It is going to be a real struggle for choice on Sunday night. Not between two men in grey suits with striped ties on Sky TV. For ninety per-cent or of Australians or more, the choice will rest between Kath and Kim, Incredible Journeys with Steve Leonard, Australian Idol, Sixty Minutes or Homo Sapiens.

The election campaign has not even warmed up yet, but the political set are getting hot under the collar about Sunday’s debate. In a nutshell, it hardly matters. Pay TV, Sunday night and too much already about elections. Debates past have been lost by John Howard and he has gone on to win the election handsomely. Worm or no worm.

The slick Kevin07 with an alleged eye to the future will be on parade against the tried and tested Team Howard; there will be no surprises in the tones from either camp. While both parties talk dirty on the campaign trail, courtesy will dominate the debate.

“Well Mr Howard is a clever politician,” Mr Rudd will say.

“Mr Rudd seems to have attracted a lot of people’s attention,” Mr Howard will respond.

Mr Rudd will seek to paint Mr Howard as yesterday’s man, lacking vision. Mr Howard will portray Mr Rudd as lacking in depth and subject to union dominance and glib one-liners. Mr Rudd will talk about education revolution. Mr Howard will argue of a union revolution to come.

Health is Mr Howard’s fault, and we cannot go on blaming each other, according to Mr Rudd. Health is the States’ fault, they run the hospitals and they are Labor governments. Watch out if they are running the country, Mr Howard will say.

Broadband will feature for a few nano-seconds, as in general most people are happy with their mega or giga bits and pieces. Iraq will get a play. Mr Rudd has a plan but no detail. Mr Howard has a plan, but alot don’t like it.

So, where does it all go on Sunday night? Not very far really. Think about those, few Australians, who will be watching the debate. What do they want?

They want to hear: a) what is in it for them and b) how does my future look?

With unemployment at record lows, the economy booming along and the vast majority of Australians feeling relaxed and comfortable, Mr Rudd has the challenge of taking them out of their comfort zones without making then feel uncomfortable.  Mr Howard has to ensure their comfort is maintained, and listen to that three-letter word tax get a big work-out. But he must also reflect that Team Howard has an eye for the future.

I might watch Incredible Journeys with Steve Leonard. Last week it was about Wild Dogs. Bloody interesting TV.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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