Jul 26, 2010

Who won the debate?

Daily Media Wrap: Fair dinkum, last night was the only election debate of the campaign and it was filled with moving forwards, cheesy Aussie lingo and worms aplenty.

Amber Jamieson — Freelance journalist in New York

Amber Jamieson

Freelance journalist in New York

Last night was the only election debate of the campaign and it was filled with fair dinkums, which is the new moving forward, apparently. In case you missed it, you can read the entire transcript here, but let's face it, it wasn't the most thrilling testament to democracy. Pre-debate, Michelle Grattan wrote in The Age about how important the leaders' debate was for Abbott:
People overwhelmingly think Labor will win the election. Abbott remains the underdog. A win tonight would give him fresh momentum. A loss would be a slip on the side of that Everest he's trying to climb.
But who won the debate? The worm slithered up and down the screen and the commentariat are also all over the place this morning. Unnamed "staff writers" at The Oz declared "Julia Gillard and Tony Abbott have faced off in a polite leaders debate, with neither leader delivering a knockout blow." It was a lacklustre night for Christine Jackman, "...it was clear then that this debate would deliver nothing more than another serve of workshopped rhetoric with all the appeal of cold porridge", she writes in The Oz. Michelle Grattan at The Age seemed similarly underwhelmed:
Julia Gillard and Tony Abbott didn't give political value for money in last night's debate. They were too frightened of putting a foot wrong. Rehearsed to the hilt, they provided nothing new. Humour was lacking; there was little engagement between the two, no spontaneous moments. Neither was seriously caught out; where they didn't have answers they fudged. Nor was there any clear winner.
"With no killer blows and debate centred on their political skeletons, neither Ms Gillard nor Tony Abbott will be able to use it as a springboard into week two of the campaign," says Stefanie Balogh in The Courier-Mail. Yes, it was a crap debate, but Gillard won it, says Katharine Murphy in The Age. "Julia Gillard moves into the second week of the election contest claiming victory in a lacklustre televised debate that stayed religiously on the campaign script," writes Murphy. Malcolm Farr agreed over at The Daily Telegraph: "Julia Gillard won last night's debate narrowly over Tony Abbott, but neither planted a bone breaker on their opponent." Julia mightn't have lost it, but she didn't win it either, says Dennis Shanahan in The Oz. "...the expectations piled on Gillard's shoulders were left unfulfilled and a solid, mistake-free performance will not be enough to have the new Prime Minister declared a 'winner'." At least the worm provided welcome distraction. "... for the first time, voters were treated to not just a head-to-head battle between a male and female political leader, but also a gender-bending worm. And basically, the lady worm likes girls," writes Samantha Maiden in The Oz. The worm declared Gillard the winner. "Channel Nine's worm, the live tracking device operated by a sample of swing voters, awarded the debate to Ms Gillard emphatically, while Channel Seven's polliegraph gave it to the Prime Minister by a nose," notes Phillip Coorey in The Sydney Morning Herald. "Neither Julia Gillard nor Tony Abbott will be disappointed with their performances in last night's leaders' debate, as both avoided any serious mistakes. But Abbott, who is trailing in the polls, need to make a bigger impact than proved to be the case," writes Tony Walker in the Financial Review [paywall]. Others were quick to give the win -- or at least a near win -- to Abbott. "Tony Abbott has dealt himself back into the election race with a narrow victory in last night's leaders' debate," says Phillip Hudson in the Herald Sun. According to Matthew Franklin and Patricia Karvelas at The Oz, Abbott defied the "low expectations" put upon him. "The Opposition Leader put on a disciplined performance in last night's leader's debate, overcoming underdog status to come close to victory," they write. Oz colleague Paul Kelly seemed equally as impressed by Abbott, writing "This was Tony Abbott's best moment. He may not have outpointed Julia Gillard but he exceeded expectations and looked, as never before, a viable prime minister." Tony Abbott also got the winning thumbs up from Annabel Crabb at The Drum, who noted that "Mainly, it was a relief to see them disagreeing with each other." But Abbott will have to get more than a pass grade to win, writes Peter Hartcher in The Sydney Morning Herald. "Tony Abbott made a strong critique of the Gillard Labor government in last night's debate, but utterly failed to establish his own party as the alternative." Tony Wright at The Age had a sure fire debate victor "Indeed, the winner was . . . David Speers! ... He stood alone between the two contenders and tried valiantly to provide a match as both Gillard and Abbott sought to slide away from anything approaching substance." It doesn't matter what the media thinks, writes Barrie Cassidy on The Drum: "Political parties obsess about what the media thinks of the debaters, but in the end, people make up their own minds. Julia Gillard didn’t win, or Tony Abbott didn’t win because Joe Blogs, political correspondent for World News, thinks he or she did. Audiences at home make up their own minds, and they are influenced not by Joe Blogs, but by what they just saw and heard." Meanwhile, in actual policy news, over the weekend Scott Morrison and Tony Abbott announced a plan to cut immigration to just 170,00 people per year. But there is some confusion over exactly how the 170,000 will be counted, says Bernard Keane on The Stump. "Good luck telling highly-skilled migrants that they can move to Australia but they can’t bring their partners and kids with them," writes Keane. Will it include temporary skilled and student visas? Is the immigration number already dropping?  Commentators seem unimpressed by this move by the Coalition. It's a populist policy writes Peter van Onselen in The Oz: "Population policy is a complex area and it will take some time for experts to fully dissect the merits or otherwise of the Coalition's new policy. But politically the government will need to respond to it quickly if the populist pitch in it is to be countered." "I fear a race to the bottom on immigration," John Hewson at The Drum. Stephen Lunn at The Oz thinks the numbers are dodgy: "The figures just don't add up in this increasingly sleazy population debate." Yes, the numbers aren't quite right, says Dennis Atkins at The Courier-Mail, "...but it doesn't distract from the fact many voters will find Abbott's craven calculation attractive." The overused slogans of this campaign-- Julia's 'Moving Forward' and Tony's 'Real Action'-- are dumbing down our political conscience, said Tim Soutphommasane in The Oz:
Today the measure of success for the politician is to stay "on message". The conduct of politics tends to prioritise personality over policy, symbols over substance, the comfortable over the controversial. But citizens have also been complicit. When we watch politicians on vacuous talk shows or variety entertainment programs, we encourage the dumbing down of our politics.
It's also a morning of polling, with the latest Newspoll [PDF] out in The Oz showing the two-party preferred vote as 52-48 for Labor, a rise of three points to the Coalition. Tony Abbott is narrowing the gap on Julia Gillard in the primary vote, writes Dennis Shanahan in The Oz. "The election campaign has become a tight contest". Today's Galaxy poll has the same figures as Newspoll for the two party preferred, but notes that one in ten voters are uncertain of who they will vote for and the Greens' primary vote has risen to 15%. Let's hope the second election campaign week has a few more thrills in store...

