would protect the budget's return to surplus in 2013 during the campaign by not going on an "election spendathon".
"By making sure that any promise we make to spend money is offset by a promise to save money," she said.
"By making sure that the budget bottom line doesn't change by one cent during the election campaign."
Ms Gillard said she had been driven by a clear set of values.
"I believe in hard work ... in the importance of respect and valuing other people," she said.
"Most importantly (I believe in) the transformative power of a high-quality education."
Ms Gillard said she learnt those values from her parents.
"And like millions of other Australians (they) worked unbelievably hard so that their children could have opportunities that they could never have dreamed for themselves."
Ms Gillard said she wanted to build on what Australia achieved working together in the face of the global financial crisis and global economic uncertainty.
"The uncertainty is not behind us yet, and economic challenges are still very much with us and hard working Australian families who are doing it tough can attest to that," she said.
The prime minister said that "moving forward" also meant stronger protection for the nation's borders.
"And a strong plan, a real plan that takes away from people smugglers the product that they sell."
Ms Gillard noted that Labor had increased expenditure on hospitals by 50 per cent in its first term.
Moving forward on health meant training 3000 nurses and 1300 GPs during the next three years "all the while as we expand our GP super clinics and implement our health reforms".
Ms Gillard reiterated her pledge to move Australia forward during her leadership.
"We'll move forward together with a sustainable Australia, a stronger economy, budgets in surplus and world-class health and education services and other essential services that hard working Australians and their families rely on," she said.
Ms Gillard said the opposition's economic approach was backward looking, citing the coalition's stance against the stimulus package.
Failing to provide the stimulus would have sent the economy downwards into a spiral of lower incomes, lost jobs and reduced services.
"That is the spiral they would have recommended for this country but the wrong thing for Australians. It would have taken us backwards," she said.
Ms Gillard accused Opposition Leader Tony Abbott of remaining committed to Work Choices, no matter what words he sought to use as camouflage.
"In terms of the words he seeks to disguise his intent with, we have heard all of that before," he said.
"Their gaze is fixed in the rear-view mirror, rather than on the road ahead," she said.
Ms Gillard said Mr Abbott thought improving education and health meant cutting their funding.
"He's now calling for that same backwards-looking approach to other services that hard-working Australians need," she said.
"Instead of creating GP super clinics, he would eliminate them, instead of expanding trades training centres, he would end them, instead of providing computers to children in schools - he would see none of that."
Ms Gillard said she believed the Labor government had been a good one but acknowledged there had been "some problems".
"Yes there has been some lessons learned and I've acknowledged that we've learned some lessons along the way."
Mr Abbott represented a threat to the nation's future and return to policies of the past, Ms Gillard said.
"We've come too far as a country and we've evolved too much as a society to risk that kind of backwards looking leadership."
Australians had an opportunity to elect a government that would see the nation become stronger.
"The choice is very, very clear. And I look forward to presenting our case for judgment to the Australian people over the weeks ahead."
Ms Gillard committed Labor to offsetting every dollar of new promises with spending cuts.
"We will make a modest set of commitments to the Australian people and we will honour those commitments," she said.
Ms Gillard said she anticipated - and welcomed - a robust election campaign.
"I think Australians believe that election campaigns should test their leaders," she said.
"I believe we will all be tested in this election campaign."
When Ms Gillard became prime minister, she said the government had "lost its way".
Asked what had changed in the weeks intervening, she said the government under her leadership had taken several new directions.
She had committed to a sustainable population, announced plans for a regional asylum seeker processing centre, and resolved the mining tax stand-off.
"Through doing those things I've demonstrated to the Australian people the kind of way I which I will lead the nation," Ms Gillard said.
"Talking to people, working with people, making decisions, moving forward, embracing new solutions and changing."
Ms Gillard said she was determined to implement any promises made during the campaign but Australians understood some might be broken if circumstances changed.
She cited the example of the collapse of ABC Learning and Labor's subsequent backdown on its promise to build new childcare centres.
"I believe that Australians understand that there are sometimes where objective circumstances change," she said.
"But obviously, in giving commitments in this election campaign, I will be giving commitment that we will implement, that I will want to implement, intend to implement, that I will be determined to implement."
Ms Gillard will reveal Labor's climate change policy during the election campaign.
"They will be policies coming from a person who believes climate change is real, who believes it's caused by human activity and who has never equivocated in that belief," she said.
Asked if she thought she had sorted out a number of issues she identified as problematic for the government since she was installed as prime minister, Ms Gillard pointed to the minerals resource rent tax.
Labor had made some big strides forward with the mining tax, she said.
"We've obviously been able to enter a breakthrough agreement with some of the biggest miners in the country," she said.
"An agreement that's given them certainty, that's given mining communities certainty."
She said Australians would be saying to themselves "haven't we heard all this before" following Mr Abbott's promise to leave Labor's workplace relations scheme in place for the first term of a coalition government.
Mr Abbott had always promoted the previous Howard government's Work Choices industrial relations regime, Ms Gillard said.
"I always thought Work Choices was wrong. Mr Abbott has always thought Work Choices was right."
Australians will have until 8pm (AEST) on Monday to register to vote with Ms Gillard confirming writs for the election will be issued at 6pm on the same day.
Ms Gillard urged those not registered to vote to enrol.
"Whatever way they're going to vote, people should enrol to vote," she said.
"Around our world there are people who literally fight and die for the right to vote.
"Having that ability to vote is a very, very precious thing and people should get themselves on the roll."
Ms Gillard wouldn't speculate on how many seats Labor stood to win or lose on August 21, except to say the campaign would be close, tough and hard-fought.
"I think we've seen all of the signs of it so far," she said.
"I do genuinely believe this is a close election, a very close election, and it will be a very hard-fought campaign."
Ms Gillard refused to commit to three election debates, saying it was a matter yet to be worked out.
"I have spent a fair bit of time debating Tony Abbott in a lot of circumstances, in television, in the House of Representatives, in earlier election campaigns at the press club and so on," she said.
"The actual arrangements for the debates are being worked through by the respective parties."
Ms Gillard insists a Labor government under her leadership would be different from the government of Kevin Rudd.
"We would go in to our second term with some lessons learnt," she said.
"We would be able to implement and deliver programs differently than we have in the past," she said, noting programs including the $16.5 billion Building the Education Revolution program.
Ms Gillard, when asked to list her top three priorities for a re-elected government, named economic strength, education and climate change.
"Keeping the economy strong so that people can get the benefits of work," she said.
"Keeping investing in education, reforming education, so we can truly offer every child ... the opportunity for a great quality education."And thirdly ... I would be saying to Australians we don't have to be afraid of the future - we can master big challenges like climate change."