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Last night's NSW leader's debate was as balanced as you would expect a debate being run by News Ltd to be, writes Peter Wicks from Wixxyleaks.

AS THINGS start to heat up with the upcoming NSW State election coming up later this month, on the 28th of March, last night (8/3/15) saw another debate between the two party leaders, Premier Mike Baird and Opposition Leader Luke Foley.

In the background, the latest polling has the Coalition leading Labor in the two party preferred preferences 53 to 47%. At this rate, the Coalition would retain government, but with Labor picking up a large number of seats and the resulting Upper House could provide a challenge for any elected government.

The debate last night was run by Channel 7 and Daily Telegraph and was as balanced as you would expect a debate being run by News Ltd to be.

For starters, this debate was a sandwich that was mostly salad and scarce on meat. There was not enough time for anywhere near the amount of debate one would expect, as there were so many ad breaks, all of which were filled with Liberal Party smear ads about Luke Foley. The much touted “Head To Head” part of the debate managed to squeeze in one question from each leader by the time each of them had the chance to follow-up on their question after the answer.

From the audience, there were two questions, although they were great questions. One involved how each leader was going to address the cost of young people trying to enter the Sydney home market, something only Luke Foley had any real answer on with plans to look into changing the way stamp duty is paid in NSW. Labor sees this as a way to make the “Great Australian Dream” of home ownership more than just a pipe dream for young people in Sydney.

Baird appears to have the more traditional Liberal approach to home ownership. The great Liberal dream of those on the North Shore owning multiple properties for the poor in Sydney's West to rent and pay off for them. His answer gave no hope at all to young buyers.

The other audience question involved the disgraceful cuts the victims of crime compensation that has seen victims of crime suddenly become victims once more at the hands of a heartless government. The young girl who asked this question was a young victim of gang rape whom Mike Baird had previously met with. It was clear that she was certainly not satisfied with any of the responses that Baird offered.

Perhaps the biggest sign that this was set up to be a debate that Mike Baird would comfortably win was when two of the Daily Telegraph journalists had their turn to ask questions.

Out came faces that would have been familiar to anyone who has seen the Daily Telegraph TV commercials.

Aww... how nice to have the old cast back together.

No left leaning journalist had a question, nor did any balanced journalist — just right-wing hacks.

Miranda Devine was introduced as a journalist, however those who know her work would regard her as a right-wing columnist. This is someone who views Malcolm Turnbull as a lefty and someone who could be easily described as the love child of Cory Bernardi and ... hmmm ... let me think ... ah yes, Christopher Pyne.

Then there’s Andrew Clennell, perhaps best known for his journalistuc hatchet jobs. Clennell at one stage in his questioning addressed Mike Baird as “You”, which seemed to me rather disrespectful...

The debate seemed to be in two sections: one related to corruption the other all about the Liberal's electricity network privatisation plans.

On the corruption question, both Baird and Foley were quick to point out their anger and disgust at the corruption that has plagued Labor in years past along with the current Coalition government. Foley pointed out that he has made efforts to rid the Labor Party of the influence of corruption, and Baird said something similar. However, Baird failed to mention that the corrupt members from the Coalition stayed in parliament voting with their Coalition colleagues before moving to the cross-bench. Baird also neglected that he was appointed to his previous position of treasurer by one of those sent to the crossbench after ICAC revelations.

On the privatisation issue, Mike Baird thought he had pulled a rabbit out of his hat with the appointment of former head of the ACCC Alan Fels to look over the privatisation plans before Baird signs off on them.

Baird claims there has to be a guarantee of

“... no price rises in the short-term, medium term, or the long-term”

or the deal will not go ahead.

Alan Fels claims that price rises are “highly unlikely” which is a far cry from Baird’s optimistic claim of a guarantee that prices won’t rise.

So confident is Baird that power prices won’t rise that when asked if he would guarantee his resignation if they were to rise he flat out refused to answer and dodged the question. Call me a cynic, but when it comes to Baird’s “long term” guarantee, I don’t share his confidence.

Is Baird seriously asking us to believe that power prices in NSW won’t go up more than inflation levels for the next 99 years? That seems to me a ludicrous suggestion, let alone guarantee.

Whoever picks up the 99 year lease will, I’m sure, at some stage look to increase their profits or appease their shareholders.

At the end of the debate, the audience, comprised of a handful of “undecided” voters handpicked by the Daily Telegraph unsurprisingly voted in Baird’s favour.

The television audience however had a vastly different response, voting overwhelmingly in favour of Luke Foley, despite the barrage of Foley smear ad’s in the breaks.

Imagine if it had actually been a fair fight.

Peter Wicks is an ALP member and former NSW Labor candidate. Read more by him on Wixxyleaks and follow him on Twitter @madwixxy.

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