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119 thoughts on “Who won the debate?

  1. Oscar

    This may indeed have been “Tony Abbott’s best moment”. But it wasn’t nearly good enough.

    And what’s with all the wimpy commentators who are afraid to declare an opinion one way or another? Here’s mine:

    Gillard won unequivocally. Not surprising – she didn’t really have to do much other than turn up, stand there and let Abbott display the negativity for which he’s justly renowned.

    Question to Abbott: “What would you do about …”

    Answer from Abbott:”Well, aaahhh, I’ll, aaahhhh, tell you what I WONT do, aaahhh … ”

    Abbott’s a born opposition leader if ever I saw one. He has found his role in life and it would be a shame to take that away from him.

  2. leone

    Only rusted-on supporters would have bothered watching in the hope of seeing their man or woman beat the other side to a pulp. Who may or may not have ‘won’ is irrelevant because not one vote would have changed sides as a result of The Debate. I didn’t watch, couldn’t be bothered. I’ve decided who I’ll vote for and I didn’t want to sit through an hour full of spin and mantras about ‘pink batts and school halls’ and ‘moving forward’, because neither side gets my vote. I’m voting independent – again.

    Does anyone else think that delivery-wise Julia Gillard is sounding more and more like Maggie Thatcher these days? Same slow, measured delivery, same quiet, low voice. Julia sounded much better before the image makers started trying to change the way she speaks.

  3. skink

    I thought it was fairly clear who won


    he got a trophy and everything

    I mean, who can’t recognize a hollandaise sauce ?


  4. leone

    Nah, it wan’t hollandaise, I thought it was some sort of pink stuff with eggwhite in it, all soft and lacking any substance, just like the content of the debate.

    But what would I know? I was busy watching a rerun of my The West Wing dvds.

  5. David

    Why was it called a ‘debate’ ? A series of statements and answers to prepared questions by hand picked journalists was more akin to a party political broadcast.

  6. merlot64

    Less of a debate than an exercise in brand management….

  7. Bob Weis

    Who won the debate is a question that is answered by who you are and what you want.

    I wanted to see Phoney Tony lose his cool but what I saw was a measured reading of scripted remarks and a huge effort to pull in a natural tendency to be nasty while lying through a smiling mouth about almost everything.

    With Julia I saw a restrained performance by a person who could hear the lies and I assume thought the people watching would know or not be persuaded by name calling. I noticed Julia seemed confident of her facts and didn’t need to read.

    I am also prepared to emigrate if PT wins but it seems impossible to believe.

  8. skink

    I was impressed that The Oz and The Hun managed to spin it into an Abbott win purely on the basis that he wasn’t a total car crash and didn’t bark at the moon.

    every sane analyst, including some from the right like Sinodinos, called it for Gillard.

    Given that these debates are generally won by the Leader of the Opposition – even Latham – then the fact that Abbott’s failed to convince even his most one-eyed supporters should be viewed as terminal.

  9. Oscar


    Generally agree, except that Abbott’s campaign was already terminal, so perhaps the media are right to regard this as something of a reprieve for him.

    If he had performed as badly against Gillard as he did against Rudd, it would have been “all over red rover” for him – he probably wouldn’t have even lasted till the end of the week, let alone till the election.

    As things stand now, he will (probably) at least make it to the finish line. Then he can look forward to the “night of the long knives” that will inevitably follow.

  10. Orchardo

    My partner and I treated it like a job interview…

    – Tony Abbott just didn’t talk like he wanted the job – sounded very happy where he was.
    – Julia Gillard seemed a bit more together and more forthcoming with details, examples, etc.

    Very little mention of green issues, understandably given the lack of good policies on either side… Still a shame none of the media luminaries chose to ask about these issues though…

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