All four men vying to run Australia last night fronted a panel of political reporters in a nationally televised debate organised by The Bug.
The Bug’s Mass Debate was staged in Sydney immediately prior to last night’s Nine Network debate and was telecast on the former community television channel 31 abandoned in 2016 following the end of analogue broadcasting.
Participants included Prime Minister Scott Morrison, Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese, United Australia Party leader Craig Kelly, and media mogul Rupert Murdoch. (main picture)
Mr Morrison handled the first question of the night when Network 10 political editor Peter van Onselen asked if the Prime Minister had bungled by leaving it so late to call the election.
Referring to an article written a few days after the 2019 election by a Peter van Onselen, Mr van Onselen put it to Mr Morrison that the van Onselen article showed he would have been certain of victory if he had gone to the polls at the time van Onselen had written that he was guaranteed to be returned to office at the next election.
“I don’t agree with the premise of your question,” Mr Morrison said.
Mr Albanese was then asked by James Morrow of Sky News and Sydney turdbloid The Daily Telegraph if he – Mr Morrow – could access free Chinese language lessons when an Albanese Labor Government invited its comrades in Beijing to take over Australia.
“You can’t,” was the Opposition Leader’s curt reply.
As Mr Albanese was answering a follow-up question from Mr Morrow about Labor’s secret plans for birth, early childhood, teenage, middle-age, and death taxes, Mr Morrison began to needle the Labor leader with questions of his own.
Mr Morrison was reminded by the debate panel chair, host of ABC TV’s Gardening Australia, Costa Georgiadis, that the rules for the debate prohibited participants from talking over each other.
The Prime Minister apologised, saying he fully respected the rules, then pulled a ukulele from the lectern in front of him and began singing over Mr Albanese.
In a damaging gaffe, Mr Albanese fell for a challenge from Mr Morrison to join in a rendition of Ten Green Bottles, but at the end of the first verse forgot how many bottles would be left hanging on the wall if one fell.
Mr Kelly began his response to the only question asked of him by remaining silent and looking at the in-studio TV monitor for a considerable period, glancing at his watch, then looking expectantly off stage.
It wasn’t until one of the panel – The Bug‘s finance and investment adviser Morrie Bezzle – prompted Mr Kelly that he explained he had been waiting for Clive Palmer to deliver the answer, then asked for the question to be repeated.
Mr Kelly was unable to answer the question which had asked him to recite the one point in the UAP’s one-point plan to keep housing interest rates at 3% for five years.
He then asked for all further questions to him to be put in writing which he would pass on to Mr Palmer.
Mr Murdoch took no active part at any time in the debate, ignoring all questions posed to him by the panel of reports and the other leaders on the stage.
For the duration of the one-hour debate Mr Murdoch held his mobile phone to his ear and could be heard muttering instructions to various editors of News Corp Australia outlets.
While exact details of his conversations could not be determined, debate observers noticed that whenever Mr Murdoch issued an instruction all News Corp Australia online news websites adjusted their running coverage of the debate to laud Mr Murdoch’s debate performance and dismiss concerns about his lack of Australian citizenship.
An online audience poll for The Bug taken at the end of the debate gave a clear victory to Kevin McCloud, presenter of the popular UK TV architecture and home building program Grand Designs which was airing on ABC TV at the time of the debate.