For a while the Greens have been leading a campaign to have Bob Brown included in the current leaders debate. An argument ensued on twitter and due to the restrictive word length I thought I would express my views here as to why Bob Brown should not be included in the debate.
Firstly, there is only so so much time the public will give to election debates and they should be as relevant as possible so that the maximum number of people in the electorate watch them. In the past we have seen the one election debate in 2004 outrated by Australian Idol, if the format is diluted and expanded further chances are less people will watch it.
The format has always been between the Prime Minister and the opposition leader, the likely leaders of the future government. Bob Brown isn’t running for Prime Minister, the greens wont be forming a government so I don’t think they should be put on the same pedestal in a leaders debate. At best they might get the balance of power and have a big influence on amending and rejecting a governments legislation, but they don’t have the same platform as a major party that is likely to be implemented.
If Bob Brown is let into the debate, then why not other minor players? I dont see how you can include Brown and exclude Steve Fielding, Barnaby Joyce and Nick Xenophon in the debate. What happens then would be each player would have a greatly reduced air-time in order to accommodate the increased roster.
Although the political blogosphere/twittersphere would likely watch any and all election debates we are the exemption, the publics appetite for these things is limited as it is already so I think the debates should remain limited to the Prime Minister and opposition leader so that the format can be accessible and relevant for the largest possible audience.
Not that I think Bob Brown or any other minor parties should be denied a voice, far from it. But any effort to try to be included in the leaders debate would be fruitless. The major parties have everything to lose and nothing to gain by letting Bob Brown in, and as the format of the leaders debate is negotiated between the major parties there is no way he is going to be let in.
If the Greens situation rapidly changes, they start winning large amounts of seats in the house of reps and actually have the possibility in forming government in their own right then of course they should be included in the leaders debate. Until then I think the main debate should be left to just the leader of Labor and the Libs.
A secondary debate or forum between the heads of the minor parties and other independent senators who are vying for the balance of power is a good idea though. And thanks to the increased spectrum on digital TV and fast video streaming on the web, such a debate could gain an audience even if it is ignored by the mainstream television networks, but I dont think any of the minor parties are trying for this, shame.