Why we need the debate between Morrison and Albanese

Scott Morrison and Anthony Albanese burst out of their campaign bubbles on Saturday to meet ordinary voters on opposite sides of the country.

The prime minister played soccer with kids in Perth while the opposition leader walked through the markets in Launceston.

Anthony Albanese and Scott Morrison will face off at the debate on Sunday night.Credit:AP

Both leaders ventured outside their usual micro-managed events to mix with Australians who could walk up to them and ask them anything – at least within the boundaries set by the security teams.

And the more questions, the better. That is why the campaign needs the debate between Morrison and Albanese when it airs at 8:45pm on Sunday night.

The debate will be broadcast free-to-air on Channel Nine and aired live on the company’s radio network, which includes 2GB, 3AW, 4BC and 6PR. In a first, it will also be livestreamed on the homepages of The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age.

All viewers, for the first time, will be able to issue their verdicts on the two leaders at key points during the event and will be able to cast their votes on who won in the end.

This will not be a representative survey of the voting public, but it will convey rapid feedback from a broad audience. Australians will have to be watching to cast their verdicts.

Both the major parties have been playing it safe in this campaign by keeping their leaders shielded from unpredictable moments like the one last month when a pensioner, Ray Drury, gave Morrison a piece of his mind at a hotel bar, right in front of the television cameras.

The last thing Morrison and Albanese want is a moment they cannot control or manage. Their campaign teams are deploying specialist advisers – the “advancers” – at taxpayer expense to go to every location ahead of time to avoid surprises. The teams will line up “safe” people for the leaders to talk to so everything runs smoothly.

That means the entire campaign is structured to prevent awkward questions that test the leaders. Yet the leaders must be tested. Australians should have a sense of what Morrison and Albanese stand for when early voting opens on Monday and the final votes are cast on May 21.

Both leaders have taken shots at the media in the past few days about the quality of the questions they get.

Sunday night’s debate will be held at Channel Nine’s studios in Sydney.Credit:Dean Sewell

“You get to ask the questions, not say what the answer is,” Morrison told a reporter in Perth on Saturday when asked what he would do in a hung parliament. He was right. But he uses that line to dodge giving a specific answer.

“This is an example of what puts people off politics,” Albanese told a journalist in Sydney on Friday when he was peppered with questions about whether he would cut any spending on health, education and the National Disability Insurance Scheme. He was right, too. But the questions were fair.

Some voters hate the shouting at press conferences when journalists crowd around the target and step up the aggression. There has been too much yelling on the campaign trail. And there’s been criticism of journalists for asking “gotcha” questions. Every journalist has to accept feedback about whether their question, or the way they shout, crosses a line.

That is all the more reason for a considered debate where there is no need to yell. For Sunday night, the two leaders have agreed they will not bring notes to their lecterns and they will keep every answer to 60 seconds to make time for as many questions as possible.

The questions on Sunday will come from Nine Network political editor Chris Uhlmann, 2GB afternoon host Deborah Knight and me. The moderator will be 60 Minutes reporter Sarah Abo.

In the end, the answers matter more than the questions. There are no hints about the subjects. It will be up to Morrison and Albanese to be ready.

The Great Debate will be live at 8:45pm tonight on Channel Nine, the Nine radio network and the homepages of The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age.

Most Viewed in Politics

From our partners

Source: Read Full Article