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Channel Nine’s leaders debate is slammed as Sarah Abo loses control and voting crashes

Channel Nine’s coverage of the second leader’s debate made headlines for all the wrong reasons with the host repeatedly losing control of proceedings, technical issues polluting the broadcast and confusing results at its conclusion.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese repeatedly argued and spoke over each other in a debate that voters complained they found difficult to watch – and even harder to follow along.   

Frustrated viewers took to social media to vent their anger about how the heated debate was mediated and a faulty online voting poll, which at one point listed the Coalition twice.

The network initially declared Labor Opposition Leader Mr Albanese as the preferred Prime Minister between the pair, despite a technical glitch leaving thousands of furious viewers unable to vote online.

It later announced Prime Minister Morrison as the winner before votes shifted back towards Mr Albanese and was later locked at 50-50. 

A panelist’s question from voter ‘Mario’ to Mr Albanese also left viewers perplexed, while host Sarah Abo struggled to maintain order as the PM hopefuls squabbled throughout the widely-criticised debate.

Anthony Albanese and Scott Morrison went head to head on Sunday night in a farcical broadcast from Channel Nine marred by technical issues and a lack of control

The pair had several fiery clashes at Channel Nine’s north Sydney studio on Sunday night with the biggest blow-up coming on the topic of national security when the two men continuously yelled at each other. 

In a key moment, the Prime Minister was humbled when he admitted that he should have described the Covid-19 vaccine rollout as a race after he repeatedly told Australians ‘it’s not a race’ at the start of 2021. 


Who won the second debate?

  • Scott Morrison 265 votes
  • Anthony Albanese 147 votes

But he landed a blow on Mr Albanese when he told the Labor leader ‘you have changed your mind on so many things’ and listed his policy backflips over the past three years. 

‘Small target, big risk,’ he said while gesticulating at his opponent. 

Some 50,000 Nine viewers voted for who they prefer as Prime Minister. 

There were issues with the online voting poll with many reporting a technical glitch.

‘We are experiencing high volumes of traffic at the moment. Please bear with us and you will have the chance to have your say,’ the network said.

Host Sarah Abo (pictured) struggled to moderate the debate with both men shouting at each other throughout the broadcast

Host Sarah Abo (pictured) struggled to moderate the debate with both men shouting at each other throughout the broadcast

The winner of the debate was too close to call with the leaders tied on 50 per cent by the time the Nine broadcast ended at 10.45pm. 

One viewer slammed the debate as an ‘unwatchable shambles’, both in the studio and online.

‘Farcical stuff from Channel 9. Embarrassing from a multi-billion dollar corporation with countless experts,’ another fumed.

Many poked fun at the online poll, which had the Coalition, Labor and Coalition as the options of which party will win the election.

‘Ummm, did Peter Costello draft Nine News’ question options?,’ Labor MP Julian Hill tweeted.

He later wrote:  ‘This voting thing is officially a rort. I tried 20 times to click ‘Labor’ and then ‘Albanese’ for PM. It would not let me. But the first time I clicked ‘Coalition’ and ‘Morrison’ it accepted it. Total rort and joke. Nine should apologise.’    

Channel Nine has been slammed over its coverage, including an online poll which listed the Coalition twice

Channel Nine has been slammed over its coverage, including an online poll which listed the Coalition twice

Mr Hill wasn’t the only viewer claiming the poll may be rigged.

‘Was pressing Labor for over a minute, decided to record and tap a few more times – nothing. Clicked Coalition for a gag, and as I went to click it again it worked immediately. Uh, rigged? #LeadersDebate,’ one woman tweeted.

Others complained about the online voting system being broken, forcing the network to address the technical glitch on-air and on its live blog.

‘Due to exceptionally high traffic some of you may experience issues with voting in our poll. Keep refreshing and you will get your chance to have your say,’ the network posted on Twitter.

A furious voter responded: ‘The poll on your website was completely broken. Complete amateur hour run by airheads.’

A question from panellist Deborah Knight also went viral after telling Mr Albanese a lot of voters still don’t know who he is.

‘I had a listener Mario contact me this week to say you used to be radical socialist but just because you have a new set of glasses, how can we believe that you’re a reformed man? That’s Mario, what do you say to him,’ she asked.

The question left perplexed viewers wanting to know who Mario was.

‘Who the bloody hell is MARIO? That is complete rubbish an unknown bloke makes a statement and that is a question?’ one voter tweeted.

A question from panellist Deborah Knight (pictured) left many viewers asking who Mario was

A question from panellist Deborah Knight (pictured) left many viewers asking who Mario was

Channel Nine was forced to address technical glitches with its voter poll due to 'high traffic'

Channel Nine was forced to address technical glitches with its voter poll due to ‘high traffic’

Another added: ‘Who is Mario ? I’ve changed or refined some of my views as I’ve grown, developed and matured, I’m sure Albanese (and others) have too. Why ask that question!”

Many viewers were left disappointed at the lack of mediation which saw the two leaders shout over the top of each other on a number of occasions.

‘This stupid LeadersDebate is a s*** storm. Scott Morrison is just shouting over Albo. It’s ridiculous. What are the rules here? A free for all? He who shouts loudest is heard? He who interrupts more is right?’ one man wrote.

Another wrote: ‘After this ‘performance’ I question why channel 9 has a broadcasting license at all.’

