A 24-year-old youth worker and activist has been crowned the winner of last night’s Wannon political debate, outperforming a seasoned politician and four other candidates.
Wannon Greens candidate Tim Emanuelle was placed as the winner of the two-hour debate hosted by The Standard at the Lighthouse Theatre and judged by Deakin University associate professor of politics Kevin O’Toole.
Professor O’Toole scored points to candidates based on public speaking ability, confidence and the ability to portray their own policies in a positive light.
Liberal MP Dan Tehan and Labor challenger Michael Barling both delivered strong speeches but became deadlocked when their policy focus veered off into negative attacks.
Minor party candidates, including Chris Johnson from the Sex Party and Therese Corbett from the Australian Christians, failed to gain any traction, often resorting to emotions rather than policy — Mrs Corbett predictably drawing gasps from the audience with her views on homosexuals.
Before joining the Australian Christians she was pilloried in the media for comments aligning homosexuality and paedophilia as a candidate for the Katter Party. Unrepentant, she made the same comments again last night.
Neither Warrnambool Family First candidate Craig Haberfield nor elusive Queensland-based Palmer United Party candidate Bradley Ferguson attended.
Despite Dan Tehan’s three years of parliamentary experience and Michael Barling’s 17 years as a school teacher, the academic adjudicator gave top spot to young Greens candidate Tim Emanuelle with a score of 11.
“I thought the young Greens candidate was extremely confident and I gave him the top score simply because he was a lot more positive in his approach,” Professor O’Toole said.
Many of Mr Emanuelle’s responses on gay marriage and reigning in the supermarket giants drew cheers from the 250-strong crowd.
“He was easy to understand and I thought for a young, inexperienced candidate he did a very good job of holding his own.”
Both Mr Tehan and Mr Barling were placed in a dead heat of nine points for polished performances, at times rising to their feet at the front of the stage.
The Hamilton MP had strong audience support throughout the night but focused largely on the shortfalls of the Labor party rather than promoting his own vision for the electorate, Professor O’Toole said.
“The most negative all night was Dan Tehan. He mentioned the carbon tax at least 15 times. The carbon tax was blamed for everything.
“He’s now a practised politician, he knows how to shift the argument at times. He’s very well trained and media-savvy.
“But those things are distracting and they don’t win you points in terms of debating because you are avoiding the issues.”
Emmanuel College teacher Michael Barling was praised as a “head and shoulders” improvement over Labor’s 2010 Wannon candidate Judith McNamara.
“He did a very good performance and knew his policies well but, like Dan Tehan, also fell into the negative,” Professor O’Toole said.
The remaining two candidates delivered lacklustre performances and sat quietly during debate about national issues.
Mr Johnson, wearing a hooded jumper, sat slouched and was given a score of five.
At one stage he was forced to concede his party had “no policy” on asylum seekers.
“Johnson had a list of policies but tended to get on an ideological kick but he did make it local at times.”
Mrs Corbett appeared aloof for much of the night, often resorting to anecdotes and at one stage unaware of her own party’s policies.
“She’s just not used to being in public ... she didn’t seem to have much of a policy platform,” Professor O’Toole said
“She seemed to be talking platitudes most of the night and she didn’t mention anything that was local.”