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Manne bites Carter: feisty political debate swings with a right hook and a left jab

As our two latest guests at this year’s Writers’ Festival settled into their seats, session chair Nick Carter apologized to the audience.

“I’m sorry to make you wake up so early on a Sunday,” he joked. “I’m sure some of you are missing church to be here now.”

But it wasn’t all fun and games. The talk quickly became a heated political discussion, with intellectual Robert Manne not afraid to voice his opinions on the events of the last ten years.

Robert Manne, a Professor in politics at La Trobe University, not in history as Carter originally suggested, has just published a collection of essays entitled Making Trouble – Essays against the New Australian Complacency. He has published twenty books on a range of issues in history and public affairs.

Nick Carter has been the editor of The Weekend Australian since 2007, and has previously worked as a correspondent in Asia and in the Canberra Press Gallery as the bureau chief.

With this conversational line-up, it was bound to be a raw and exciting political throw-down, and the audience wasn’t disappointed.

With a range of issues currently circling the political atmosphere at the present time, there was tension within the audience as both sides bantered for their support.

From climate change to economic downturn, from mining tax to boat people, the discussion topics rolled through the tent, with neither side gaining ground. But it didn’t stop the audience giving their opinion, with cheers and heckling throughout the session.

With the timer looming towards the end of the session, Nick Carter publicly stated his open invitation to Manne to write for The Australian. But Manne, while graciously thanking Carter for the offer, declined.

“They [The Australian] need to change,” Manne said. “And if I lend my support to them by writing for them, then they will never change.”

The session, filled with politics and opinion from two engaging speakers, brought back the art of the debate but without the name-calling. Maybe our politicians should learn from them the art of gracious debating.

Amelia Turner and Josephine Mooney are Southern Cross University media students.

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