The People’s Forum on SKY News lived up to its name.
The “Town Hall”-style event was conducted at Rooty Hill RSL in Western Sydney, where many variety acts have entertained the masses with music, stand-up comedy, magic and dance.
Don Lane and Bert Newton used to make lots of gags about the name of the place many years ago. Who can blame them?
Last night mums, dads, grandparents and students all huddled together to hear PM Julia Gillard and Opposition Leader Tony Abbott answer questions without notice for an hour each. SKY News Political Reporter David Speers acted as host, occasionally pulling up the candidates when they failed to adequately answer the questions.
As a television production it was a no-frills event. Daily Telegraph banners dotted the stage. Sound quality fluctuated. Julia Gillard was perched on a stool in the middle of the stage. Tony Abbott smartly stepped off the stage onto the floor for his Q & A (and won a round of applause in doing so).
Punters were paraded to a podium to ask their questions. Gillard got a grilling over her rise to office, questions on gay marriage, rail links, costings and the refugee issue. Abbott drew a blank on video game classifications (awkwardly thinking a question on R-rated games was actually a push to ban them), and tackled the NBN, health and whether he would overrule his Cabinet (the most interesting question all night).
The audience of Galaxy Poll-chosen swinging voters appeared tougher on Gillard than Abbott, and has already triggered plenty of debate on Twitter. Both #rooty and #ausvotes were trending worldwide during the forum.
But unlike similar events, this crowd was influenced mostly by local issues. Questions about transport, super clinics and banks in Western Sydney drew big reactions. Any dig at the NSW State Government by Tony Abbott scored well with the crowd, clearly working the room more than the television audience.
By 9pm the entertainment circus was over.
Tonight at Rooty Hill RSL you can see a free country music show and coming soon are Tom Burlinson, Manpower, ABBA and Beatles cover bands and ‘Jukebox Saturday Night Live.’