Editorial: It’s time for ScoMo and Albo to stand up
The second televised leaders’ debate has come and gone.
And what did Australia learn?
Unfortunately, not much. It was an ugly spectacle.
The two men who wish to lead the country after May 21 offered up a slanging match that hardly deserved to be called a debate.
Some have likened it to a schoolyard shouting contest. But that does a disservice to our education system. It was not up to that standard.
So how did we get here? We are less than a fortnight out from an election at what looms as a pivotal point in Australia’s history with the global challenges of climate change, the rise of autocracies testing the rules-based world order that has prevailed for 70 years and an economy that must adapt to a post-pandemic paradigm.
But instead of two leaders who could outline their vision for dealing with the concerning elements of this big picture, the debate was a culmination of how the campaign has been waged so far — self-serving politics in which neither leader is able or willing to outline an inspiring vision beyond the next election.
The problem is that Scott Morrison and Anthony Albanese have got a unity ticket on most major policies. There is precious little between them on many issues.
And that is bad for the rest of us.
When leaders are primarily focused on trying to match the other, to deny their opponent oxygen, to win each day incrementally through small target tactics, they are left with little else in their locker than to launch personal attacks.
But the nation as a whole is short-changed. It does not get a contest of ideas. And that, after all, is what elections in a democracy should be about.
What we get instead is an attempt to differentiate on character issues. That means personal attacks and a reduction of political debate to the sort of mud-slinging that we saw on Sunday night.
Sure character is important and, yes, leaders should be tested under fire but in the end it is alternative policies that will determine the future of the only things that are really important to Australians — such as our standard of living, our health and education systems and our security.
But in the four weeks or so since the election was called, we have heard little to inspire us on these questions.
To take one example: the cost of living. It is the number one topic in just about every family home. But neither side is offering much beyond short-term payments that are essentially economic bandaids, or platitudes about wage rises on the never-never. Ditto with policies aimed at raising national productivity which are inextricably linked to higher wages.
This is what should be properly debated. Instead we are served up name calling.
There are 11 days left of campaigning before polling day. There is one debate left between the leaders. On Seven this week.
Is it too much to ask Mr Morrison and Mr Albanese to put aside the pettiness and the sniping and to instead focus on what matters to the people?
For once. Before we vote.
Responsibility for the editorial comment is taken by WAN Editor-in-Chief Anthony De Ceglie
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