Beforehand, I joked it would be more entertaining as an all-out free-for-all, with a candidate being disqualified for three falls or one policy concession. Unfortunately, this wasn't far from the truth.
The Socialist Alliance candidate asked "Where would we be if we spent the $43 million per day on defence on more worthwhile things?" To which I quipped, "Defenceless." Of course, each political party had plants at the debate (they may have even been the majority of the audience in the crowded pub). By far the loudest and most obnoxious were the Socialist Alliance stooges, though the Liberal Party stooges can't leave blameless. It seems they are all in favour of free speech as long as they're the ones talking. I do not want to live in a community where political debate is dominated by those with the loudest voices. I believe in civility in discourse and I appreciate the opportunity to hear a diversity of viewpoints. If I may then be accused of wanting passion, then so be it. The Socialist Alliance has lost any claim to be allowed to engage in the political process.
I admired the courage of the Liberal candidate to stand up and debate politics in front of an obviously hostile crowd. I thought she handled the issue of John Howard's use of wedge politics in relation to gay marriage with aplomb by outing herself, thus distracting the audience from the fact that she didn't answer the question. She was an engaging public speaker, but I was sorry she wasted most of her speech discussing State and local issues that she thought she would have traction on rather than Federal issues.
The incumbent Labor candidate gave an impassioned defence of why he voted in favour of the Bill banning gay marriage. He harked back to when he was Defence Minister and had to explain to hostile troops why discrimination against gays is no longer acceptable in the armed forces. He earned the respect of the crowd for whom this was obviously an important issue.
I thought the Greens candidate wasted his opportunity to speak by lecturing us on the impending energy crisis (his past as a science teacher was well in evidence), but he came to life during the question and answer session and spoke intelligently and frankly on a number of issues. My friend told me that, if he had to choose who to vote for soley on the basis of that debate, he would vote Green.
Before they started, I made a game of guessing which candidate belonged to which party. I got it badly wrong, but I want to say in my defence that I was thrown off by the Democrat candidate sending a proxy. This struck me as symptomatic of the general malaise the Democrats are subject to right now. He spoke well, but it looks too late for the Democrats in this election. Because only half the Senate goes to the polls when an election is called, they will have until the next election to resurrect themselves.