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Bull on parade: Last night’s debate illustrated a complete lack of personality

Last night, the first televised leader’s debate kicked off. What followed was boredom interspersed with recycled talking points, briefly interrupted by Mathias Cormann’s questionable behaviour.



Last night, in the far recesses of both the country (Perth) and the television dial (7TWO) both of our prospective leaders squared off. Well, ‘squared off’ may be generous, as it was certainly more two school children circling around each other at the flagpole than it was Kennedy v Nixon.

Nevertheless, it was a debate and there was a winner. According to the studio audience present, 48 in total, scored the ‘fight’ in favour of Bill Shorten, 25-12.

Now, I realise this election is going to be tight (or tighter than it should be), so every journalist, no matter how small, has a responsibility to not fudge, marginalise or misreport an event, but good lord. On the Keating scale of acerbic wit and entertainment, those two were far closer to Ronan than Paul. While Shorten obviously had more to say, Morrison said things louder. It was, on the whole, an unsatisfying pursuit. Which, in the land of completely stupid politics, it committed a cardinal sin, something far worse – it was boring. This is the House of Parliament that gave us prop comedy, racist memes voted on and the entirety of One Nation either attempting to purchase guns and/or angle for a jerk off in a private room; this was a grand pile of steaming grey effluent. The greatest fight we experienced was attempting to ensure that our top eyelid didn’t stay perched on the other.

It was a classic moveable force versus stoppable object situation. Per Michelle Grattan, “Shorten has the detailed policy, with big initiatives that will appeal to voters. But his program is costly, and he has to mount a heavy argument to support the tax changes that will pay for it all. He describes these as closing loopholes; Morrison casts them as massive increases. Morrison is running hard on lines that boil down to stick-with-what-you-know, and you-can’t-trust-Bill. In the campaign he is all attack and that, and a certain quickness, came through repeatedly in the debate. The contrast in messaging was summed up at the end. “He’s not telling you what the cost of change is,” Morrison said – in other words, don’t venture down the scary Shorten road. Shorten’s riposte was to point to “the cost of not changing” – in other words, voters would be worse off – in everything from hospital care to climate change – unless they took the new path he offered.”

Ostensibly, the debate itself was the thing to note. Outside primetime on an obscure channel in an irrelevant state, witnessed by a handful. Somehow, the organisers (and perhaps the candidates) knew themselves to be as thrilling as an unexpected utility bill. There were positives, however, as those who managed to mangle this awfulness into a drinking game would have surely gleefully welcomed the two noticeable moments. Bill Shorten being unable to answer a question, and Scott Morrison going the full David Brent in order to place himself above another.

Shorten was caught out over the price of an electric car.

Shorten: “I haven’t bought a new car in a while so I couldn’t tell you.”

Morrison: “I can tell you how much electric car costs, more than standard – it’s $28,000 that’s for the same type of car”.

Shorten: “Well that’s great, we’ve got a Prime Minister spending his times in the motor pages”

Morrison: “Well that’s where most Australians often spend their time, mate they read about cars, they read about footy, they read about the races ”

It’s true! I’m actually reading the Trading Post now, as I’m looking for the cheapest engine block I can find so I can tie it around my waist so I can hurl myself off a pier and away from this awful election.

As for the greater meaning of last night’s debate, there isn’t one. We saw both candidates in their plainest definitions. To use a moment from our youth, last night’s debate was that moment when the lights come on in the nightclub at 3 am, and the entirety of that person you’ve been dancing with finally comes into view. It’s too late to change, and it’s certainly too late to not take them home. We’re all now living on a prayer. Nothing about last night would have changed the minds of anyone watching it, and I don’t think any more of these will see any benefit, bar pushing the rest of those forced to watch it for work further into the acidic mire of Lake Cynicism, or forever closer to the 3 for $10 discount wine rack.

Also, this happened.

What is Mathias Cormann doing, for Christ?




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