Street-fighter Keating lacks punch in debate

WITH opinion polls swinging against Australia's ruling Labor Party, Paul Keating, the Prime Minister, yesterday sought to revive his flagging campaign for the forthcoming general election in a televised debate with John Hewson, the opposition leader.

Mr Keating issued an impromptu challenge to Dr Hewson to confront him on television during a campaign walkabout. The challenge came as a surprise amid signs that the Prime Minister is deeply worried that, after less than a fortnight, his campaign for the 13 March election is in trouble.

An opinion poll published on Tuesday in The Australian, a national daily newspaper, for the first time pointed to a convincing lead by the opposition conservative Liberal-National coalition. It gave the opposition 53.5 per cent of voter preference against 46.5 per cent for the government, and was translated into a possible 31-seat majority for the coalition in parliament.

Mr Hewson was nominated as the preferred prime minister by 42 per cent of respondents, against 37 per cent for Mr Keating with 21 per cent still undecided. On the question of who voters thought would win the election, the margin was wider: 50 per cent for the opposition against 29 per cent for Labor.

With more than three weeks of campaigning to go, however, it is still too early to write Labor off. Another poll published on Wednesday in The Sydney Morning Herald indicated Mr Keating was still in the race when it suggested Labor was holding its ground in key marginal seats in Sydney and Melbourne.

Mr Keating is fighting to win his first election as Prime Minister, after ousting Bob Hawke as Labor leader, and to return Labor to an unprecedented fifth term after 10 years in power.

His campaign began falteringly on Sunday during a formal debate with Mr Hewson on Australian Broadcasting Corporation television. Both leaders were nervous, Mr Keating assuming the funereal tones of an undertaker and Mr Hewson appearing stilted as they fielded questions on the economy from journalists. The press generally awarded victory to Mr Hewson only by default.

Last night's unscheduled debate, aired in prime time by a commercial network, was not so constrained. Mr Keating's advisers had told him to ditch formality and return to his street-fighting mode, at which he excels. He obliged them last night, but the debate is unlikely to have enlightened viewers. It focused almost entirely on the centrepiece of Mr Hewson's policies, a VAT-type goods and services tax (GST) of 15 per cent.

Mr Keating attacked it as a 'monster' and 'the biggest life-style changing tax in Australian history'. He called Mr Hewson 'dear boy', while Mr Hewson described him as 'this fellow'. Despite his attempt to seize back the initiative through the debate, Mr Keating always looked on the defensive while Mr Hewson managed to relax and keep cool.

The campaign seems likely to be fought almost entirely on television, with at least one more debate scheduled and a series of aggressive advertisements launched by both parties on Wednesday.

News
people
News
people And here is why...
News
peopleStella McCartney apologises over controversial Instagram picture
Life and Style
Laid bare: the Good2Go app ensures people have a chance to make their intentions clear about having sex
techCould Good2Go end disputes about sexual consent - without being a passion-killer?
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Burr remains the baker to beat on the Great British Bake Off
tvRichard remains the baker to beat as Chetna begins to flake
News
i100
Sport
footballArsenal 4 Galatasaray 1: Wenger celebrates 18th anniversary in style
Arts and Entertainment
Amazon has added a cautionary warning to Tom and Jerry cartoons on its streaming service
tv
News
people
News
The village was originally named Llansanffraid-ym-Mechain after the Celtic female Saint Brigit, but the name was changed 150 years ago to Llansantffraid – a decision which suggests the incorrect gender of the saint
newsWelsh town changes its name, but can you spot the difference?
Arts and Entertainment
Kristen Scott Thomas in Electra at the Old Vic
theatreReview: Kristin Scott Thomas is magnificent in a five-star performance of ‘Electra’
News
Destructive discourse: Jewish boys look at anti-Semitic graffiti sprayed on to the walls of the synagogue in March 2006, near Tel Aviv
peopleAt the start of Yom Kippur and with anti-Semitism flourishing, one Jew can no longer ignore his identity
Life and Style
Couples who boast about their relationship have been condemned as the most annoying Facebook users
tech
Arts and Entertainment
Hayley Williams performs with Paramore in New York
musicParamore singer says 'Steal Your Girl' is itself stolen from a New Found Glory hit
News
i100
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Associate Recrutiment Consultant

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Uncapped OTE: SThree: SThree Group have been well ...

Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£18000 - £23000 per annum + OTE: SThree: Real Staffing Group is seeking Traine...

Year 6 Teacher (interventions)

£120 - £140 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: We have an exciting opportunity...

PMLD Teacher

Competitive: Randstad Education Manchester: SEN Teacher urgently required for ...

Day In a Page

Italian couples fake UK divorce scam on an ‘industrial scale’

Welcome to Maidenhead, the divorce capital of... Italy

A look at the the legal tourists who exploited our liberal dissolution rules
Time to stop running: At the start of Yom Kippur and with anti-Semitism flourishing, one Jew can no longer ignore his identity

Time to stop running

At the start of Yom Kippur and with anti-Semitism flourishing, one Jew can no longer ignore his identity
Tom and Jerry cartoons now carry a 'racial prejudice' warning on Amazon

Tom and Jerry cartoons now carry a 'racial prejudice' warning on Amazon

The vintage series has often been criticised for racial stereotyping
An app for the amorous: Could Good2Go end disputes about sexual consent - without being a passion-killer?

An app for the amorous

Could Good2Go end disputes about sexual consent - without being a passion-killer?
Llansanffraid is now Llansantffraid. Welsh town changes its name, but can you spot the difference?

Llansanffraid is now Llansantffraid

Welsh town changes its name, but can you spot the difference?
Charlotte Riley: At the peak of her powers

Charlotte Riley: At the peak of her powers

After a few early missteps with Chekhov, her acting career has taken her to Hollywood. Next up is a role in the BBC’s gangster drama ‘Peaky Blinders’
She's having a laugh: Britain's female comedians have never had it so good

She's having a laugh

Britain's female comedians have never had it so good, says stand-up Natalie Haynes
Sistine Chapel to ‘sing’ with new LED lights designed to bring Michelangelo’s masterpiece out of the shadows

Let there be light

Sistine Chapel to ‘sing’ with new LEDs designed to bring Michelangelo’s masterpiece out of the shadows
Great British Bake Off, semi-final, review: Richard remains the baker to beat

Tensions rise in Bake Off's pastry week

Richard remains the baker to beat as Chetna begins to flake
Paris Fashion Week, spring/summer 2015: Time travel fashion at Louis Vuitton in Paris

A look to the future

It's time travel fashion at Louis Vuitton in Paris
The 10 best bedspreads

The 10 best bedspreads

Before you up the tog count on your duvet, add an extra layer and a room-changing piece to your bed this autumn
Arsenal vs Galatasaray: Five things we learnt from the Emirates

Arsenal vs Galatasaray

Five things we learnt from the Gunners' Champions League victory at the Emirates
Stuart Lancaster’s long-term deal makes sense – a rarity for a decision taken by the RFU

Lancaster’s long-term deal makes sense – a rarity for a decision taken by the RFU

This deal gives England a head-start to prepare for 2019 World Cup, says Chris Hewett
Ebola outbreak: The children orphaned by the virus – then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection

The children orphaned by Ebola...

... then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection
Pride: Are censors pandering to homophobia?

Are censors pandering to homophobia?

US film censors have ruled 'Pride' unfit for under-16s, though it contains no sex or violence