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Rush to federal election call - how it all unfolded

Prime Minister Scott Morrison speaks to the media during a press conference at Parliament House in Canberra, Thursday, April 11, 2019. Scott Morrison today announced a Federal election will be held on May, 18, 2019. (AAP Image/Mick Tsikas)

We were all anxiously waiting for it and had a clear date in mind. The election date call however, was still not happening after numerous false alarms. Then, on Thursday April 11, everything unfolded. Here is Editor Mike Osborne's recall of a mad morning that saw a whole Bureau race to action with the assistance of AAP's headquarters in Sydney.

At 4.50am on Thursday (April 11) Canberra Bureau Chief Paul Osborne received a text from the PM’s office.

The PMO said: "Morning, The PM will call an election today. He will depart The Lodge at 6.50am to drive to Government House. TV super pool in place. Can we ask AAP to provide a pool photographer inside the gates of gov house?"

Paul alerted photographers Mick Tsikas and Lukas Coch. Mick was inside the gates to handle the pool.

Deputy National Chief of Staff Kaaren Morrissey starts work at 6am in Sydney and immediately started repeating AAP’s pre-prepared election preview package. The 40 stories and a note to subscribers were all issued within 45 minutes.

At 6.16am Paul had put together a rough plan for the morning which looked like this:

"Election plans so far (from my end):

  • PM will leave the Lodge around 6.50am to see GG.
  • Mick is there inside Govt House gates for photos. Video pool in place.
  • Marc is alerted for video
  • Rebecca in Canberra office.
  • I'll get into office by 7.30am
  • Expect a Morrison presser in Canberra some time after coffee with GG
  • Angus Livingston is in Melbourne where Shorten will respond to election announcement.
  • Then we'll work out logistics for campaign travel, including what to do with Angus, Alex and Andrew's flights to Canberra."

An hour later we knew the timing of the PM’s press conference at 8am and plans were in place.

  • 8am presser with PM in courtyard (Daniel McCulloch covering, file from office)
  • 8.30am event in the parliament house forecourt (out the front) to officially prorogue the parliament (Daniel to go after presser), and
  • then the "posting of the notice" on the House of Reps declaring it is dissolved

The story from the PM’s presser announcing the date of the election would be May 18 moved at 8.06am, images from the presser moved within seconds and a visual explainer on the campaign with the date was available from 8.07am.

It was a typically fast and furious and well-executed effort by AAP’s Canberra bureau and the production team in Sydney.

Once the rush of covering the breaking news subsided it was time to turn attentions to the logistics. Flights were arranged at lightning speed and some made it with just minutes to spare.

By 11.34am our interactive election graphics were available to clients.

At 2pm Matt, Mick and Alex were on the PM’s plane heading out of Canberra to kick start their campaign.

Angus was flying into Canberra at 3.30pm to join Lukas on the Shorten Campaign flight to Sydney at 7.30pm, where they will be joined by Andrew.

Both teams will be with Morrison and Shorten until next Saturday April 20 before being rotated out with new staff coming in.

Deputy Editor Joanne Williamson and Paul Osborne have a set filing plan in place for the duration of the campaign which will see a flood of copy over the next five weeks.

It was an exciting morning and the campaigns are sure to provide lots of interesting news ahead of the final vote on May 18.

Mike Osborne, Editor 

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