Kevin Rudd and Tony Abbott have met in their third and final encounter of this year’s election.
The Leaders’ Forum was held at the Rooty Hill RSL in the electorate of Chifley in Sydney’s west. After brief opening statements, Rudd and Abbott took questions from the audience.
The debate lacked the vitality of last week’s encounter in Brisbane. Perhaps the most interesting moment came when an audience member asked the two men what they would like to ask each other. Abbott asked Rudd to give a positive reason to justify his re-election. Rudd asked Abbott to detail his policy costings and spell out any planned budget cuts.
At one stage, Abbott recycled the old Ronald Reagan line – “there you go again” – but it lacked the bite of the original.
A small businessman wanted to know why a fork lift driver from Mt. Druitt should pay for Abbott’s parental leave policy so that “a pretty little lady lawyer from the North Shore earning 180 grand a year can have a kid”. Abbott pointed out that part of his policy would be paid for by a levy on Australia’s largest businesses.
In response to a question about the sale of Australian agricultural land to overseas interests, Rudd took a more cautious line than Abbott, saying he was against an “open slather” approach. This could be seen as clever positioning but it also had a touch of populist desperation about it. Abbott said it was not appropriate to have a “colour bar”.
Another questioner asked what the parties would do to protect Australian interests from foreign competition. It was an interesting illustration of the disconnect between official trade policy and the instinctive reaction of many voters.
Interestingly, there were no questions about asylum seekers.
Overall, Rudd seemed more willing to engage with the detail of the questions put to him, whereas Abbott stuck to his standard lines. At one level it could be said that Rudd won the debate but Abbott’s dead bat means that the debate’s impact will quickly fade. There is no reason to think that the Coalition’s march to a comfortable victory on September 7 will be affected by this event.
The 100-member audience was chosen by the Galaxy polling organisation from amongst undecided voters. David Speers from Sky News moderated the debate. It was broadcast on Sky News, News24 and the second channels of the other networks.
- Listen to the Leaders’ Forum (73m)
- Opening statements:
- Watch a questioner ask about parental leave:
- Medicare Locals:
- Watch Rudd invite Abbot to vote Labor:
- Costings or savings?