Last night’s Leader’s Debate was never going to attract a mass audience, being broadcast on subscription TV service SKY, but that’s never the point of these set pieces in Federal election campaigns.
Their value lies not in the relatively small audience watching but in the bite-sized grabs and pictures that are being incessantly transmitted via mainstream and social media channels today.
A poor performance in one of the debates need not be fatal but it does go to the confidence of campaign teams – just like a good Question Time showing.
Labor Leader Anthony Albanese did lose some bark in an exchange about boat turn-backs and that grab will figure in post-event coverage.
It was the only flashpoint in a forum in which he and Scott Morrison spent a lot of time being civil to each other.
The relevance of the debates in the broad campaign context shouldn’t be overplayed.
Both leaders are meticulously prepared and they never result in a knock-out blow. Last night was no exception with points even.
John Howard looked uneasy when he took on Paul Keating in the first debate in 1996, but delivered a workshopped line about Australians wanting to be “comfortable and relaxed” in the final one that resonated with voters.
Today’s voters are tired of gotcha moments and politicking for politics’ sake – which is why the first Newspoll of the campaign showed a slide in both major parties’ primary vote.
It was no surprise that the studio audience verdict mirrored that.
Craig Regan, Senior Account Director