‘Nothing is off the table’: Morrison, Albanese agree to election debate on May 8

Anthony Albanese and Scott Morrison will go head to head in a crucial second election debate on the Nine Network, less than two weeks before 17 million Australians cast their ballots.

The hour-long debate will take place on Sunday, May 8 at 8.30pm at Nine’s Sydney studios. It will be broadcast on the network’s main free-to-air channel, streaming service Nine Now and the websites of The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age (Nine is the owner of this masthead).

Anthony Albanese and Scott Morrison will have a second debate on May 8.Credit:AP

Negotiations over the second debate have been the subject of days of negotiation between the Coalition and Labor, with ALP officials wanting to see whether their leader had completely recovered from COVID-19 before agreeing to the date.

The ABC and Seven networks have also pushed for debates on their free to air channels.

While the first debate was a Sky News “people’s forum”, with questions asked by selected voters on the pay television platform, the Nine proposal will adopt the traditional approach of using a panel of three journalists to question the two leaders.

Albanese won the official audience vote at the Sky News debate, with 40 people favouring him, 35 choosing Morrison and 25 undecided.

The first debate attracted just over 415,000 viewers across Sky News’s subscription, free-to-air and online platforms, while the Nine debate on free to air TV could potentially attract a much bigger audience of voters, many of whom remain uncommitted to either major party.

While Albanese has his nose in front of Morrison in the most recent Resolve Political Monitor, both sides believe the election contest is close.

Nine director of news and current affairs Darren Wicks said the company was “really excited to have the debate, for a long time now it has been a 60 Minutes tradition to have the leaders in a national election debate”.

Nine political editor Chris Uhlmann, The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald chief political correspondent David Crowe and Nine radio host Deb Knight will ask the questions, while the moderator will be 60 Minutes journalist Sarah Abo.

“They are three of the most experienced journos in the country, Deb had a long stint in the press gallery, she hears talkback every day, she hears people’s pain points in terms of hip-pocket and economic issues,” Wicks said.

“And in Chris and David we have two of the most experienced gallery journos in Australia. No one has any agendas coming into it, and neither leader has made any requests. Nothing is off the table.

“People want to know where each of the parties stand and where the leader stand, they want to see the leaders tested.”

Some viewers watching the debate at home will be polled for their verdict on the debate, with more details to come.

But for those wondering whether the fabled “worm” would make a return, Wicks had a disappointing message: “Not this time, we will let the worm rest in peace”.

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