Variety night at Rooty Hill

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.’


  1. Honestly I find it funny that people make jokes about the name Rooty Hill – I have lived near there almost all my life and never really think of it that way. I personally was more shocked that Joel from BB actually lived in the area! Yeah look you cant really take that poll too seriously, its very limited in scope and considering that seats of McMahon are considered a safer Labor seat (only been Labor) and Lindsay should remain Labor, these results dont say too much about the probable election results.

  2. Is it ok to highlight that one of the questioners said that they have always voted Labor? I’ve never seen a true balanced audience…Q&A struggle with it. It’s quite normal for a person or group who are actually running something to be questioned more harshly than the other side.

    Julia would be happy enough that it was shown to a limited audience.

  3. Arch Liberal, Andrew Bolt acknowledged on Sky this afternoon, that although Abbott gave his best performance ever – few people saw the debate, and Fairfax and the ABC largely ignored it due to media politics; diluting any benefits for Libs.
    For once I agree with the insufferable Bolt.

  4. There is no way in hell they were undecided voters, it was obvious that the majority of the people who were allowed to ask questions were rusted on Liberal voters.

  5. Of course it would have been stacked in favor of Abbott. The swinging voters obviously came from the environs around Sydney where Labor are on the nose big time. Plus I wouldn’t be crowing about a 71-59 “win” with 70 undecideds…..

  6. Secret Squïrrel

    @Ell: I have to agree. While I’m all in favour of “the people” deciding who runs this country, I think that they should have a certain minimum understanding of the political process, at least with regard to the respective spheres of responsibility of the different levels of government.

  7. Would have been great to have seen it on FTA TV. It should have been shown on it so it could reach out to all potential voters.

    As for ‘swinging voter’ Joel Scalzi being there……seems a bit of a silly thing to have him in the audience given he’s still a fairly well known face from his TV exposure. Wouldn’t it have made sense to get someone nobody knows to sit in the audience?

    The selection process used by Galaxy should be bought into question – especially due to their strong connections to the right wing News Ltd media.

    Although both sides of politics has used this tactic before – if there’s ever a chance for any party to gain favour with an audience by stacking it with loyal followers common sense and denency usually gets put out the back door!

  8. Last time I saw Abbott behind a podium (during the 1st debate),
    he seemed to have a nervous habit of rocking back and forth on his feet.

    Did anyone else notice this? It looks quite odd, I’m surprised Gruen or Chaser haven’t picked the footage.

    It was about 40 mins in.

  9. What a joke of a public forum! It was blatantly obvious that the audience was stacked in favour of Tony Abbott, regardless of what Galaxy claims. Now it emerges that one of the “swinging voters” is the son of a former Liberal MP.

    I also thought the mediator was terrible. There were a few times when Julia Gillard was trying to answer questions – only to be interrupted repeatedly by a disgruntled audience member. Why not step in and say, ‘Hey, pipe down and give her a chance to finish. If she doesn’t answer your question once she’s finished, then you can kick up a stink’?

    Finally, perhaps someone should have explained the difference between State-based issues and what the Federal government is responsible for before the forum started.

  10. Lorenzo M, I wish you were right. But that’s what Western Sydney is really like! This election (like most for the last decade) is all about Western Sydney with both parties attempting to be more Xenophobic & full of hate than the other. Sad…

  11. One of the people that questioned Tony Abbott, was in Big Brother. Joel Scalzi.. as I recall at the time he was on Big Brother (2007 series, I think it was) he was a young Liberal. So not sure he was exactly a swinging voter, so who is to say what anyone else was really.

  12. I found it a fascinating, but long night of viewing. The political tragic I’ve become, it was three hours of compelling q’s and answers. I thought Julia handled some tough ones pretty well, but Tony did seem to get an easier ride, despite not really adding much. It was poorly staged, with David Speers off camera, but mic on, apologising for not even having a glass of water on hand for the PM after an hour of relentless questions. Tony was solid, but Julia showed both personality and vision with her answers. Gay marriage and climate change stumbling blocks still

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