EDITORIAL MONDAY 26.07.10.
And the winner is… Masterchef. Quite clearly, the Leaders’ Debate on three of the free to air television channels would have had virtually no audience at all if the timeslot had not been changed to avoid conflicting with the Channel Ten cooking show. Masterchef officially pulled in almost four million viewers in the five major cities, with a peak audience of 5.75 million across the country. That’s about one in four men women and children, a staggering figure which makes it the third highest rating figure since Oztam ratings began, and the highest ever result for a non sporting event. By comparison, the political Leaders debate, simulcast on three different channels, managed to pull in just over 3 million viewers in the five major cities.
That still makes it the second most watched TV event of the year if you add all three networks together, but either way, it would seem that Australians are more interested in what’s on the kitchen bench than on the front bench. Of course, the debate itself was never going to offer anywhere near as much entertainment value, intrigue, or suspense as the cooking show, and in that sense it lived up to its promise not to deliver anything spectacular. While the Channel Nine Worm and the Channel Seven Pollie-Graph both awarded victory to Julia Gillard, many commentators have given Tony Abbot the top honours. Perhaps that’s the difference between judging the main course by its nutritional value or its presentation.
On presentation, both leaders were on their best behaviour not to be seen savaging each other because past experience has shown that aggressive and negative tactics are not well received by the viewing audience, or the knob twisters driving the Worm. On that score, I feel that it was Tony Abbott who appeared to be more “relaxed and comfortable”, while Julia Gillard appeared to be slightly more on edge. Perhaps she was anxious to be “moving forward”. But while presentation is important, and can make a considerable difference to the persuasiveness of an argument, it is the substance which should matter most. Sadly, last night’s debate failed to place much meat on the table at all.
In stark contrast to the Kevin 07 election, when there was a clear ideological divide between the evils of “Work No Choices” or the nirvana of “Forward With Fairness”, this election seems to be offering us a choice between beige and cream. Both sides are racing to address imaginary perils of population and boat people, offering increasingly fantastic solutions to problems which will never affect the majority of Australian voters, at the expense of addressing real and pressing needs for better infrastructure, better hospitals, and better transport. Nobody wants to do anything about climate change other than create more hot air, and nobody seems to be willing to say or do anything which might frighten the voters.
Perhaps it would all be more thrilling if we gave the candidates a set of kitchen knives.