The first national political debate was an opportunity to showcase Turnbull and Shorten as leaders. It failed miserably.
It was more a case of debating 101 for senior school students than a contest between national leaders. In fact, the debate was less sophisticated than most school debates
Full marks for both leaders, though, in following the ‘school principal’ instructions from ABC political editor Chris Uhlmann to stand up straight, look at the audience and repeat motherhood statements.
As for showcasing our leaders, where are they? Who are you Bill? Malcolm?
We can gauge leadership qualities pretty much from body language and what is said.
On that score, I rated Shorten’s performance in this first debate at 6 out of 10 for having an attempt at holding the lectern wide to show his openness and being calm, in an aggressive kind of way.
He needed to smile more. Just once would be an improvement.
His opening line was short of comical: “Tonight I would like to talk directly to the AUUUUUUUStralian people and I thank you for taking the time to listen.”
Good marks for personalising the opening and complimenting his audience, but his closing line, “I would ask you to vote for Labor at the next election” was clumsy and spoken with all the vocal conviction of someone asking if you would like toast for breakfast.
And what about Turnbull?
I rated his performance 6 out of 10 for a ‘nice’ delivery – despite nervous mono-tonality at the beginning – a held jaw and repeat karate gestures.
His elevator speech gave us the ‘blurb’ opening with a dynamic sentence, “we are living in remarkable times”. He gave us the predictable position statement of the world. He gave us his plan for a “strong economy” making it personal with a story.
Turnbull’s speech was monotone, tense and went 15 seconds too long in its energy.
He was nervous. He even asked the moderators if he could continue on a topic. Not great form for a Prime Minister.
He comes alive when he stands tall and bounces on his toes. He gestures best when his two arms are gesturing in isolation. But he needs to be able to access his style fast, under stress and not by the third question.
Turnbull’s last speech line, “Our future plan is underpinned by an economic plan for growth and jobs” was not delivered with style.
It just ended.
The first political debate was a dull affair by all accounts, and it’s clear both Turnbull and Shorten could do with some lessons in leadership style and presentation.
My advice to them: look at America’s political leaders. Trump in particular.
While Hilary Clinton is lambasted in the press for being “overly programmed” and “totally scripted” – much like Turnbull and Shorten – Trump has dared to be different.
In fact, Trump is changing the game.
He won’t win for his policies, obviously, but Americans don’t care what he says anymore. They tell us that Trump ‘gets it’, that he understands the big problem and is open to dramatic fixes.
They believe he is a leader and his popularity, the Washington Post says, “is not despite his extreme rhetoric, because of it”.
His rhetoric is clever, not ‘standard’. He talks about ‘instincts’ because “often you won’t have time not to have instincts”. He brings in the game of para-linguistics describing Hillary as someone who “screams and drives me crazy”.
Word on the street in Washington is Trump will get in because he exudes authority –clearly lacking in Turnbull and Shorten if the debate is anything to go by.
Dr Louise Mahler is the body language and vocal expert for leaders of influence. She is a renowned international speaker, executive team mentor and coach who advises top 100-listed companies and government in Australia and globally on high-stakes engagements. She is also the author of Resonate, August 2016 (Penguin).