HUNDREDS of thousands of people statewide were watching the commercial news bulletins on Wednesday night as the one and only election debate went to air.
Few Victorians watched the televised duel between Premier Denis Napthine and Opposition Leader Daniel Andrews because it was transmitted by pay channel Sky News.
Even on pay television, hardly anyone watched it. In fact, an old episode of Coronation Street was better watched by viewers with satellite dishes.
It is pathetic that Labor and the Coalition couldn’t agree to broadcast the debate on a commercial channel or the ABC.
Apparently, the party apparatchiks couldn’t agree to a time and place suitable for free-to-air television.
Victorians deserve better.
Even though state election debates receive low viewing figures, voters should be given the option of watching the program for free.
A natural home for the debate is the ABC but one of the commercial network’s less viewed multi-channels would be equally suitable.
The Sky News “People’s Forum” involved 100 undecided voters crammed into a Frankston auditorium.
Questions covered issues ranging from medicinal marijuana, the proposed Melbourne Airport rail link and building the East West Link.
Both Dr Napthine and Mr Andrews repeated their election slogans, steered the conversation back to their preferred topics and took a few pot-shots at one another.
Mr Andrews attempted to tone down his whining style while Dr Napthine was careful to be mild-mannered.
Both were terribly scripted and some of the rhetoric was trite.
Sky News itself claimed “Napthine and Andrews were neck and neck”. The Age said “a clear winner did not emerge”.
Audience members were polled after the forum with 39 saying they’d vote for Mr Andrews, 38 for Dr Napthine and 23 still undecided about who would get their vote.
Suffice to say, the affair would not be one of the stand-out moments of the 2014 election campaign. But then again, how many stand-out moments have there been anyway?