The 2010 Great Debate


Unlike so many Australians, I actually look forward to the leaders' debate in each election campaign.

It’s one of the few times you get to see both leaders head to head in front of an audience. And, more often than not, you get to see what the differences are in their policies.

Sure, there’s woeful amounts of manipulation from both sides that, by the end of the debate, you’re probably more inclined to vote for Jennifer Aniston than either of the main candidates... scratch that, I was ready to vote for Jennifer before the debate too... *ahem*...

Back to tonight’s debate.  Well, it wasn’t as boring as I was expecting.   In this day and age with a 24 hour news cycle and leaders’ speeches being managed to within an inch of their life, there is a tendency to hear slogans and little else.

Not even good slogans.  They are usually absolutely stupid ones that drive you insane. 

“Fair dinkum”

“Moving forward”

“Working Families”

Lather, rinse and repeat.

This debate wasn’t too bad though.  There were a few slogans, (five moving forwards from Gillard and seven fair dinkums from Abbott) but I think that we actually got to see where the differences between Abbott and Gillard are.

And, I’ve got to say, Abbott answered more questions than Gillard. 

Our PM has been magnificently media trained, but, I have to say, that really annoys me.  In fact, after hearing Gillard avoid her fiftieth question in a row with her little condescending laugh I was almost ready to go on a three day killing spree.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for staying on message.  But, in my humble opinion, Gillard’s messages could actually prove to do more harm than good.

You see, if there is one certainty in Australia, it’s that people don’t like politicians.  In fact, right after used car salesmen, politicians are number two on a ‘least trusted people’ list (PR people are at number three – dammit).

And something I’ve observed is that people are slowly but surely coining onto the fact that Gillard steadfastly refuses to answer questions. 

Actually, she doesn’t just ‘not answer them’, she avoids them like the plague.  As Latika Bourke, the 2UE journalist, said on Twitter, “Gillard is the queen of non-answers.”

Abbott on the other hand genuinely seems to make a good effort to answer the questions he’s asked.  As my intellectual crush, Annabel Crabb, put it, it’s like Tony Abbott has a ‘truth parrot’ sitting on his shoulder that can’t resist speaking up whenever he’s asked a question.

The funny thing is, Ms Crabb meant this as a somewhat ‘affectionate criticism’.  I on the other hand quite admire it.

Having met Tony Abbott a few times, every time I’ve been quite impressed at how genuine he is.  I was at a health conference back in 2005 and had to escort Tony Abbott from the speaking platform back to his car.  We had a brief chat but he was genuinely interested in who I was, in what my job was and even asked for feedback on his speech!  I was impressed.

Now, not having met Ms Gillard I can’t pass judgement on her.  However, I can say that when Abbott is asked a question, he does his best to give an honest answer, which is more than you can say for Gillard.

And we saw that in the debate.  Gillard was more evasive whereas Abbott was more direct.  That said, Gillard was more positive, while Abbott was more negative.  Both are strengths and both are weaknesses.  So basically, I think we’re in for a pretty tight contest.

Who won?  Well, I’d call it a draw, although given the Prime Minister was favourite for the debate, you could say that Abbott securing a draw could count as a ‘moral’ victory.

And that sucks because moral victories are stupid.  In fact, I’m pretty annoyed I just used that term.  No one cares about moral victories – people want to know who won.  So just give me a few seconds while I berate myself.

“Dylan, you muppet!  Moral victory??  What were you thinking???  You suck!”

Ok, we’re good.

So, who won?  Let’s say Abbott pulled off a narrow victory.  Sure Gillard had some strong moments, but Abbott had a better run.

Did the debate solve anything?

Not really, but I’m glad I watched.  

In fact, the two best things tonight had very little to do with the debate. First was Chris Uhlmann's comprehensie evisceration of Bob Brown in a post-debate interview. It's clear that Brown has no idea on any policy other than climate change (and even on that he's woefully out of touch with business) and Uhlmann wasted know time in proving it. Brown's answers on population policy, paid parental leave and company tax were laughable. So Chris Uhlmann, take a bow.

Secondly was the host of ABC 24's coverage, Ali Moore. While Annabel Crabb is my 'intellectual' crush, Ali Moore is catching her fast. Her flirty but deadly nature in her interviews is all kinds of awesome. Every time she appears on TV, I'm tempted to go and buy her a second apple martini...

Anyway, if they're the two best things about the debate, then it probably means that neither leader was particularly inspiring.

And that's because they weren't.

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Julia Gillard and Tony Abbott faced
off in the 2010 Leaders' Debate.

Annabel Crabb is absolutely hilarious.
Watching Chris Uhlmann destroy Bob Brown was,
by far and away, the best moment of the night.