Judge: Praba Ganesan
Winner: Julia Gillard
Scores: Gillard 82 | Abbott 80
The debate was won by Julia Gillard. Positing Labor as investors into the future – schools, healthcare and training — while defending immigration, benefits to counter cost of living and the removal of Kevin Rudd gave her an edge over Tony Abbott, whose failure in the debate was to not articulate how the no tax, less spending model will bring benefits immediately to the Australian people. There was a tacit acceptance that the interest of big business must be held paramount, as he was not moderating how business interests and consumer interests can be balanced.
I agree Mr Abbott was right not to lean too hard on the Rudd removal, but he needed to be a little more firm on where his proposed government will take the country.
The debate overall struggled to rise since both speakers fudged over their weak zones like schools and WorkChoices without being able to strike stronger and more reasonable responses to their side’s weaknesses. The general confidence in the debate was on Mr Abbot’s side in the earlier stages of the debate, but after winning some ground in the immigration discussion Ms Gillard’s confidence rose and her conviction level edged past Mr Abbot in the latter parts of the debate.
The economy discussion was short in that aspect as both speakers did not win over the issue of sustaining a path to zero budget deficits considering global economic uncertainties. The leadership of the issue and indeed the leadership of the debate was there to be had if either speaker was willing to present a cogent vision of how to lead Australia to better economic management despite external uncertainties. Ms Gillard only did better in pointing out that there were better benefits under Labor to counter the rising cost of living.
Mr Abbott did manage to establish his independent mindedness, willingness to be bold and providing for the working class with his paid parental leave. The argument was strongly made, but Ms Gillard was unwilling to deal with it, conceding the point almost. It would have been interesting if more was made of this and other more community driven policies Mr Abbott was interested in, to win the lower income-group influence Labot inadvertently have. Unfortunately Mr Abbott did not sustain such a theme in his presentation.
The immigration point was won by Ms Gillard in that she was more willing to maintain a level of humanity by placing disincentives for those trying to make it to Australia by boats. The East Timor processing centre will be a better option that a Nauru centre which lead to the eventual access to Australia anyway for the refugees. The Labor intention to stop people before they even pass Indonesia is more palatable to the Australian public. The Lib-Nat’s contention that the processing centre would not be possible in East Timor is thin.
Backdoor immigration was another point gained by Labor as Mr Abbott struggled to defend the study-skills visa used by many to access Australia and migrate. Mr Abbott said the people were needed but that did not negate his own position that migrant numbers have to drop.
Industrial relations and the regulations placed on small business was a wasted opportunity for Mr Abbott as he did not ride on Ms Gillard’s complete defence of the policy. He made veiled references to building consensus and not build a stronger argument on why employers need more elbow space when it comes to employees.