When two candidates to be prime minister face each other in front of cameras, television executives may pray for heat. A good bust-up is a good booster of ratings.
But voters should hope for light to emerge from the confrontation.
When Anthony Albanese and Scott Morrison meet this evening in a studio in Brisbane to answer questions asked by undecided voters, the answers should help voters make a good decision about who should lead this country. Calm debate is better for the country than good sound-bites.
Something is demanded of viewers, too. They should resist the temptation to see it as a boxing contest where one or other of the bruisers may land a knock-out punch.
A focus on some alleged "gaffe" is not helpful. Politicians can say things thoughtlessly which feverish headline writers can then spin into a major mistake, even though a full context reveals more nuance. So good advice for viewers and voters is to "trust your own eyes and ears" and not those of partisan commentators.
Once the debate is over, the spinners go into full operation, spinning like tops that their man clearly won. Whatever disaster befalls their candidate, the spinners will spin it as a triumph. Take their opinion with a bucket of salt. And the post-debate "analysis" programs need to be treated with some scepticism. They tend to focus on the narrow question of "who won?" It may be that neither candidate did, but both revealed sides of their character or policy which will eventually nudge voters towards one or the other as the election unfolds.
Don't worry too much about what the studio post-debate pundits think you should think.
The promising thing about the first debate, which will be aired and organised by Sky News Australia and The Courier-Mail, is that the questions will come from a hundred undecided voters as chosen by Q&A Market Research. Questions from ordinary people ought to reflect the concerns of ordinary people rather than those of activists and journalists who tend to be concentrated in the better-off metropolitan areas.
And they may be as unpredictable as a Shane Warne ball. Last week, Mr Morrison walked away when he was ambushed by a political activist who wanted to talk about climate change. In a television debate, there is no walking away.
But there can be endless verbiage. Politicians are expert at talking down the clock. The moderator of tonight's debate, Sky News' Kieran Gilbert, will need to be at the top of his game. He must allow time to respond but know when to step in and halt the flannel.
In Australia, it must be said that leader debates in previous elections have been a bit dull - and people have tuned in less and less over the years, perhaps reflecting a growing disenchantment with politics.
According to the Australian Election Studies, there has been a steady decline since the first televised debate, between Bob Hawke and Andrew Peacock in 1984. Only 21 per cent of Australians said they had watched a debate in 2016 compared with 71 per cent in 1993.
Even when people do tune in, they don't stay for long. For example, the prime-time ABC debate between Malcolm Turnbull and Bill Shorten in 2016 attracted 875,000 viewers - but not for long: 150,000 switched off within three minutes.
But debates are important in our democracy, so let the leaders present their pitch to the voters in a calm and rational manner. Let - think of this - policy be discussed.
When and if you watch, switch off at the end. Talk among your friends and family. Don't worry too much about what the studio post-debate pundits think you should think.
We vote. We decide, not them.
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