A third added:  Sky f*****g News hosted a better debate than Channel 9. No wonder they’re slipping in ratings.’

Other disillusioned viewers switched off.

‘The standard was so poor I have turned it off. This is a farce,’ one wrote.

The second debate between the two leaders left many viewers unimpressed by the coverage

The second debate between the two leaders left many viewers unimpressed by the coverage

On national security, the Labor leader said the Solomon Islands’ new secret security deal with China amounted to a ‘massive foreign policy failure’ by the Government. 

He also blasted Mr Morrison over the Northern Territory government leasing Darwin Port to a Chinese company in 2015 – which Mr Morrison defended by saying the Commonwealth Government had no say in the deal. 

‘Your party, your tick off,’ Mr Albanese said before the PM responded: ‘You’ve been telling this lie for some time.’ 

That comment sparked a shouting match which host Abo helplessly failed to stop. 

As she tried to moderate the debate, both leaders shouted over her, with Mr Morrison saying ‘it’s a very important point’. 

Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese during the second leaders' debate

Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese during the second leaders’ debate

The Prime Minister savagely blasted his opponent in a high-tempered brawl over their policies on a federal anti-corruption commission which Mr Morrison has failed to deliver.

He said Mr Albanese had not even tried to come up with his own version of a corruption commission after rejecting the Coalition’s model.  

‘Do you have draft legislation for the commission,’ Mr Morrison asked his opponent.

‘You have put forward a private members bill. So you can but you have not done one for this proposal you are excited about. You don’t have any plan.’

The pair talked over each other as Mr Albanese replied: ‘I will tell you what the plan is, it is one you don’t like.’

The Prime Minister interjected: ‘Where is it? You have been hiding in the bushes for three years.’  

Mr Albanese smiled and said ‘ah rubbish’. 

In another tense moment Mr Morrison was quizzed on why he has not campaigned alongside moderate Liberals who face challenges from ‘teal’ independents in Melbourne and Sydney. 

Mr Albanese told the PM: ‘You can’t even campaign with your Treasurer’ before Mr Morrison snapped back: ‘I was with him today. You cannot make stuff up, mate’. 

In the early stages of the showdown Mr Albanese slammed the Prime Minister’s plan to ease pressure on households with one-off additional tax relief for low and middle income earners and the temporary halving of fuel duty until September. 

The first fiery moment of the night came after Mr Morrison spruiked his Budget measures to ease cost of living pressures.

Mr Albanese replied: ‘The problem with what Scott just said [is that] the cost of living measures that he spoke about are all temporary.

‘They have all the sincerity of a fake tan – they disappear once people have cast their vote and people are back on their own again.’     



* Prime Minister Scott Morrison admitted it was ‘wrong’ to say that it wasn’t a race when it came to the Australian government securing vaccine supply.

* Mr Morrison defended his handling of the borders during the pandemic, including barring citizens from returning to Australia at particular times to avoid overwhelming the hotel quarantine system.

*Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese said the Morrison government should have acted with more urgency to establish for-purpose quarantine centres and secure vaccines.


* Both leaders would not commit to extending the cut to the fuel excise past September.

* Mr Morrison said while the government could not control international influences on the economy, it could put downward pressure on inflation by managing money.

* Mr Albanese said Labor had practical plans to make a difference to the cost of living, including powering Australia through renewable energy, cheaper child care and not putting pressure on inflation.


* The prime minister said he had never seen corruption on his side of politics.

* Labor has committed to introducing legislation to establish a federal anti-corruption commission by the end of the year if elected.


* Both leaders clashed over energy policy, claiming the other’s policies would increase prices.

* Mr Albanese reiterated Labor’s commitment to renewables while Mr Morrison said the coalition would not commit to ‘irresponsible targets’ to reduce emissions.


* The prime minister said the election was not a popularity contest but pointed to his ability to unite his party after the 2019 election as testament to his character.

* Mr Albanese said Australians knew what he stood for because he had the same values his whole life, including supporting a fair day’s pay for a fair day’s work and supporting essential universal services.


* Both leaders ruled out negotiating with independent candidates on their policies.


* Mr Morrison claimed Labor’s Help to Buy scheme – where Australians would be eligible for a government equity contribution – is a ‘forced to sell’ scheme.


* The leaders fought over the Darwin port, blaming each other for the sale of the lease to the Chinese government.

* Mr Morrison claimed the ‘loudest voices on being pro-Beijing come from (the Labor Party)’ which Mr Albanese labelled an ‘outrageous slur’.


* Mr Morrison said the problems in aged care were not a result of the coalition’s nine years in government but rather the past 30 years. He credited himself with ‘blowing the whistle’ on aged care by calling a royal commission into the sector.

* Mr Albanese said Labor would work with the sector to ensure it could implement all the recommendations from the royal commission.


* Both leaders agreed more needed to be done to resolve parliamentary workplace issues.

* Asked if he thought he had a problem appealing to women, Mr Morrison said he did not. He said his government had invested to address family violence and had announced election commitments fund endometriosis and IVF support.

* Mr Albanese would not commit to launching a investigation into the treatment of the late senator Kimberley Kitching but described her death as a tragedy. He said Labor would implement all 55 recommendations of the Respect at Work report.

* Asked how they defined the word ‘woman’ both leaders agreed the definition was an adult female.

 Source: Australian Associated Press