One is never enough

In an earlier post I argued that one of the positive aspects of the US electoral system is the importance accorded to campaigns. While US elections undoubtedly do drag on, 5 weeks is not nearly long enough to have a meaningful debate about the long-term issues facing Australia and exactly how our politicans propose to address them. Now today we have the news that there is going to be a grand total of ONE debate between Howard and Latham. What is this — a runoff for school captain?

Howard defends his decision on the basis that “in the end the Australian public will make a judgment about me largely based on the job I’ve done over the last eight and a half years”. Undoubtedly voters will factor this in Mr Howard — but how about a substantive debate about the future? It is trite, but true — debates are one of the few chances that voters get to see the candidates for PM largely “unfiltered”. This makes them an especially important part of the campaign and I can think of enough topics to fill at least three debates (see IA for some examples). The idea that one is sufficient may be strategically smart for Howard, but it’s shortchanging voters.

[Posted by David Madden]

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1 Response to One is never enough

  1. Macgregor Duncan says:

    I agree with Dave that a single debate during the federal election campaign is insufficient. In the United States, presidential debates are regulated by an Independent Commission, which is charged with the responsibility of determining the number and format of these debates, free from party political interference. Australia should give the Australian Electoral Commission (AEC) a similar responsibility. There is an interesting article discussing these issues in today’s Australian by Michael Costello.

    I also notice that the ABC has decided not to televise the election debate live, preferring instead to broadcast a new Bradman documentary. This will no doubt warm the PM’s heart. Instead, the ABC will show the debate at 10pm, justifying its stance on the grounds that Channel 9 is broadcasting the debate live, so a later timeslot will maximise viewer audience. This is an embarrassing decision by the national broadcaster. It should not be taking its cues from a commercial network; it should be setting the agenda, regardless of whether Channel 9 also decides to broadcast live. Can you imagine the BBC doing something similar?

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