So that was an interesting experience. It was good this morning having a record of my thought process as I went back and read all the coverage. More thoughts on the debate:
Kevin Rudd kicks
He was sharp, he was mostly positive, he was occasionally jovial, he had a good grasp of finer policy detail, and he didn't allow himself to be derailed by any of Howard's sniping. Most surprisingly, he sounded downright left-wing at times, and the sky didn't fall or anything. I was nervous before the debate, because it seemed like a good chance for some of the Rudd gloss to come off, if he wasn't fully prepared. But Rudd did his homework, like any good schoolboy debater. I am both relieved and impressed.
John Howard has moved left out of desperation
If it turns out Kevin Rudd doesn't get himself elected PM this time around, he will at least have succeeded in forcing Howard to drop the ideological neocon routine in a last-ditch attempt to save his behind. Reconciliation? A national emissions trading scheme? Workers' rights? Recognising the Pakistani Muslim victims of a suicide bombing? Can anyone imagine this happening three years ago? Granted, Rudd spent quite a bit of time defending his credentials as an "economic conservative", but it's striking how much of the policy agenda was Labor's, and how much softer Howard's rhetoric is this time around, his tired-but-forceful anti-unionism notwithstanding.
Paul Kelly is tough
Jeez man, Kevin Rudd is not the one to have fallen desperately behind on climate change. Lighten the hell up! Kevin said he will have his interim targets by June. That's downright rushed for him. Besides, Howard only came around to accepting climate change as an important policy issue this year.
Peter Hartcher is thoughtful
We knew that already. He seemed a bit nervous, but his questions were probably the best-considered, for my money.
Taking on the Worm is one of the worst things Howard could do
Seriously, when the incumbent conservative government manages to get the Nine Network - of all channels! - offside, you have to wonder where their heads are at. The Worm clearly displayed Rudd favouritism, but cutting off Channel Nine's feed was just spiteful. And letting Ray Martin grandstand about free speech is not the kind of distraction Howard needs right now.
There are lots of people with girl-crushes on Annabel Crabb
See Larvatus Prodeo's live-blog
Australians can debate like grownups, occasionally
Okay, there was probably more macroeconomic policy than anyone really needed, but here are some things that never got a mention last night: abortion, gay people, God, the French, stem cell research, clashes of civilisations, torture, bombing Iran. The death penalty came up, but only in the context of how best to make Australia's feelings on it known overseas. There was no Australian flag in sight. The jostling over the OECD report on education funding was the silliest it got, and even that was more like a quibble between two feuding academics than a truly personal stoush. Sometimes I am very grateful to live here.