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The Debnam and Iemma Dilemma

January 7th, 2007 at 12:30am

Good morning John,

I'm glad I don't live in New South Wales, mainly because I'm glad that I don't have to choose between Peter Debnam and Morris Iemma. How do they expect to have any credibility if they can't solve the dilemma of whether to sit or stand during a debate?

OK sure, Mr Iemma is a good 15 centimetres shorter than Mr. Debnam, but a true leader shouldn't be concerned about the height of an opponent, especially if the only blows they will come to are verbal ones. Maybe we should offer Mr. Iemma a couple copies of the Yellow Pages to stand on?

Whilst they are both being silly about it, I think Mr. Debnam is right that a debate should involve the opponents standing, and I'm glad that he is willing to concede to a sitting debate if Mr. Iemma insists on one.

I do have to wonder what's next though…if this seated debate is a success, will the "standing orders" of parliament be altered to MPs sit when they address parliament? If so, will the orders be renamed "sitting orders"?

It's good to see that our elected leaders are focussing on the real issues!

Samuel Gordon-Stewart

From The Sun Herald:

Deep-seated differences create a debate debacle

Divided we sit ... Opposition Leader Peter Debnam and Premier Morris Iemma have reached a stalemate on their live television debate.

Divided we sit …. Opposition Leader Peter Debnam and Premier Morris Iemma have reached a stalemate on their live television debate.
Photo: Chris Colls (digitally merged)

Alex Mitchell
January 7, 2007

ARRANGEMENTS for the televised election debate between Premier Morris Iemma and Opposition Leader Peter Debnam are up in the air because of a row over whether they should sit or stand.

Mr Iemma has insisted they sit in chairs during the hour-long live debate on the ABC but Mr Debnam favours standing.

"I've been watching televised election debates from around the world for years and I've never seen the protagonists sitting down," Mr Debnam said. "It's quite ridiculous."

Two other major differences have emerged:

Mr Iemma wants just one debate while Mr Debnam is seeking at least two and hopefully three.

Mr Iemma is insisting the debate be held on Friday, February 16, five weeks before the March 24 election but Mr Debnam wants all three debates in March – after the election is called.

Mr Debnam said last night: "Mr Iemma wants a seated fireside chat, but I'm demanding a proper stand-up debate at lecterns."

He said he would continue to oppose the "ridiculous restrictions" imposed by the Premier but, if he had to face Mr Iemma seated, then "beggars can't be choosers".

Mr Iemma's insistence on a sit-down debate shows his sensitivity to height: he is 167 centimetres tall while Mr Debnam, a former naval officer, is a ramrod-straight 182 centimetres.

The Premier's minders are concerned that Mr Debnam's extra height might give him an advantage if he is seen to be a more imposing presence.

But television consultant Peter Cox said Mr Iemma was a capable TV performer.

"There have been great leaders over the centuries who have been short – Napoleon is a good example – and there have been other celebrities like Michael J. Fox and Kylie Minogue and Sam Chisholm," Mr Cox said.

"My advice to Morris Iemma is that he should stand and deliver."

A Debnam staff member offered a compromise solution saying said that if the Premier wanted to stand on a raised platform, the Opposition camp would not object. Stephen Galilee, Mr Debnam's chief of staff, has written to Quentin Dempster, host of the ABC's Stateline program, saying: "The proposal for a seated debate is not agreed.

"The Leader of the Opposition is very happy to stand for the full hour and our preference is for both the participants to stand for the duration of the debate."

Mr Galilee protested about the date of the debate, saying: "It is two weeks before the date when the election is called and five weeks before the election itself.

"It is ridiculous for the Premier to request that a campaign debate occur before the campaign has formally commenced.

"He is clearly attempting to run away from his previous commitment to a campaign debate."

Mr Galilee has called for two additional debates in the lead-up to the election, saying: "Transport and infrastructure issues deserve a dedicated discussion, as does the water crisis."

Mr Iemma surprised his Labor colleagues last October when he publicly agreed to a live televised debate with Mr Debnam, the underdog.

It broke a 20-year stand-off between the major parties on election debates during which former premier Bob Carr rejected any television appearances with his rivals.

Mr Carr conducted the entire 1999 election without mentioning the name of then Opposition leader Kerry Chikarovski and only made one grudging reference to John Brogden during the 2003 campaign.

Labor's campaign team in the 1995, 1999 and 2003 elections took the view that TV debates would only provide airplay to Opposition policies.

Mr Iemma is confident he can present a more engaging and likeable image than Mr Debnam.

Meanwhile, Mr Debnam is starting to come into consideration as the alternative premier and disgruntled voters are keener to hear his policies.

Source: The Sun-Herald

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1 Comment

  • 1. Samuel  |  February 18th, 2007 at 3:16 pm

    The digitally merged image was right…they sat!


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