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Apr 27, 2010

Rudd runs from independent election debates

A proposal to establish an independent commission to control Federal election debates has been sunk by the Rudd Government, which has changed its stance on the timing of debates. In


A proposal to establish an independent commission to control Federal election debates has been sunk by the Rudd Government, which has changed its stance on the timing of debates.

In an email sent to the Press Gallery this afternoon, Gallery president Phillip Hudson advised that negotiations between the Press Gallery board and the Government had foundered on the refusal of the Government to accept a previously-agreed position on having a debate the Sunday before the election.  The Government also insisted that the agreement be for debates during “the election season” rather than specifically during the election campaign.

The outcome is a staggering display of pettiness and hypocrisy from the Rudd Government.  Labor initiated a proposal for a Debates Commission in Opposition, and the 2007 election debate bordered on farce when Channel Nine refused to abide by a Liberal Party demand that there be no “worm” in coverage and the National Press Club tried to block Nine’s feed.  Rudd scored a convincing win over Prime Minister John Howard in the single debate.  After the election, then-Special Minister of State John Faulkner approached the Gallery to pursue the Debates Commission proposal.  Last year, the discussions were on course to establish a 5-member Debates Commissions and an agreement to 2 debates at the start and end of the campaign.  Labor had previously specifically agreed to a debate on the last Sunday of the election campaign.

Thereafter, the Government appears to have got cold feet.  Hudson’s email states:

In late 2009, a change was suggested by the government. It proposed there be “up to three debates during the federal election campaign”. This still included a specific guarantee of a debate on the first Sunday and last Sunday.

Two weeks ago, further changes were proposed by the government:

The Debates Commission would be three people (instead of five). It would include one representative from the Government, Opposition and Press Gallery.

There would be “up to three debates across the election season. The exact number will be determined by the Commission”.

No guarantee of a debate on the Sunday before polling day.

The Press Gallery Committee said it was prepared to consider a three-person commission.

We did not agree with the term “election season” but we were prepared to accept it in return for a guarantee of two debates during the election campaign, including one on the Sunday before polling day.

The Government did not accept this.

As a result, the Press Gallery Committee can not support this proposal.

Like the Howard Government before it, the Rudd Government is not prepared to let a fair and independent process of conducting election debates to interfere with its strategy for winning the election.


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9 thoughts on “Rudd runs from independent election debates

  1. Bellistner

    It’s their way or the highway.

    Fine. Have the debates without them. Get the Libs, the Nats, the Greens, Steve Fielding, Nick Xenophon, and maybe even whatever is left of the Democrats, and have at it. Refuse to book the Press Club to the Labs during and approaching Election season, until they agree to PGC rules.

  2. Tom Jones

    I don’t know why the Press Gallery bothers with what the government wants. It certainly hasn’t benefited viewers or voters in the past. Why doesn’t it set up a system that is more like that of the British where it is not just the two parties involved? If the Greens and Liberals are invited and accept the invitation then for the PM to stamp his foot and say no would speak volumes plus allow his oppositions more air time. It would be good to have a principled stand from the Press Gallery even if this is beyond the PM.

  3. Venise Alstergren

    I apologise for attempting to state the obvious but Kevin Rudd is not exactly coming across as a man with cojones, principales, tampoco la carisma.

  4. Socratease

    Can I just say, with respect to the proposals outlined, and having full regard for the arguments both for and against, and taking into consideration all pertinent aspects of matter as presented, that the negative response as published is entirely in keeping with the position recently adopted by the government on all matters of a questioning nature.

  5. David Sanderson

    This is disappointing. If Rudd is not careful he is going to get the ‘mean and tricky’ tag that rightly dogged John Howard.

  6. JBG

    Great analysis BK.

  7. kymbos

    The sad truth to all the True Believers is that the Rudd Government is just a slightly left leaning version of the Howard Government.

    Evidence-based policy? Accountability? Transparency? Pig’s arse.

  8. geomac

    I accept the general point made by the article but isn,t that politics ? The liberals can hardly complain because Howard was miserly in comparison . The press gallery is a different story . I thought Rudd was overly generous in giving Abbott a debate on health but maybe that was a tactical move. Personally I prefer the debates between government and shadow ministers to debates between the two leaders . Apart from Greg Hunt the liberals are bereft of talent and Hunt has the disadvantage of being a strong supporter of the Turnbulls ETS . I have yet to see what the libs apparently see in Dutton but I reckon he will be lucky to even hold his seat .

  9. Tim Hollo

    This gives people another indication of how the Rudd government negotiates. It’s their way or the highway. If they don’t get their way, they drop it and blame the other side.

    I hope it opens a few eyes to the way they acted on the CPRS.


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