Master Debater

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.

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8 Responses to “Master Debater”

  1. pussinboots Says:

    1) if the format is diluted and expanded further chances are less people will watch it.

    Presuming the public are stupid and lazy with low attention spans KEEPS them stupid and lazy with low attention spans. No excuse.

    2) 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.

    So, allowing themselves to be bullied into giving up on having a legitimate voice is valid? No.

    3) 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.

    THEY WILL NEVER GET THIS WITHOUT THEIR PLACE IN THE PUBLIC FORUM.

    Bob Brown is party leader. He is therefore entitled to enter a Party Leaders’ debate in a country that IS NOT A TWO PARTY SYSTEM.

    Chicken and egg – without them being allowed in the debate, THE VERY MYTH THAT THEY DON’T BELONG THERE CAN PERVADE.

    And this blog is evidence of the pervasiveness of this one HUGE lie and presumption – The Myth of The Two Party System We Don’t Have.

  2. Bridgit Gread Says:

    Thanks for opening up the topic here, CJ.

    There are probably two separate issues: the nature of Australian campaign debates and whether the Greens and/or minor parties should be involved. As a rule, Australian debates have followed the US model, with the two major-party nominees for president, vice-president or governor. I think we need to broaden our outlook and move away from that model, as the UK did this year with Nick Clegg.

    Personally I think arguing that ‘the Greens won’t win so there’s no point giving them a place in any debate’ just reinforces the duopoly of our system. If you give people the impression that there are only two options, the more likely they are to choose one of those two options. I think coverage of a democratic election should be more expansive and more inclusive than that.

    Discounting the Nationals, who would just mimic the Liberal line anyway, the Greens are the largest of the parties outside Labor and Liberal. They’re most likely to attract the votes of Australians disillusioned with the two major parties. I think they’re entitled to be heard and it would be better for democracy in this country if they were.

  3. cosmicjester Says:

    “Presuming the public are stupid and lazy with low attention spans KEEPS them stupid and lazy with low attention spans. No excuse.”

    Not that, just that the average voter is much less politically engaged as the average political tragic.

    “So, allowing themselves to be bullied into giving up on having a legitimate voice is valid? No.”

    “THEY WILL NEVER GET THIS WITHOUT THEIR PLACE IN THE PUBLIC FORUM. ”

    The leaders debate isnt the only public forum, and its hardly a very important one at that. It doesnt rate highly, and as showed during the Howard years, winning the debate doesnt mean a whole lot electorally. If the greens want to expand their reach, there are other way.

    “Bob Brown is party leader. He is therefore entitled to enter a Party Leaders’ debate in a country that IS NOT A TWO PARTY SYSTEM.”

    He is, as is Steve Fielding and Nick Xenephon, where do you draw the line? It may not be a two party system but only two people are likely to be PM after the election, its pratical that a leaders debate be exclusive to them.

    “And this blog is evidence of the pervasiveness of this one HUGE lie and presumption – The Myth of The Two Party System We Don’t Have.”

    I’m part of a conspiracy? Cool.

  4. Iain Hall Says:

    Did you see Bob brown at the Press club CJ?
    That man is just about the worst orator in Australian politics!
    So apart from the sound argument that you have put lets consider that the entertainment value of the debate will be somewhat lessened if Bob Brown has any part in it.

  5. Bridgit Gread Says:

    Iain has a point, and he knows what he’s talking about too (nobody provides more ‘entertainment value’ with their blogging).

  6. cosmicjester Says:

    “Personally I think arguing that ‘the Greens won’t win so there’s no point giving them a place in any debate’ just reinforces the duopoly of our system.”

    I think its not just that they wont win, but that they are not competing to win, or form government that is important. Their goals are different from that of the major parties.

    “I think they’re entitled to be heard and it would be better for democracy in this country if they were.”

    They are entitled to be heard, I just disagree with you that the leaders debate is the best forum for it.

  7. Bridgit Gread Says:

    Yet earlier you said that the leaders’ debate is “not very important”. Well if that’s true, what does it matter?

  8. cosmicjester Says:

    @Bridgit Gread

    It’s hardly the most important issue, I still have an opinion on it despite it not being that relevant.

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