5 Things We Learned From The First Debate, Including That David Speers Needs A Promotion

The short version of the washout from the first leaders’ debate of the federal election campaign is the momentum heading into week two is unquestionably with Tony Abbott.

This morning’s Newspoll in The Australian has the Coalition marginally ahead on a two-party preferred basis but the big shift is lifts for Abbott on the preferred prime minister and personal approval measures.

Reaction polls are split on who won, with Channel 7 poll awarding it to Abbott and polls on Channel 9 and the Ten Network giving it to Kevin Rudd. The split result indicates the debate hasn’t added any significant drag to the Coalition campaign.

Rudd is now struggling for traction and the headlines this morning on his apparent breach of debate rules by relying on notes compound his problems. Abbott, campaigning in Melbourne today, was looking pretty chipper at a press conference a short time ago. He even busted out a gag: remarking that the problem wasn’t that Rudd was reading from notes, it was “more that the notes weren’t worth reading”. When you’re on…

Here are five things we learned from last night’s debate.

David Speers needs a promotion

If this guy is still introducing himself to the nation, as he did last night, then it's the nation that's losing out. Sky News viewers who have been watching Speers for more than a decade have watched him grow into a consummate pro; last night it was on show to the whole country. He can do clutch questions on the economy just as fluently as he carries breaking news. Can a billionaire media owner or free-to-air TV news director please bust him out and find him a bigger job?

The National Press Club format sucks. Bring back the town halls

Probably one of highlights the last election campaign in terms of bringing the battle to the voters was the town hall debate format. Somebody at Channel 7 has proposed a 'Facebook debate' which is a cute idea, but there's no format that reveals the leaders' true connection with voters better than the up-close-and-sweaty format of point-blank questions from swinging voters.

The verdict from many from the early minutes of last night's debate was that it was dull - and that wasn't helped by it being occasionally sidetracked into beltway conversations. Bring back the town halls.

Post-script: Joe Hildebrand would be a great MC.

Same-sex marriage versus roads?

Get ready for a weird week. After the first week was inevitably dominated by economic fundamentals, both leaders have gone off on very separate tangents in terms of the issues they are seeking to highlight this week. Rudd announced a conscience vote on same-sex marriage within 100 days of the election while Abbott sought to talk about building roads through almost every electorate. Both messages have an audience but there's not much of an overlap.

Abbott's starting to get this media thing


Right after one of the most-watched TV shows in the country - the 6pm Sunday night news - both leaders had a chance to deliver a message to the Australian people in about one minute. Abbott was up against against an opponent who is indisputably better in terms of media presence - Rudd talked about the challenges facing the country and went first, but slightly over the time allowed. Abbott's response was to say it was about the people watching, and came in before the buzzer with a wag of the finger. Tidy.

Twitter is getting increasingly rubbishy for this kind of event

Here's a sample tweet from early in the #debate stream: “GDP GDP GDP GDP GDP. #fail”.

140 characters never made for deep analysis but with its burgeoning popularity the ratio of vacuity to value grows ever larger.

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